Thrive versus survive – the role of frontline workers in agile supply chain management
While some retailers and their fulfillment and distribution centers have tackled a ton of evolution in the last few years to transcend the traditional linear workflow of S&OP (sales and operations planning) and incorporate technologies for last-mile supply chain efficiency – the fact is, most warehouses still hit stress fractures with the pandemic-propelled shift to e-commerce and frontline workforce shortage. Suddenly, it wasn’t enough to have a supply chain built for speed, operations needed agile supply chain management to reach all the way to the frontline.
Is the human frontline the next crucial step in achieving an efficient, agile supply chain?
What does agility mean on the frontline?
While much of the research and innovation around agile supply chain management focuses on technology and workflow, Accenture identified “Put people first” as the number one area for action in building an agile supply chain resilient beyond COVID-19.
What’s noteworthy about their recommendation is that they weren’t just talking about health and safety, they focused on new workforce operations required for retailers and other industries to build resiliency at the frontline:
- Transition to new ways of working – allow planning teams to operate as a virtual or hybrid organization, providing them with the tools they need to continue working efficiently.
- Reskill and coach people to enable productivity in remote work environments.
Operations need a frontline performance management platform that supports continuous improvement at the frontline.
So what will the factory of the future look like – from a people perspective?
We’ve become accustomed to seeing warehouses with robotic inventory management and drone monitoring, but what will agile supply chain management look like for frontline workers?
Frontrunners in supply chain management have learned the valuable role of the human dimension – even rebalancing the global supply chain during this crisis.
A recent IMD article remarked “The Toyota Principle of “autonomation” (automation with a human touch) has been proved to be the most adaptable. This involves automating around 80-90% of the system but allowing a 10-20% opportunity for human expertise to improve system operation. Humans again.”
With a digital core, here’s how the Factory of the Future might look for a retail store or warehouse workforce:
New operational guidance within reach – Task guidance hyper-personalized to individual workers will be transmitted to the workstation locations across the store and warehouse floor.
End-to-end, real-time supply chain visibility – As a crucial area of focus in today’s supply chains, operations leaders must expand this to include visibility into their supply chain workforce performance.
Curated self-serve guidance – While warehouse operations leaders will continue to rely on job shadowing and trainers to get new hires proficient in their roles, more and more machine learning will augment how on-the-job training is delivered, in the moment of need.
The final human mile of agile supply chain management
To achieve agile supply chain management through to the human frontline, operations and supply chain leaders need a new method to get real-time visibility into frontline performance gaps and the tools to fix them.
Smart Access envisions a new agile supply chain where even the workforce is nimble. We help retailers build an adaptive, high-performing workforce – one ready for the modern pace of change.
With Smart Access, warehouse operations leaders can build an agile and efficient frontline with:
- Complete performance analytics gives supply chain and logistics leaders real-time visibility into operational and workforce gaps to help them understand where to improve.
- Mobile skill-building for workers who in seconds via quick how-to videos and checklists without leaving the warehouse floor or asking their manager.
- Frontline feedback tools help managers easily support worker performance.
- Supply chain and warehouse operations leaders are equipped to rapidly create and distribute new content to the store and warehouse floor.
Watch how it works – see the video
Ready for agile supply chain management at your frontline?
We’d welcome giving you a tour of Smart Access to showcase how it can build an agile supply chain. To learn more – take the first step: Book a meeting.