It took some time for the tech revolution to hit the logistics industry, but now that it’s here, everything is changing rapidly. Suddenly, it’s all about omnichannel commerce, digital transparency and advanced analytics (among many other trends). And as the world of logistics changes, the leaders of the logistics industry will have to develop new skills with which to navigate it.
What skills will the logistics leaders of tomorrow (and today) need to effectively manage the new realities of the supply chain? These seven areas will define the success of a business’s digital supply chain operations and separate the organizations that can fuel their success with technology from the ones who must struggle to adapt to it.
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- Ability to Adapt
Twenty-first century logistics will require its leaders and managers to constantly learn how to use new tools and react to changing market conditions. The new logistics professional has to keep a steady hand at the tiller during times of big change and use solid data analysis to find the right path forward, even when market conditions aren’t perfectly clear.
Flexibility will be incredibly important in implementing the most cutting-edge logistics technologies such as logistics blockchain, automation and IoT. But it’s also critical to the daily operations of logistics when it comes to filling in transportation gaps and devising on-the-spot solutions to problems. The logistician who can harness the new digital tools for these ends will be formidable indeed.
- Proactive Curiosity
Adaptation is easier when a business pursues the right new tech, rather than waiting for it to come to them. Good logistics management will also increasingly require a commitment to proactively keeping up with technological and industry trends.
The 21st century logistician has to be well-versed in everything from industry white papers to what’s trending among logistics professionals on LinkedIn. They need to be able to spot key trends and prepare for them so that businesses can stay ahead of the curve and not get blindsided by major changes.
- Strategic Thinking
Thinking two steps ahead can be tough when the business environment is changing so rapidly, but that’s what the new millennium logistics professional has to do. They have to take the long view and keep a business’s core principles at heart when creating plans for the future.
The need for strategic thinking also means tempering enthusiasm for new tech with good judgment and analytical rigor. Unwise investment in unproven or poorly-implemented technologies can be just as disastrous for a supply chain as lagging behind in tech, so as always, there’s no substitute for clear-eyed analysis and solid planning.
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- Enterprise IT Use and Procurement
Enterprise IT is an increasingly critical skill set for logistics professionals. Almost all logistics companies now use enterprise IT software, such as ERP suites, to manage their supply chains, and digital logistics professionals must often make decisions about procurement and implementation of these sophisticated software products.
Knowing how to get all of these disparate technologies to work together can be an even more difficult and necessary skill. Cross-platform performance can require knowledge of APIs and other tools that have been foreign to the logistics industry until now. Much of today’s logistics software is also cloud-based, so it’s also useful to know the basic principles of SaaS architecture and cloud workflows.
- Project Management
Today’s logistics professional often has to assume leadership roles on major projects. In order to be an effective leader, they must be skilled at tasks such as:
- Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of team members and delegating tasks to them effectively
- Working with upper management to structure project calendars and deadlines
- Estimating costs and planning for the budgeting and deployment of resources
- Identifying key technological tools for driving project success
- Creating transparency at all levels of the project by deploying appropriate digital tools such as IoT sensors and shipment tracking
Twenty-first century logistics concentrates more operational and computing power in every employee’s hand than ever before—but that power only produces results when employees are managed properly by a competent project manager.
- People Skills
Speaking of managing people, logistics professionals must also remember that not everything in the digital supply chain is run by circuits in a plastic enclosure. On the contrary, old-fashioned people skills are as necessary in the logistics industry as they’ve ever been—perhaps even more so.
Supply chains now have more stakeholders than ever, and effective management requires communicating effectively with a wide variety of personalities and roles. A good supply chain manager will be able to use 21st century communication tools to connect people and make sure everyone’s on the same page, but they must also be fluent in the “soft skills” of empathy and interpersonal contact.
Empathy also requires a zero-tolerance mindset for regressive elements like sexism and racism in the digital workplace. Logistics may not be HR, but much of the everyday work of combating prejudice is done at the ground level by managers. For a business to attract and retain the best talent, they must pursue an egalitarian vision that makes work a great place to be for everyone.
- An Omnichannel Mindset
Business, both B2C and B2B, now flows through a multitude of channels. That means that for the 21st century logistics professional, an omnichannel mindset is a must-have. Whoever your customers are, they’re now on mobile phones, tablets and even voice command services like Alexa. A business’s platform and its logistics operations must reflect this new reality.
The rise of omnichannel commerce means that logistics operations must find a way to interlock with every channel that’s important to a business. That means keeping in mind how channels such as brick-and-mortar stores, traditional online sales and mobile shopping are all distinct but interrelated and managing them with an eye toward keeping every part of the complex interplay running smoothly.
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There’s no running away from the oncoming wave of disruptive technology in the digital supply chain, so the only option is to ride it. Logistics professionals who are flexible, curious and empathetic will have the best capability for managing these new realities and turning them into a profitable and efficient future.