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Where Will the Supply Chain Jobs Be?

now-hiringWhen Dickens wrote ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, he wasn’t prognosticating about today’s world. Or was he? If you embrace dazzling technology and mind-blowing innovation, times are good. If you abhor change and get uptight reading about how different the world will be in just a few years, your stomach may be in perpetual knots. The velocity of change is quickening, and there’s no reason to think it’ll slow down.

Whether you’re talking about drones, big data, the Internet of Things, cloud technology, driverless cars, wearable tech, virtual reality, robotics, or any one of a number of other technological miracles, change is coming furiously. If your role is in electronic commerce or the supply chain, as is that of most of our readers, and you’re not comfortable with change, then today’s pace may make you nervous.


But why does it matter anyway? You’ll be able to control your HVAC system from your smartphone, the cool driverless car will run you up to the local grocery on demand, and an awesome Amazon drone will drop your latest purchase on your front porch 10 minutes after you order it. Sounds like heaven, right? It may, unless you happen to be in a role that’ll be rendered obsolete by one of these innovations. Know many typewriter repairmen, bank tellers, travel agents, AR clerks, or (going back a few decades) buggy whip manufacturers? There may be a few people left in those positions (except the last one), but a miniscule number compared to the past. What’s happening now could affect your future in a similar way.

Recent innovations are worth following since they may affect your industry, your specific company, and, most importantly, your job. Think about the end game and where it may leave you. If driverless vehicles do ‘catch on’, if robots continue to improve functionality and become ubiquitous, if IoT becomes universally adopted- the impact to supply chain jobs is huge.

Recent articles by Lora Cecere and a blog on the HBR site posted by Buzz on talked about future roles in the supply chain and the trend toward hiring workers with technology and analytics backgrounds. Those skills will be necessary no matter where innovation leads us over the coming years. A better way to think about it may be to understand the jobs in the future supply chain may be largely those that can’t be done by a computer or robot. Those who implement technology, who program it to do various supply chain tasks from forecasting to delivery, who develop and understand analytics, and the people who manage and coordinate these disparate functions will always be in demand. Those who pick orders in the warehouse, fax POs to suppliers, and develop forecasts on spreadsheets, not so much.

So, my point is to encourage you to think about change and how you may not necessarily have to embrace it as much as to understand it impact to your role in supply chain or electronic commerce. Define the value of what you do and consider how the new innovations that seem to be popping up every day may affect it. It may not be the most comfortable feeling in the world, to be able to extrapolate the impact of today’s new technology into the future and see that your job may be at risk, but better that than being totally blindsided. Keeping your eyes open may allow you to do something about it.

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