Supply chain

Supply chain execs want digital bang for the buck

Even as more organizations spend more time and money on cloud applications, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and other digital technology for their supply chain, the return on investment still isn’t clear for many organizations, says a new survey of 300 supply chain executives from accounting and consulting firm PwC.

The adoption and application of technologies within supply chain operations varies greatly by technology, says PwC. Cloud tops the list of applications that have been either partially or fully adopted (84%), followed by IoT (79%). Technologies such as scan, intelligent data capture and third-party spend analytics tools weren’t far behind. However, less than half of respondents say their companies have fully or partially adopted drones, augmented reality, or robotics or robotic process automation, the firm says.

Responses to planned tech investments were similar, with cloud, IoT, third-party spend analytics tools, and scan and intelligent data capture seeing the highest numbers. But when asked about the levels of investment in the next two years, artificial intelligence and machine learning are seeing the most spending. 22% of executives say their companies plan to invest at least $5 million in those technologies. As for their main objectives with supply chain tech investments, driving growth (53%) and optimizing costs (51%) outpaced several other possible goals.

“Between an increasingly digital world and persistent operational disruptions, the effective use of technologies in supply chains has become more critical,” says PwC. “Many challenges remain, and companies can do more to elevate their supply chains in the digital age.”

Other PwC key findings include:

  • 83% of supply chain executives say their investment in better digital supply chain technology is not delivering the expected results.
  • More than two-thirds of respondents expect digitizing their supply chain to require some upskilling of employees. But surprisingly, only 7% said digital upskilling was their top priority.
  • A lack of digital skills among employees (80%) and the availability of data and digital tools (73%) were the most commonly cited challenges to integrating ESG into company supply chains.

“The challenge is to make sure those investments pay off, as only 17% of executives say their company’s investments in supply chain technology have fully delivered the expected results,” says PwC.

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