Department of Business Development and Technology

In search of a human dimension of Supply Chain 4.0: Stipulating learning as a lever for the future supply chain organisation

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

Background and Aim: Supply Chain 4.0 (SCM 4.0) sets the agenda for a digitised transformation of Supply Chain Management (SCM). Digitalisation of SCM, entailing integration and transparency of data and information enables new opportunities for operational efficiencies, sustainability and new business models. However, we claim that the current managerial approach is a leftover from the industry 2.0 era in which data and information remain in functional silos. Accordingly, we aim at improving the understanding of how learning in SCM can be a lever for the ongoing transformation to SCM 4.0.
Research Design and Methods: Besides a literature review on Supply Chain and Learning and Leadership, this chapter draws on a case of an assembly style of production, where products are transported to the construction site and assembled.
Findings: Our empirical findings indicate that human learning is critical to any SCM organisation. The case provides an example of how new digital tools for communication can facilitate a learning and self-leading organisation as the answer to cope with the supply chain complexity in a SCM 4.0 paradigm. Theoretically, SCM 4.0 technology is described as cognitive or self-configuring. The prevalent understanding is that the majority of the managerial actions in the supply chain is performed without human involvement. However, our empirical findings show the opposite; we illustrate how the technological development influences the managerial approach in SCM, and how supply chain learning can be a balancing lever for SCM 4.0 to empower organisations to adapt new technologies and ensure the right application of new digitised tools and processes.
Research Limitations: A single case study sets some limitations to the generalisability of our findings.
Theoretical Contribution: While the SCM 4.0 literature brings technology to the fore, this chapter illustrates that supply chain learning is the lever for balancing technological and business opportunities; i.e., transforming the SCM into the digitised era calls for learning in supply chain processes, structures and managerial approaches.
Practical impact: This chapter outlines dilemmas in the SCM 4.0 technology fascination and the lack of human focus, and suggests guiding principles for practitioners and decision makers on how to emphasise the learning dimension in the supply chain.
Social impact: Future supply chain must be designed to provide opportunities for practitioners to develop their personal mastery and mental models, if the organisations should be socially justified. The skill and learning dimension are the social glue for the supply chain.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSupply Chain 4.0 : Improving supply chains with analytics and Industry 4.0 technologies
EditorsEmel Aktas, Michael Bourlakis, Ioannis Minis, Vasilis Zeimpekis
Place of publicationLondon
PublisherKogan Page
Publication yearFeb 2021
ISBN (print)9781789660739
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

    Research areas

  • Digital Transformation, Empowerment, Learning, Self-lead organisations, Learning supply chains

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