MHI, the nation's leading material handling, logistics, and supply chain association, holds a bi-annual conference called MODEX, the largest international supply chain expo held in the Americas. Launched in 2012, MODEX brings solution providers and industry leaders together to demonstrate their equipment, systems, and services to manufacturing, supply chain, and transportation professionals.
Being able to attend the 2022 expo was an eye-opening and inspiring experience all around, but one of the highlights was listening in on a panel discussing the top industry challenges discovered in the 2022 MHI Annual Industry Report, “Evolution to Revolution: Building the Supply Chains of Tomorrow.” The ninth in a series of annual industry reports published by MHI and Deloitte, the 2022 report provides updates on groundbreaking technologies that have the potential to transform supply chains. Also included in the report are the projected adoption rates over the next five years of each category of technology covered, as well as analyses of common barriers to adoption. The report shows that with nearly 80% of supply chain leaders saying their digital transformation has accelerated due to the pandemic, investments in supply chain innovation over the next two years are expected to drastically rise.
Part of the key findings within the report includes a discussion regarding a survey of significant industry challenges. Three challenges in particular stood out as being some of the most important for industry leaders to focus on when it comes to digital transformation and setting organizations up for success during these ever-changing times.
The three substantial industry challenges are:
1. Hiring and retaining qualified workers, and a general talent shortage
2. Customer demands for faster response times
3. Accurate forecasting
Challenge 1: Hiring and retaining qualified workers, and a general talent shortage
For the past nine years of the survey, hiring and retaining qualified workers has consistently been at the top of the list of supply chain challenges — but in a world so radically changed by COVID-19, it has only become more severe. The difference over the last few years is that talent issues must now be addressed in the context of avoiding future supply chain disruptions. Employee retention is at more risk than ever before. 91% of workers say they would stay at their current job longer if they felt appreciated by their employer, and satisfaction rates cannot be overlooked if organizations expect to be able to keep their best talent on board. Without the availability for new talent and loyalty from great employees, organizations simply cannot perform to the best of their abilities.
With an inclusive, purpose-driven culture, employees starting from the beginning of the applicant stage all the way through retirement are more likely to offer their loyalty to organizations that have a philosophy of putting them first. By organizations showcasing their agility in the face of uncertainty, as we’ve experienced first-hand the last several years, employees are given more incentive and overall confidence in sticking around.
Hiring great people starts from the very moment that a new hire walks in the door: studies have shown that great employee onboarding can improve employee retention by 82%. With a strong employee onboarding program, you’ll showcase why your organization is a great place to work right from the beginning.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) is another aspect of a positive workplace culture that must take priority. Studies have shown that employee loyalty increases when organizations are viewed as being fair and equitable in terms of opportunities, and that higher levels of DEI&B lead to a greater sense of belonging for employees of all different backgrounds.
Offering adaptable technology that accommodates in-person, remote, and hybrid workers is imperative for employees who need their organizations to provide responsive, smart WFM and HCM solutions. Advanced mobile capabilities include the ability to get important HR questions answered in seconds, shift recommendations based on employee history, and smart scheduling that takes people’s shift preferences, choices, and availability into account. These digital features help ensure that employees are autonomous, given flexibility, are set up for success, and know that they’re being listened to whether they’re physically at work or in the comfort of their own homes.
There are opportunities to gauge employee happiness before turnover becomes an issue as well. By offering wellness surveys and training, employees will ultimately feel that their organization is genuinely listening to them and is invested in their longevity and career progression within the company.
Challenge 2: Customer demands for faster response times
One of the most evident reasons for supply chain issues is that consumer expectations have changed. With a reliance on e-commerce and not enough labor available to meet rising demands, most organizations cannot keep up with the taxing new pace.
In this year’s MHI survey, supply chain disruptions and shortages neared the top of the list, with 57% of those surveyed acknowledging it as a significant challenge — presumably due to the ongoing effects of the global pandemic.
In order to keep up with customer demands, organizations must figure out a way to do more with less, therefore increasing productivity. By implementing a first-in-class HCM and WFM solution, employees and managers have real-time insights into actionable data as well as access to KPIs, providing imperative information that can ultimately streamline efficiencies in the organization. With less manual labor, employees can focus on higher-value work, leading to increased levels of productivity and a general sense of feeling valued at work.
There are also great opportunities for reskilling and upskilling with employees who are willing to put in the extra effort. While most organizations are being forced to ask employees to work longer hours due to staffing shortages, reskilling and upskilling can be a fantastic option when it comes to maximizing available talent as well as handing employees the reins when it comes to expanding their skillsets and workplace responsibilities. Knowing that it can cost a minimum of two times a current employee’s salary to hire and train a new employee, reskilling and upskilling are seriously worth considering.
Challenge 3: Accurate forecasting
Predictive analytics and forecasting allow supply chain leaders to make the best possible business decisions, but without the right technology to support them, it can be a roadblock in driving efficiencies. Without proper forecasting, supply chain professionals might be at risk of making inaccurate decisions based on historical data or even from guesswork. With constant changes in e-commerce emerging throughout the pandemic, volume forecasting is imperative for organizations to be able to function and plan properly — the lack thereof is bound to create mishaps at almost every step of the supply chain.
Shifts in the market, location-specific needs, and varying business objectives can all determine labor alignment and demand. With accurate forecasting, leadership can feel confident in the automated schedules created for employees that are directly adapted to meet customer demands, which can change very quickly. With a self-tuning and patented Machine Learning (ML) algorithm, smart technology can automatically learn from trends and data unique to your organization, allowing leaders to solve challenges before they become actual problems.
Studies suggest that in just the first six months of the pandemic, digital transformation accelerated at a rate of five to ten years. When 78% of the 2022 MHI survey respondents agree that supply chain transformation has accelerated due to the pandemic, the solution is clear: logistics, distribution, and supply chain leaders everywhere must focus on digital transformation in order to keep up. While supply chains grow increasingly complex, these organizations must be responsive to rapid change. With the combination of HCM and WFM, leadership can make strategic choices that drive employee engagement, increase retention objectives, boost operational efficiency, and deliver real results for customers despite all the challenges thrown their way.
When digital transformation comes into play, the future is bright. “Supply chain leaders have never been in a better position to drive impactful and lasting change for the industry,” said John Paxton, CEO of MHI. “With the white-hot media spotlight chronicling the after-effects of the pandemic, the importance of the supply chain is finally coming into focus in boardrooms across the world.”
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