Data: Execs Say Supply Chain Tech Investments Haven't Delivered Yet - Modern Distribution Management

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Data: Execs Say Supply Chain Tech Investments Haven’t Delivered Yet

New PwC research revealed that most firms are struggling to effectively implement supply chain technology. This article dives into the findings.
COVID Fueled Tech Upgrades; Momentum Defines 2022 Expectations

The results of a recent supply chain technology survey are in, and they probably aren’t what tech vendors were hoping to hear.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) — one of the largest professional services networks, accounting firms and market research firms in the world — released the results of its 2023 Digital Trends in Supply Chain Survey earlier this month. The most notable statistic from the PwC survey is that 83% of the 305 executives polled said their supply chain technology investments haven’t fully delivered expected results.

The distribution and manufacturing industries are becoming increasingly digital, making the effective use of technology in supply chains more critical than ever. The PwC survey showed that businesses are adapting by implementing various technologies in their supply chain operations. The most common technologies among polled executives were cloud technology (used by 84% of respondents) and the Internet of Things (79%). Technologies such as intelligent data capture and third-party analytics tools weren’t far behind, according to the survey, but less than half of respondents said their companies were utilizing drones, augmented reality or robotics.

While it’s clear companies are making an effort to implement supply chain technologies, most of those companies aren’t seeing desired results, or at least not yet. According the survey, reasons ranged from needing more time to conduct implementation (cited by 21% of respondents) to undefined ownership and vision (4%).

The survey’s authors — Matthew Comte, Carla DeSantis, Brian Gilbert and David Wright of PwC — suggest that companies should have a plan in mind prior to implementing supply chain technology. Beginning “with an end in mind” could help businesses realize a better return on investment for their supply chains.

“If you’re committed to digital investments, you should also determine at the start what tangible mean results you expect and how you’re going to measure them,” the survey said. “If you do see the expected gains — money saved, freed-up capacity, etc. — you should have a plan in place for where those will be reinvested in the supply chain well in advance, not after the fact.”

PwC also found that more than two-thirds of respondents expect digitizing their supply chain to require “some upskilling” of employees. Despite that realization, only 7% said digital upskilling was their top priority. That will have to change if companies hope to better adapt to supply chain technology, according to PwC.

“While the prospect can be overwhelming, building a workforce that can adapt to different ways of working, particularly through technology, is critical for maintaining resilience in your supply chain,” the survey said. “Consider who can guide digital efforts in different parts of the supply chain — taking bites from the apple versus trying to swallow it whole — and provide a path to scaling retraining across areas.”

MDM Analysis: There is certainly a learning curve for the wholesale distribution industry when it comes to effectively implementing supply chain technology. However, if companies are able to readjust their priorities accordingly, the distribution industry shouldn’t have trouble adapting to new technology in the same way it has previously acclimated following disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic. Available talent may also play a large factor here. While the supply chain and greater manufacturing sectors have embraced technology in recent years — in some cases out of necessity coming out of the pandemic — many are still struggling to recruit and retain qualified talent. Even with the right supply chain technology in place, delivering expected results is difficult to come by without the personnel equipped to leverage those tools.

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