A seasoned procurement expert with unique insights into digital technology has discussed how robotics, machine learning, and AI will change the nature of work in the foreseeable future, including procurement jobs and supply chain jobs. Addressing a procurement conference in London this week, Dr Marcell Vollmer, a former CPO who made the unusual transition of becoming a Chief Digital Officer, emphasised that disruptive innovations have already changed our lives: many aspects of procurement jobs that are routine today didn’t exist 12 years ago.

While there are understandable fears about the pace and scale of current innovations in robotics and AI, specifically about their capacity to replace many existing procurement and supply chain jobs, Dr Vollmer was upbeat about the tech’s ability to generate new jobs. The key question, he suggested, was “How can we Uber ourselves before we get Kodaked?”

In Vollmer’s experience, people are no longer seeking ‘Apps’ with the same enthusiasm as before, or even smartphones. Instead, they “want to get things done” as fast and as easily as possible. The result is that ‘voice’ technology will play an increasingly huge role in various forms of service delivery, he said, illustrating his point with a Google video depicting a live demo of a chatbot engaged in a phone conversation. The human customer wanted to book a haircut and had no idea she was talking to a bot.

As for AI, Vollmer believes that it is changing the world as dramatically as the steam engine or electricity did in the past. Tools now exist that, thanks to the immense processing power of AI-based tech, will analyse how much TV airtime a sponsor obtained by having their logo on display at a sports event. That’s brand impact measurement at the touch of a button. As for supply chain jobs, new technology will help these professionals to become “Apple easy, Google fast – and connect buyers and suppliers to collaborate.”

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