Gen Z driving supply chain autonomy with hyperautomation

Tuesday, 23 March, 2021

Gen Z driving supply chain autonomy with hyperautomation

The shift towards an autonomous supply chain has begun, driven by members of Generation Z (Gen Z), who have just started to enter the workforce. Pierfrancesco Manenti, vice president analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice, noted that the oldest members of Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) have just started their careers, and forecast that in 10 years, they’ll be supply chain leaders.

“This generation has grown up with digital technologies, so today’s supply chain leaders expect them to be innovators that accelerate supply chain digitalisation and pave the way towards hyperautomation,” Manenti said.

Gartner defines hyperautomation as the approach that organisations use to identify, vet and automate business processes that originally require some form of human judgment or action. Hyperautomation involves a combination of technologies that includes robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and many others.

Gartner encouraged supply chain leaders to attract and hire Gen Z to maximise their effect on supply chain digitalisation. Supply chain leaders are also urged to consider automation, augmentation and autonomy when designing their strategy and roadmap for future supply chains.

Supply chain leaders should identify and automate all repetitive, non-value-added human activity. Gartner notes that there are many tasks and processes, such as procure-to-pay and customer claim management, that can be automated, with RPA considered the primary technology for those initiatives.

“Over the next five years, supply chain leaders will roll out more coordinated and impactful RPA initiatives, as the technology is maturing very rapidly, and we’ll see mainstream adoption. This is also the phase where more members of Gen Z enter the supply chain workforce, changing the employees’ mindset and preparing the ground for the next level,” Manenti said.

Between 2025 and 2030, many hyperautomation technologies, such as machine learning, are expected to mature and enter mainstream adoption. Hyperautomation technologies will help automate supply chain decision-making by augmenting human judgment and increasing the accuracy and speed of decision-making. Gartner notes that this is the time when Gen Z employees could progress into leadership positions; as this happens, the adoption of hyperautomation will speed up, as will awareness and acceptance for those technologies.

Gartner predicts that supply chain autonomy will lead to all human low-value activities in the supply chain to be largely automated. This future supply chain will have minimal direct human involvement and interference from a traditional work perspective, which will suit the expectations of Gen Z employees.

Supply chain employees will instead focus on defining the supply chain strategy, driving innovation, taking care of customer service and experience, and controlling AI data from being biased.

“All of the supply chain leaders we interviewed agree that, at some point beyond 2030, a large majority of their supply chain activities will most likely become autonomous and self-healing. However, they don’t expect a lights-off supply chain, with no people at all. They agree that hyperautomation is the opportunity to free up people’s time for the value-added work that only humans can perform. The ingenuity and empathy of the human brain can’t easily be replicated,” Manenti said.

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