People. Process. Systems.

Martin Munsie
14th November 2023

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At the recent Scotland Manufacturing & Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition, one of the themes running through much of the day was around ‘People’. As ERP consultants who connect People, Processes and Systems we are particularly interested in the skills needed for the future in manufacturing whilst technology continues to move at pace and impacts the traditional models. As the world continues to evolve we need to consider the manufacturing and supply chain skills needed for the future in two different lights:

  • What are the skills we need tomorrow’s talent to inherit from today’s skilled professionals?
  • What skills demand will the future create?

Succession planning has always been a challenging art – first of all selecting the right person for the right job at the right time rather than who is just available to fill a gap at that point in time, and then ensuring the knowledge, skills and experience are passed down in an effective and meaningful way. With recent challenges in the post-covid world, this has proved even more difficult. A couple of different things are at play here causing a double whammy effect. Firstly, as a lot of older and more experienced people chose to just stop working and step away from employment – the sudden loss of all that experience and knowledge was a hammer blow across the sector. Added to that the resultant resource shortages and new found mobility caused a lot of movement and jumping ship in the younger employees. recently provided a breakdown showing that the top 3 industries that face these challenges are:

  • Procurement, supply chain, and logistics (91%)
  • Manufacturing and engineering (90%)
  • Sales (90%)

It seems most people have moved away from the ‘Company for Life’ mantra and towards an acceptance that to meet their needs they must look for new opportunities, making succession planning an even more difficult challenge.


Obviously technology and automation have a big part to play in addressing the resource shortages in manufacturing, but organisations still need people. At the conference there were many talks exploring how to increase retention and also discussions around how you can create flexible working in manufacturing roles which previously was never much of a consideration in the sector – but more and more it is becoming a key requirement for employees and could be a point of differentiation for those organisations that can steal a march on offering this sort of benefit. Karen Stewart from Nine Twenty Engineering & Manufacturing explored the “War on Talent” and encouraged companies to think differently when it comes to attracting and keeping talent as a way to address the resource shortages.


Another interesting aspect of the discussions was ensuring that companies are looking after and looking out for their people and the impact on your workforce if this is not the case with topics covered such as “Is Your Workplace Mentally Fit?” and the benefits of Employee Assistance Programmes. This is certainly an indicator of how the sector has evolved massively for the better in comparison to years gone by. The fact is, manufacturers will not attract and keep the new generation of employees without taking working environment, working conditions and ways of working seriously.


Additionally, this generation of employees demand modern technology and business systems with automation as a core requirement within their role – it’s a constant in their lives so why would it not be in their jobs. If they find themselves messing around with clunky spreadsheets and struggling to get answers because data and analysis is difficult then they will go elsewhere. We see this first hand with our projects around ERP and business systems and business transformation – often some of the key objectives and business drivers of the project is to address existing employee frustrations with the systems and to help attract new talent.


Looking to the future, Santander recently reviewed the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, and summarised that;

“…employers estimate that 44% of workers’ skills will be disrupted in the next five years. In other words, by 2027, people will need only 56% of the basic skills they currently use at work.”


That is pretty startling in terms of the scale of the disruption and how soon it is likely to happen. Manufacturers are well behind the curve in really addressing this but it’s not going to go away and the impact will continue to be massive. Looking at the report, it highlights some of the skillsets and how they are anticipated to change between 2023-2027, with increases expected in AI & Machine Learning, Sustainability, Robotics, Digital Transformation and more. It also cites that due to the increase in population, Agricultural Equipment Operators are expected to be in greater demand to meet the needs of the Food industry.

Skillsets changing


At the conference, Coca-Cola delivered a short section highlighting some Transformational Change in East Kilbride and the improvements that it had delivered as a result. So thankfully it looks like Coca-Cola will keep up with the increasing demands and still offer us a refreshing drink! Fundamentally, the reason Coca-Cola was able to deliver these improvements was that they were able to analyse their data, identify improvement opportunities and enact changes. Whilst also engaging the workforce and bringing them on the Continuous Improvement journey over several years to become one of the best performing facilities in the country for Coca-Cola. That people and change management aspect is absolutely key to success in any transformation.


Reskilling focus


When comparing most of the skills Coca-Cola used in the transformation such as Analytical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Leadership, Technological Literacy etc to the skills that the World Economic Forum believe are going to require more development in the next five years, it is no surprise to see that many of them are deemed to be of increasing importance with many of the companies engaged during the study identifying them as core skills that will be required.


For us at Optimum PPS as ERP consultants, the skills and resource shortage in the sector adds another dimension to the projects we deliver across ERP and technology and business transformation, but it strengthens the need for our People, Process and Systems holistic approach and drives the need for manufacturers to urgently improve their ways of working and we are excited to be able to help manufacturers tackle this challenge.


Is record employee turnover around the corner manufacturing? (
The 10 professions of the future to start training for today (
WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2023.pdf (

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