In February, this supply chain industry analyst attended the Oracle Modern Supply Chain Experience Conference held in San Jose California. Through Supply Chain Matters, I have shared several prior observations and takeaways from this conference. We noted the extraordinary attendance, upwards of 2800 attendees at a supply chain management information technology focused conference. We further highlighted the momentum of Cloud-based technology deployments in the many different business process areas that today come under the umbrella of supply chain management along with the building interest levels surrounding Internet of Things (IoT) technology being applied to future supply chain management processes.
There was one keynote that I initially did not share in prior conference highlights, principally because I needed time to absorb the many compelling messages that were delivered. The title was Exponential Organizations and the presenter was Yuri van Geest, Co-Founder of Singularity University. Yuri has a background in organizational design and is noted as a keen observer of exponential technologies and trends. He is a co-author of the book- Exponential Organizations- Why new organizations are ten times better, faster, and cheaper than yours (and what to do about it).
The keynote opened with van Geest recounting the dizzying exponential developments that have occurred in artificial intelligence, alternative energy, biotechnology and medicine, robotics, additive manufacturing, sensors, and drones. His primary message was that most of these exponential technology developments will eventually impact supply chains and the organizations and people that makeup this community. His takeaway message was that the best vision of the future is happening at the peripherals of such technology development.
My initial presumption was that many of the conference attendees would have a difficult time absorbing the stark nature of the messages or would dismiss this talk as that of a technology genius speaking far above an ability to absorb the real implications. Frankly, the conference organizers should have allowed additional time to accommodate all the content as well as to allow for further audience interaction.
Since the conference, I have had the opportunity to read the book and revisit my notes from the keynote. My goal in this blog is help distill what I perceive to be some other key takeaway messages related to future supply chain management organizational purpose, design, and work activities, at least from my perspective after having time to really absorb the content.
Geest did a suberb job of translating today’s far more exponential technology trends to what he viewed as direct impacts on industry supply chains. As an example, he stated that over the next ten years, the exponential developments in 3D printing capabilities will foster the ability to print nearly everything in materials including molecular assembly. The implication is the ability for products to be produced within primary areas of consumption, with the model of contract manufacturing being one of virtual capabilities to receive electronic design information and print on-demand products. A further implication is a more localized supply chain or regional network.
The notions of machine learning or cognitive acquired deep learning technology capabilities will at some point in the future lead to autonomous supply chain planning and customer fulfillment, where algorithms and physical sensing manage supply chain needs. While on the subject of planning, the book declares traditional five-year planning as obsolete, and that in exponential organizations, there should never be more than a one-year planning cycle supplemented by continuous just-in-time learning and events.
Regarding the physical, Geest further spoke to the compelling impacts that IoT focused developments would have on supply chains. In the book, there is a passage that is worth sharing:
“In the same way that today we can no longer handle the complexities of air traffic control or supply chain management without algorithms, almost all the business insights and decisions of tomorrow will be data-driven.”
Obviously, the messages are profound and perhaps threatening to many. None the less, van Geest’s message is that we cannot ignore compelling events and individually, people need to be trained and prepared with new individual and team-based skills.
To better understand the implications, I turned back to book to ascertain what were described as the key competencies of the future Chief Operating Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer and either Chief Data or Chief Innovation Officers.
Here are just a few excerpts to ponder:
- Digital based production and the unbundling of production steps will free the company to focus on its core competencies (customer relationships, R&D, design, and marketing)
- The notion of a recycled materials supply chain where production materials recycled and reused multiple times.
- Internet of Things sensors used to monitor the entire supply chain.
- The need for long-distance transport to drop over time due to the rise of localized production and a closed-loop material supply chain.
- Universal Cloud access to social technologies, data, and services, independent of physical location.
- Data management systems that use methodologies, processes, architectures, and technologies to transform raw data into meaningful and useful business information, available to all teams.
- The need for Big Data security practices.
- The hiring of employees based on overall potential, not just past record of accomplishment, and on the premise of who can ask the right questions.
- New notions of peer-based and continuous learning.
- Reputation measured by contributions in communities and work teams.
The book addresses the obvious question regarding the impact on future jobs. The premise is that the democratization of technology will allow individuals and teams to follow their passions and create new economic opportunities and businesses, far different than work being performed today.
These are heady messages, and will cause some pause or skeptics. We applaud Oracle’s supply chain management conference organizers for hosting such a thought-provoking presentation.
From our lens, there is no denying that the exponential changes occurring in technology and business will eventually impact how supply chains are manifested and managed. The question is in what time frames.
The other obvious question, will teams and individuals be prepared?
We encourage readers to share further thoughts and comments.
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