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ASCM Insights

Can AI Solve the Supply Chain Talent Shortage?

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Supply chain organizations have been struggling for new talent for decades. Though we’ve made progress in recruiting a more diverse and happier workforce, the fact is, our field is dynamic and evolving rapidly, so we need more skilled people to help supply chains succeed and advance.

“The staffing issues affecting supply chains are a matter that refuses to go away,” a new Forbes magazine article states. The widely feared recession of 2023 fortunately never happened, which means labor shortages have grown more acute. Further, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that, compared to February 2020, 2.2 million workers are missing from the labor force, due to a drop in participation.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is proving itself as one way to help address the problem. “AI supports predictive forecasting, inventory management, autonomous supply chain, risk management, resilience and a personalized customer experience,” writes Richard Crandall, professor emeritus at Appalachian State University, in the latest ASCM Insights blog. Not to mention its utility in manufacturing, retail and countless other industries.

And using AI doesn’t require a one-size-fits-all approach. One remarkable feature of this technology is its ability to be customized to meet the needs of each individual organization or process. Peter Liddell, global sustainable supply chain lead at KPMG, says generative AI can “teach itself about the nuances of any given company’s supply chain ecosystem, allowing it to refine and sharpen its analysis over time.” So, as AI advances, it offers “numerous immediate returns — particularly in the areas of intelligent sourcing, inventory management and logistical route-planning,” writes ASCM editor-in-chief Elizabeth Rennie in our annual roundup of the top 10 trends in supply chains for 2024.

“AI can’t solve the supply chain labor crisis alone, however,” says the Forbes piece. “The challenge is developing the people and data that can help make a smarter supply chain possible.” To ensure workers are maximizing their capabilities, supply chain organizations must prioritize upskilling. There’s no doubt that the talent shortage is one of the most significant issues facing our industry right now, so it's essential to invest in our people. Plus, building a workforce from within not only is cost-effective, but also demonstrates a commitment to the employees who have already put in the time. Enhancing their skillsets to include the latest digital technologies — from AI to robots to data analytics — will only pay off in the long run.

Learning together across the globe

To have these important conversations — and enact meaningful change in your own supply chain — attend ASCM CONNECT 2024: Europe, in Brussels, Belgium, this June. Educational sessions will explore key supply chain trends such as AI and supply chain talent, as well as real-life scenarios to show how you can drive results in your organization. You’ll also have the opportunity to consult with professionals just like you who are committed to stabilizing and growing our supply chain so we can fill the skills gap once and for all. Space is limited, so register today!

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer of the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the largest organization for supply chain and the global pacesetter of organizational transformation, talent development and supply chain innovation. During his tenure, ASCM has significantly expanded its services to corporations, individuals and communities. Its revenue has more than doubled, and the association successfully completed three mergers in response to both heightened industry awareness and the vast and ongoing global impact driven by supply chains. Previously, Eshkenazi was the managing director of the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. He may be contacted through ascm.org.

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