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Supply Chains Are Finding a Market Full of Skilled, NextGen Talent. Why Can’t They Hire Them?

An Interview with Randy V. Bradley, Ph.D., CPHIMS, FHIMSS Associate Professor of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management, The University of Tennessee

* By Carol Miller *

For the past six years, MHI has produced our Annual Industry Report to present the findings of a comprehensive survey of industry leaders across manufacturing and distribution supply chains. Queried about current and planned investments in NextGen technologies—such as robotics and automation, predictive analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), wearable and mobile devices, and driverless vehicles and drones—the 1,000-plus executives also weigh in on their progress in implementing a digital supply chain. (Copies of all six reports are available for free download via MHI.org.)

One of the most consistent and repeated trends seen across all six reports is respondents placing “a lack of available talent as a barrier to the implementation of digital technologies” among the top two challenges identified. In the 2019 report, 64% rate finding talent as either extremely or very challenging and 91% call it at least somewhat challenging.

To Dr. Randy V. Bradley, associate professor of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management in the Haslam College of Business at The University of Tennessee, the constancy of the talent gap findings are downright shocking. Bradley, who is intensely interested in this topic, has closely monitored the report’s conclusions for each of the past six years. He agreed to sit down with MHI Solutions for an in-depth discussion to explain his reaction, as well as to offer insights into why this trend persists and what the industry can do to reverse it. The following is a transcript of the conversation, edited for clarity and length.

MHI Solutions: You’ve previously noted that you were unsurprised by executives naming a lack of talent among the top impediments to implementing digital supply chains back in 2014, when the first MHI Annual Industry Report was published. What’s changed?

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This issue of MHI Solutions tackles the important topic of digital technologies in the supply chain industry, especially as it relates the transportation and logistics. Transportation plays a central role in supply chains, whether they are local or global enterprises. And just like the overall supply chain, transportation is facing a digital revolution including new solutions for tracking road, rail, sea and air freight and parcel transportation. These digital technologies are disrupting the industry, but they are also providing im-portant new solutions for transportation inefficiencies and urban logistics challenges. They are also creating new digital business models that enhance transparency and sustainability and contribute to end-to-end supply chain visibility. Like the innovations impacting supply chains, these trends are being driven by the growth of e-commerce and the consumers’ never-ending need for better, faster and cheaper. Ignoring them is done at your own peril.

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