“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”― Alvin Toffler
A key study initiated by Global Management Consultancy McKinsey and covering around 46 countries has estimated that by 2030, automation will profoundly affect 1/3rd of all work activities across major industrial and trade sectors on a global level, which includes logistics. Digital capabilities are already being integrated across core functional processes in global logistics and emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) are transforming conventionally linear supply chains into scalable interconnected networks. As we stand on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution, the fusion of digital technologies with traditional industry practices will require the workforces of tomorrow to become more agile and adapt to the complexities of a technologically advanced supply chain ecosystem.
The USD 160 billion Indian logistics industry is set to reach USD 215 billion by 2020. Clocking an annual growth rate of 8%, Indian logistics is estimated to generate employment for around 3 million people by 2022. Industry players in India are fast realizing the transformative impact that a technology-driven focus and automation-induced disruption can have on a domain that has been traditionally manpower-driven and labor-intensive. It is widely anticipated that over the next 20-25 years, an array of secondary and repetitive tasks, especially at the lower rung of the supply chain, will largely be rendered redundant with the advent of automation. A transition from human interfaces to digital processes is expected to enhance process efficiencies, improve operational productivity and reduce chances of human errors.
We need to note here that change is the new normal in a highly volatile global trade order. With a view to technologically aligning the workforce to organizational goals and making them digitally ready to drive business performance and productivity, logistics companies will need to prepare a sustainable roadmap to up-skill and reskill employees. The onus will need to be on deploying a definitive change management programme with a view to communicating to the employees the need for technology acceptance and implementation across key operational processes. The inherent focus will need to be on constant up-skilling and reskilling of employees to make them increasingly conversant with emerging data-driven technologies. The emphasis will need to be on collaboration rather that conflict between human beings and technology to drive enterprise growth and achieve business innovation.
It is also envisioned that rapid digital advances in the supply change domain will exert a significant influence on job creation in the sector. Technology and automation will not only redesign existing jobs but also create completely new job profiles in the sector. If we were to explain the transition in layman’s terms, an executive supervising movement of goods in a warehouse will spend less time in supervising movement once routine warehousing tasks are automated. The job role of the employee can then be reinvented to shift him to other supply chain functional areas like inventory management, procurement, compliance and distribution. Large-scale adoption of technology will also create specialized job roles across the supply chain spectrum like big data analysts, blockchain engineers and drone operators.
Assessment and evaluation of the skill level and technological competence of employees has to be a continuous process and needs to be undertaken at every stage of the workforce life cycle. Logistics players should provide their employees with the requisite tools and resources to help them develop their skills and aptitude to become digitally proficient.
Future workforces will need to develop specialized technological competencies in areas like supply chain analytics, warehouse management systems, process automation and robotics. Going ahead, technological disruption and skills reinvention will be the key to generating employment, establishing global trade linkages and positioning India as a global logistics hub.