At this week’s ALSC Digital Strategies conference in Munich, technology experts revealed that trust, clear metrics, elimination of silos and the importance of involving people were key to the successful implementation of the latest digital supply chain tools

ALSC Digital Strategies session 5 day 2

At ALSC Digital Strategies, from left to right: Dr Gisela Linge, Autoliv; Julian Schulcz, 4flow; Gabriel Werner, Blue Yonder

 At ALSC Digital Strategies, from left to right: Dr Gisela Linge, Autoliv; Julian Schulcz, 4flow; Gabriel Werner, Blue Yonder

At this week’s ALSC Digital Strategies conference three industry experts shed light on the challenges and opportunities associated with integrating digital technologies, with the discussion revolving around key issues, strategies and future possibilities of digitalisation.

Many currently working in the automotive supply chain have the desire but not yet the know-how to embed and implement the latest digital supply chain technologies. What is worse is that many organisations still lack the understanding of why they would want to do so in the first place.

Trust and people-centric digitalisation

Dr Gisela Linge, vice-president of global logistics at Autoliv, pointed to trust as one of the most important ingredients to successful implementation of digital tools. “Trust is critical,” she said. “We don’t do digitalisation for fun.”

Linge pointed out that embedding digitalisation is about making sure that it works, and that projects “are not just part of the pilot graveyard, or even the pilot of rollouts where people still download their data into an excel sheet”. She said digital systems need to be both effective and workable, and they need to become a part of the fabric of organisational operations.

Then, there is the ‘fear of missing out’ (Fomo) issue. Unfortunately, many organisations look to digitise because of this, essentially emotional stimulus, which can ultimately act against their self interests. Legitimate grounds for digitalisation need to be clear, specific and measureable. Linge added: “You can be much more successful by having a roadmap.”

Another problem is that data issues can arise if the semantics aren’t correct, and Linge highlighted the importance for overview.

Value-oriented digitalisation and generative AI

Gabriel Werner, vice-president of manufacturing at Blue Yonder, tackled the issue of value-oriented digitalisation. He illustrated the problem through a mock phone call, which made it painfully apparent that the potential client did not know the true ‘why’, of wanting digitilisation. The theme spanned the speakers. Werner pointed to the need for clear metrics and the elimination of departmental as werll as cross-organisational silos. Interoperability was also highlighted as another key factor.

Technological and computational prowess is opening new horizons for automotive logistics. AI in its seminal form was analytical by nature, but none can now fail to notice the new Generative AI epoch that is fast emerging and promises to catapult the industry into yet another new era, full of new possibilities. And it has data set in its sights. Werner expressed that Generative AI has the realistic potential to solve the interoperability issue. It could amplify data without the need for replication, leading to more efficient digitalisation. There needs to be urgency in driving it, however, “as there is always a cost to doing nothing,” he said.

As computational power in the form of Generative AI booms, the human and labour environment shifts with it. The question is how this will play out. Addressing the generational aspect of the workforce, Werner acknowledged that digital natives are more adaptable to digital transformation. He stressed the importance of failing fast - important, “because it allows you to free up resources for further innovation.”

When asked about the future of embedded digitalisation, Werner envisioned a supply chain that comes alive and can generate and run scenarios with minimal human input. This scenario will lead to the streamlining of operations as never realised before - and is a very real possibility when seen against the rapid development of generative AI.

Overcoming legacy systems and harnessing data 

Julian Schulcz, chief operating officer at 4flow, discussed the challenge of organisations that fail to digitise simply because they are too comfortable with legacy systems; being held back by familiarity alone.

Such companies need to adapt to more valuable and strategic work. Schulz highlighted the need to examine supply chains across tiers for transformative insights. In response to a question about the future of embedded digitalisation, he discussed the potential to extract unstructured information and present it in a structured form, with the aim of gathering high-quality user feedback. He also expressed the hope that the ongoing discussion around handling vast amounts of data would yield solutions, allowing data to fill gaps and provide a clearer picture of the supply chain. This is where data is king, but the kingdom requires structure in order to rule.

Speakers at this week’s ALSC Digital strategies conference emphasised the need for trust, clear metrics, the breakdown of silos, involving people in the journey and staying adaptive in a fast-digitalising logistics landscape. The future, it was noted, holds the promise of more user-centric and data-driven supply chain management.