We have had the chance to talk with Professor Jordi Vilanova Sanfeliu, coordinator of the MBA in International e-Supply Chain Management, to discuss the opportunities that new technologies offer to the logistics and supply chain industry.
The field of logistics is one usually very influenced by global market dynamics. Thanks to technology, improvements are appearing constantly, and companies have to do constant efforts to maintain their supply chains up to date.
With Professor Vilanova, we discuss how this non-stop cycle of changes is lived within a company, if a resistance to change procedures exists, or which role plays age in discovering new improvements, among other issues.
Professor Vilanova, do you think that the use of new technologies for innovation in the supply chain industry is an opportunity or an obligation?
I think that, in fact, it’s both of them. It is an opportunity that we cannot avoid. But of course, it is an obligation as well. Basically, if we are competing globally, there is no choice, we have to do it. You cannot think about the possibility of not using it. But if you compete locally, it can be considered differently. In any case, it is both an obligation and an opportunity, as I said, but linked together. We could say that It’s a good obligation, because it can only give us benefits.
And are companies prepared for the change that new technologies can bring to the supply chain ecosystem?
I would say yes, in most of the cases. Maybe not all of them. We have to be ready all the time for new changes, new technologies, or new conditions in an environment like ours, that never stops changing. All these dynamics should always be taken into account because it is something that we never stop applying.
We have to reinvent and redesign our companies and our supply chains continuously; we can never stop. This is why I think that if we are not ready, we should. But in a way, I think that more or less, in some aspects, all of us are at least alert to realize what is going on in the market. And we try to do our best to adapt our procedures, tools, and so on in order to maintain the level of competitiveness in this world that never stops and has a continuously changing market.
Is there a resistance to change? It is hard to implement changes to processes that are already working fine?
Absolutely, yes, there is always a resistance to change. Because when you are getting, I don’t know if good or bad results, but at least the expected results, it is always easy to think that you are doing enough. So, supply chain, like many other subjects, is a continuously improving process that never stops. And of course, in this matter, we always have to accept that the changes are something that has to be applied in our learning process, that should also never stop.
Resistance to change is something that we should try to avoid. This does not mean that because something changes, we have to change it as well. We have to do a proper assessment, a proper evaluation of the new conditions and realize what is convenient to do in each case. But for sure, we should never be against a possible change.
Do you think learning about these changes depends on age? Like, do you think that digital natives have an easier way to learn about them?
I would say that the learning process should be always something that we do not forget, at any age. And much more nowadays, because based on the globalization phenomena we are, let’s say, in continuously changing environmental conditions. Not only based on age, but also on culture, kind of education, diversification…
So, there are concepts that every day we need to accept and to understand. Because it can be really helpful for all of us. Of course, for the young people that are starting to grow and increasing their level of education based on that -the so-called “digital people”-, maybe It can be easier for them to know other ways to do things. But in any case, we need to adapt. and the learning process should never stop under any conditions.
Inside of companies, who is usually promoting the changes in supply chain?
I think that the changes can be promoted in two ways. From an external or an internal point of view. From an external point of view, it happens because in a way the environment or the market forces you to do it. You realize that in the market people are applying new formulas, new ways to do things, new procedures or tools. And then, you do not have a choice, you have to do it.
But also, internally, you have to be alert about what other people are doing. The principle of anticipation in this market is also very crucial. Because it is not only important to do work in an efficient way, sometimes you need to do it with anticipation to the others. And being the first one to promote changes depends on the leadership positioning, the market, other concepts…
Changing the topic, what is your opinion on mixing people of different ages to work together? Both in education and in business.
I think it is a must. As I said before, we all are in a learning process that should never stop. So, as much as you can mix things –not only age, also culture, education, approaches…- it’s good. Because diversity can be applied at a much higher level. All of us can learn a lot, and there is always something you can learn. This is why we should never stop doing it. The much we can mix people, the better, because it can be a great experience for all of us.
Talking about your classes, how do you think that immersive technologies and other remote work applications can help to establish relations between on-campus and online students?
I think that starting with the digital era, it is something that we have to accept that is a normal evolution. It is also true that based on the COVID19, with the pandemic and so on, things have been accelerated. Something that should have come in the following years has come in the following months. And then, we have to react and adapt.
But of course, I think that we have to be positive and understand that thanks to technology we are able to do things that before we couldn’t. Or that it wasn’t so easy to be done by ourselves. Remote working is something that gives people more opportunities worldwide.
Also, we still have to learn much more about how to do it and how it can optimize the resources that thanks to technology we are able to get. Maybe now, at this moment, the level of experience that we have in remote working is not high. We still need to adapt, because it has appeared with lots of new tools, but it is something that we have to accept in our learning process. Adapting to it and learning from it.