Only 4% of supply chain leaders say they are “future-ready”, according to research.

report by Accenture said future-ready supply chains were the most advanced in terms of technology, talent and processes but only a fraction of organisations were at that level.

The report said future-ready organisations were 1.7 times more efficient and 2.8 times more profitable.   However, although only 4% of chief supply chain officers questioned said their operations were future-ready, 34% expected to be by 2023.

The report said: “The pandemic exposed just how much the supply chain can make or break a company’s success. It has revealed hidden vulnerabilities.  “And in the process, the crisis has moved chief supply chain officers to the forefront of change. The days when their sole focus was on cost management are gone. And there is no turning back.”

The report found 81% of supply chain leaders said the pandemic has been their organisation’s greatest stress test and they were facing technological change at unprecedented speed and scale.   The survey involved 1,100 executives globally, including supply chain leaders, across 13 industries and 11 countries.

It determined four stages of business operations maturity: stable, efficient, predictive and future-ready. The study said each stage had progressively more sophisticated technology, talent, processes and data insights.

The report outlined eight characteristics companies needed to scale to become future-ready: analytics, automation, data, stakeholder experiences, artificial intelligence (AI), business and technology collaboration, leading practices and workforce agility.

Business and technology collaboration was widely used by 70%, with 69% possessing an agile workforce, and AI being widely used by 54%.

Respondents reported wide or full-scale automation in their organisation had increased by more than four times over the past three years. The number of respondents reporting widespread or full-scale data use rose by two-and-a-half times over the period.

Three-fifths (64%) of supply chain leaders reported the pace of digital transformation for their organisation was accelerating. Almost nine in 10 (86%) of all future-ready organisations expected business and technology to collaborate fully by 2023.

The report identified factors that would help supply chain leaders accelerate towards a future-ready state. These included being guided by relevancy, resiliency and responsibility; and focusing on increasing supply chain leaders’ technology quotient.

Automating at scale, using AI and cloud infrastructure to create insight across the supply chain, as well as strengthening technology ecosystem partnerships to increase innovation were also recommended.