In an episode of our podcast, Leaders in Supply Chain and Logistics, we talked with Woolworths’ Chief Supply Chain Officer about data, talent acquisition, and other challenges facing the supply chain and logistics industry. If there’s one word that comes up often when talking about the present and the future of the supply chain and logistics industry, it is “data.” It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Data is the basic component for running any industry today. It is as indispensable as electricity is. And Paul Graham, the Chief Supply Chain Officer of Woolworth, knows it all too well.
“My belief now is that we’ve sort of reached the tipping point,” Paul said during our talk. “I think now that the movement of data is actually more important than the physical movement of goods.”
It is not just the use of big data that is changing the industry. Automation and robotics play an increasing role in supply chain and logistics, and it often doesn’t seem like the industry is following with human capital investments. According to Paul,
“It is a challenging time to look for talent because you’re looking at these new skill sets around big data, around analytics, around automation, around integrating partnerships and collaboration.”
That’s something the industry will have to find ways to deal with. Knowing what to do with data, and how to break it down to ensure the best possible outcome for every stakeholder or customer will be crucial for operating a business successfully five or ten years from now. As much as anyone can plan five or ten years in advance in an environment with such rapid changes. Still, Paul is a firm believer in having strong operational skills present in the people who work in the business. Supply chain and logistics are, after all, a part of a practical industry with many operational moving parts. Making sure those parts are moving every day is still important. Having operational skills that will still be very much in demand, or as Paul would state it,
“I think the great thing is we need all types of skills in supply chain these days.”
Having those skill sets in the mix should also ultimately ensure a great customer experience. The new technologies are also changing the consumers and their expectations. Everyone can get pretty much anything without ever having to leave their chair. The consumers are shopping on an isle that’s as big as the whole world, and they don’t much care where the things they want are coming – they believe they will get it as soon as possible. On top of it all, sustainability and climate issues are of major concern to customers, and businesses have to take note. Woolworths did, and that’s why they were the first business in Australia to stop using plastic bags. But, as Paul points out, there are no easy solutions to these issues.
“It is about having a very strong commitment as an organization, as a community, as a society. From the board of directors, right the way through, to every team member.”
Check out the full interview with Paul Graham here.