Nick Sherwen and Dr Clemens Chaskel

Senior Industrial Fellows, IfM Education and Consultancy Services

On the second day of the Supply Chain Management Strategies Summit, you will have the opportunity to hear how research developed at the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), part of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, can make an impact in your organisation.

Nick Sherwen and Dr Clemens Chaskel (Senior Industrial Fellows at IfM Education and Consultancy Services, the knowledge transfer arm of the IfM), will be giving a presentation ‘Roadmapping for Digital Transformation – Creating a Next Generation Supply Chain’. Below they share some insights from their work with industry partners and collaborators.

What are the most common challenges and problems that your partners come to you with?

The most common issue is probably how to make sense of the opportunities and challenges of digitalisation as it affects a partner’s business and end-to-end supply chain. We’ve just had the second annual meeting of the IfM’s Digital Supply Chains Consortium (members include companies such as ABB, Caterpillar, Grundfos and IKEA) where members have used the IfM Digital Supply Chain transformation approach to prioritise projects and help to explain the opportunities to their business leadership. The Consortium helps the IfM to focus its research efforts on practical business concerns – for instance getting the right balance between value and risk in digital applications; the importance of active experimentation with high opportunity/ high risk projects; and the need for education and culture change to address the important issue of skills gaps.

Why is roadmapping key to ensuring a successful digital transformation?

The scale of any digital transformation should not be underestimated and roadmapping is perfectly placed to support organisations. The power of roadmapping lies in bringing together experts from across an organisation to contribute to a visual narrative of the organisation's future and a plan on how to get there. Organisations inherently have most of the required knowledge and expertise required to create a plan for their digital future, they just need a way to bring it together – roadmapping is a great tool to provide that platform.

What are the key aspects in ensuring the buy-in from different departments before implementing change?

In many organisations we have found that digital transformation is tackled at a functional or divisional level, with decisions and plans being made in isolation. By having a structured framework that takes a comprehensive look at the impact of digitalisation on the end-to-end supply chain, different departments can see how their decisions affect other parts of the organisation. Roadmapping is very good at exploring the linkages between different developments and this helps with communication and involvement.

The output of the process – the roadmap – is an excellent visual device that help with communication of the strategy throughout the organisation. Functional leaders will be able to use it to communicate key aspects of the roadmap to their teams so that employees can see how their contribution fits within the overall strategy. The roadmap visualisation is also a powerful tool for engaging with the business leadership and beyond.

How can a business create a digital framework which accounts for changing market drivers?

Any digital transformation project will be affected by future developments in technology, changes in customer requirements and the evolution in capability within the organisation. The strength of the IfM approach is that it combines the structure of the Digital Supply Chain Transformation framework with the flexibility of roadmapping. The roadmapping workshops explore the way market drivers are expected to change over the short, medium and long-term. Importantly, the process also recognises that technology developments can also change market drivers. Roadmapping can be used to explore “what-if” scenarios.

Caption: The IfM’s Digital Supply Chain Framework helps organisations consider a range of digital scenarios across the supply chain. Image extracted from IfM’s executive briefing ‘Next Generation Supply Chains: Making the right decisions about digitalisation

We start with a broad survey of market drivers, technology trends and relevant elements of the business strategy to produce a “landscape” roadmap. This informs the development of the Digital Supply Chain Transformation model, where the organisation will consider maturity levels against a range of digital supply chain scenarios including collaborative e-sourcing, real-time factory scheduling and customer connected e-commerce. That then leads to detailed roadmaps for priority digital scenarios. The final step is a summary roadmap which can look at resource needs. The result is both comprehensive and adaptable as the digitalisation journey develops.

Why did you decide to speak at the 2nd Annual European Supply Chain Management Strategies Summit this year?

Our main aim as an organisation is to ensure that the research that’s conducted at the IfM makes an impact in organisations worldwide - so the event provides a great opportunity to raise the profile of this research and how it can be applied by the leaders and experts responsible for driving change in their organisations.

Who should attend your session and what will they learn?

The session is relevant for anyone who is responsible for or interested in the digital transformation of their supply chain.

Key takeaways will be:
  • An overview of the Digital Supply Chains Transformation framework and how it can be used to make decisions about which technologies you should prioritise and how they fit with your corporate strategy
  • How to use roadmapping to visualise the way forward in the Digital Supply Chains Transformation enabling discussions with business leadership and functions.
  • See how roadmapping works and how it can become a key part of an integrated strategy toolkit
  • The opportunity to ask questions about Global Supply Chain research carried out at the Institute for Manufacturing and how it could be relevant to your business

Where can I get more information?

Check out the full agenda here at