Bad news: More than just robots are coming for our jobs.
Good news: The rise of digital technologies, including Uberisation, point to the longevity of a career in supply chain.
Uber is a disruptor. Initially attacking taxi services, it’s now displacing demand for rental cars, urban delivery and even food distribution. It is Uber’s business model that digitises demand and supply capacity markets that is truly disruptive.
The disruption has delighted some consumers while some corporations and governments have chosen to fight adoption. Just look to France, where Uber executives now face management bans and fines for entering the market.
In fact, in simply asking for insight on this topic, I received this response from a potential research participant:
“Remove me from your database entirely. Anyone that proposes a rogue car service executed by random strangers as a credible part of a corporate supply chain is not an advisory firm that should be listened to.”
Our Future of Supply Chain survey 2015 of more than 1,000 supply chain executives shows that 16% view Uberisation as disruptive and important in the next three years. While this is the lowest percentage of all digital technologies, it did double in size year-on-year.
The first place Uber is being applied within supply chain is in transportation networks. Several new entrants have launched across the US and around the world. As these pilots play out, the next wave of innovation will come in Uberisation of facilities, assets and even labour.
Demand and supply of labour is a capacity market. In an effort to test the waters on applying Uber to labour markets, SCM World collected data from 150 supply chain professionals from different industries around the globe.
The survey split labour into low-wage and high-wage roles. Respondents were asked to evaluate the potential risk and reward of applying an Uber model to both of these groups.
Much of the low-wage labour in supply chains today are responsible for executing the transactional processes across the physical supply network. Respondents appear a bit divided on the value and risk of Uberising this workforce.
Here, the largest population of respondents (38%) says that Uberisation of low-wage labour is low risk and low reward. Interestingly, the other three quadrants fall nearly exactly the same. There is certainly a diversity of opinion in how adoption will play out.
The overall risk/reward index – formulated by subtracting total high risk from low risk and low reward from high reward – indicates that low-wage labour is not risky but also has limited upside on return. When compared to transportation assets and physical facilities, it appears labour will apply Uber models at a slower pace.
As you evaluate the impact of digitisation on low-wage labour, it is more likely that automation will disrupt these jobs in the near term. What I would expect over time, however, is that as robotics become more fully utilised, Uberisation of the assets will simultaneously disrupt processes and low-wage labour.
Demand planners, procurement professionals, network designers and strategists are a few examples of the high-wage labour that power supply chain organisations. 33% view Uberising these roles as high risk and high reward.
The overall risk/reward index on high-wage labour is negative. Currently, it would seem too risky with not enough payback to consider.
Even so, the potential to Uberise high-wage labour is already being tested. Upwork, for example, is a demand and supply platform that matches freelancers with available contract work.
Companies get the advantage of hiring the exact expertise they need directly aligned to an initiative. It’s flexible capacity that can be turned on and off much more rapidly than with people in full-time employment.
The contractors also enjoy the flexibility to determine how much they want to work and the type of work they get to do. As people seek out flexibility to work when and where they want, this type of market will only grow.
Is your job going away tomorrow? Not likely. The overall risk/reward index for labour shows a lot of red.
The good news for supply chain professionals is that those looking to build a career in the profession will be the ones making strategic decisions on where Uberisation makes sense.
The end-to-end supply chain is a series of inputs, outputs and trade-offs. Someone has to design and manage this network, even as pieces get automated and digitised. So for those looking to build a career, strategic roles as network managers promise to provide a long and rewarding career.