The limits of emerging procurement technology

A supply chain expert has reminded procurement professionals that while companies can no longer operate…...

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A supply chain expert has reminded procurement professionals that while companies can no longer operate complex global supply chains without new technology, the human touch remains of pivotal importance in supply relationship management. Supply chain professor, Rich Weissman, who was a procurement professional before turning to academia, was responding to a new survey by Cranfield University. It found that 48% of procurement leaders were investing in new technology out of ‘fear of missing’ (FOMO) despite 72% not having the human talent on board capable of obtaining value from the investments. 66% of respondents reported that a further barrier to harnessing the technology’s full potential was the antiquated technology of many of their suppliers.

Weissman said: “It would be nearly impossible to manage a complex web of global suppliers without some form of technology. On the other hand, machines cannot read the facial clues of the supplier about to offer a major concession in a tense negotiation — at least not yet.” The more sophisticated suppliers, he says, may have the resources to download prints and information from a supplier portal while simultaneously updating their open orders, but many smaller suppliers further downstream still rely on the equivalent of Windows 95. There are limits to how far the latest technology can be leveraged across the supply chain span.

The pressures on procurement teams during the festive season to keep suppliers happy while also achieving company cost reduction and sourcing savings are especially intense. The ’12 days of procurement’ always generates extra demand and work. But, Weissman still insists that human interaction with smaller suppliers remains indispensable.

Weissman acknowledges that emerging tech with vast data computational capabilities is here to stay, and is a good thing. Companies, he writes, are unable to function effectively without data-rooted decisions in sales and operations planning, supplier performance, cost analysis, and in risk assessments and economic modelling. Here, FOMO is a reasonable concern.

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