Artificial Intelligence and automation are growing facts of commercial life, and procurement jobs and supply chain jobs will not be immune. Industry journalist, Bennett Glace, outlines how organisations can address the implications of robots replacing humans.

Earlier this year, a US study by the Brooking Institute found that over 35 million workers, especially those in production, food service, and transportation, currently occupy jobs with ‘high exposure’ to automation. In many cases, it is already capable of replicating 70% of the tasks they currently perform. As Glace observes: “It’s clear that these machines will soon graduate from replicating tasks to replicating entire jobs, even mechanizing entire industries.” The study proceeds to urge organisations to pursue a range of strategic initiatives, with “promoting a constant learning mindset” at the fore.

In the procurement world, AI- and machine learning-powered digital technologies may, in the foreseeable future, replace processes such as data input, which is currently undertaken manually.. Does it mean entire procurement and supply chain jobs will become obsolete? The ‘constant learning mindset’ suggests otherwise. The key to survival is to evolve. Specialist procurement recruitment agencies hunting for new-generation procurement practitioners, for example, will, as suggested before in these pages, seek permanent candidates and procurement interims who can combine tech-savviness, digital data processing capabilities, business acumen, and advanced human communication skills in one person.

A new study from the Technical University of Munich and Rotterdam University found that re-skilling will be crucial in assisting professionals to avoid technological replacement. However, organisations will also need to consider ways of offering psychological support for other technologically-displaced workers. Glace concludes: “According to Randstad US, 67% of US employees believe they’ll need new skills to survive in a changing economy.” Employers perhaps need to start thinking about how they can equip their procurement and supply chain workforce to benefit from and harness automation, rather than being eclipsed by it.


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