Get on board with tech

From the February 2024 print edition

Within a short span, the world has become a largely digital, connected, and tech-heavy place. In my house alone, the family uses three laptop computers, a smart TV, a Bluetooth-enabled speaker, and two smart phones. My phone connects to my bathroom scale. It also connects to my car. Heck, it even hooks up to a rarely used skipping rope that can track how many skips I do.

Michael Power is editor of Supply Professional magazine.

And I’m probably missing something but that’s what comes to mind. And it’s not particularly unusual in Canadian homes these days.

Businesses arguably use even more technology, although somehow, supply chain is somehow seen as a laggard in technology adoption. Yet there are several reasons that organizations should invest in technology.

One reason is that technology can boost productivity. Among OECD nations, Canada recently ranked 18th in terms of our productivity. Technology adoption can upgrade and modernize supply chain and manufacturing functions, helping to improve productivity.

Technology can help to build resiliency. Supply chains are increasingly complex and face global concerns: the war in Ukraine, China flexing towards Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region, conflict in the Middle East, low water levels in the Panama Canal and so on. Consumers now want to know where goods came from, and whether forced labour was used. Organizations can use technology to track and trace their goods.

Another challenge in need of continuing vigilance is digital security.

In his article in this issue, contributor Christian Sivière notes that more connection means more risk.

Companies can counter that by investing in tools and technology to safeguard against attacks.
The above examples are all, of course, challenges. Yet to paraphrase a common saying, each can be transformed into an opportunity. Technology adoption can help increase productivity. Cybersecurity threats increase, yet technology can help to guard against those risks.

As well, technology adoption can help connect different parts of the supply chain, such as operations, transportation, procurement and so on, turning the process into an interconnected system rather than distinct siloes.

Doing so means that we must prioritize education and skills development so that employees have the knowledge they need to thrive in a digital environment. If companies are to update functions using technology, supply chain professionals must improve their skills to keep pace.

This becomes more important for an aging workforce, as technology takes over mundane, physical tasks unsuited to older workers.

So, adopting technology forces us to reimagine how we train our workforce. The more training that supply chain professionals get, the better they can use technology. That in turn can increase productivity.

Sounds like a virtuous cycle to me.