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Gartner: Gen Z driving automation in supply chain

Despite only recently entering the workforce, Generation Z is already impacting supply chain and must be kept front of mind for future strategy

|Mar 15|magazine6 min read

Generation Z will pick up the baton of automation and make today’s digital transformation efforts in supply chain the new normal, according to Gartner.  

While current supply chain managers experiment and hone the position of digital in the supply chain, it will be the new wave of workers who truly exploit the technology. Despite only entering the workforce in past several years, Generation Z is already making an impact, says the consultancy firm. 

Gen Z, the generation born after millennials roughly between 1997 and 2012, will drive supply chains towards what it calls hyperautomation, a coalescence of technologies and techniques, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and robotic process automation (RPA), to rapidly identify, research and automate business processes that currently require human intervention. 

“This generation has grown up with digital technologies, so today’s supply chain leaders expect them to be innovators that accelerate supply chain digitalisation and pave the way towards hyperautomation,” says Pierfrancesco Manenti, Vice President Analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain practice. 

Five year vision

The coming five years will be a turning point in adoption and usage of hyperautomation solutions in supply chain, says Manenti, a period that coincides with greater numbers of Gen Z entering the workforce and, as they develop, moving towards becoming leaders in the field. 

A recent Orange Business Services study corroborates this view, finding that while only 42% of companies have already increased their level of automation, 80% acknowledge that automation is vital to empowering both internal employees and partners today and in the future. 

As such, organisations should be altering their mindset and “preparing the ground for the next level,” says Manenti. Supply chain leaders should be proactively attracting Gen Z talent, taking the following three steps into account when designing strategy and future roadmaps. 

  • Automation

Identify all repetitive tasks where humans can add no value. RPA is the primary technology here, automating everything from procure-to-pay to customer claim management. 

  • Augmentation

Technology that enhances the ingenuity and expertise of human workers will play a major role in the supply chains of the next 10 years. Unlike complete automation, these technologies perform tasks such as scanning huge data sets, which is impossible - or highly impractical - for people to complete on their own. Crucially this technology will peak as Gen Z begin to enter leadership roles. 

  • Autonomy

“All of the supply chain leaders we interviewed agree that, at some point beyond 2030, a large majority of their supply chain activities will most likely become autonomous and self-healing,” says Manenti. This transition will fully free humans to pile their expertise into defining the strategy, shepherding AI and ML systems, and increasing the experience for both employees and customers - a human pursuit that AI is yet to infiltrate. 

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