“Trust is the critical enabler for this transition”

© 2023 EPFL

© 2023 EPFL

Dimitris Kiritsis, professor of Information and Telecommunication Technology for Sustainable Manufacturing at EPFL, shares his expert findings on the future of talent, tools and technology with us.

The need for robust, dynamic and predictive data models is of particular importance for the field of operations and its ever-increasing complexity. Technology not only plays an increasingly vital part in our day-to-day lives, but forms the back-bone of an organization’s ability to remain competitive. Critically, it enables the measurement and improvement of environmental and social impact across all stakeholders along the value chain, catalyzing positive change and wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries.

The digital era calls for business operations professionals to step up

According to Dimitris Kiritsis, most professionals working at any of the nodes of the value chain (or end-to-end supply chain) will have felt the need for digital transformation in one way or another. Whether a data owner or a data user, somebody trying to keep up with requests from an organization’s leadership or a leader trying to navigate the growing complexity of today’s business landscape, they are facing a challenge Kiritsis describes as follows:

"The demand for working with data in more and more sophisticated ways is outpacing many companies’ abilities to build the capabilities necessary to do so. These companies often turn to new technologies as the first solution to bridging this gap. Yet, while advancing and mastering these tools is an important factor in unlocking the full potential of Industry 4.0, it all starts with the Operations and Supply Network Managers who use them."

In order for new technology and complex data to be implemented successfully, there needs to be trust. Internal and external stakeholders with different knowledge must be empowered to communicate with one another and reach informative and explainable decisions.

In response to these emerging demands, EPFL just unveiled a brand new Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Value Chain Data Technologies. This CAS in Value Chain Data Technologies strives to enable participants to do just that: become agents of trust in an increasingly complex and data-driven world.

The themes of this Certificate of Advanced Studies are a necessary and almost mandatory enabler towards realizing circular economies and resilient value chains. These systems are becoming complex, which requires us to act on available data with precision, speed and agility.

Dimitris Kiritsis, Academic Director for Sustainable Resilient Value Chains

Tools and problems are growing increasingly complex

"Data and information technology are the key to leveraging opportunities in a setting so complex that our excel spreadsheet will no longer serve us. Critically, not everybody will be a data user in this world, with many organizations outsourcing these services to third parties. Yet, global supply chain managers for example, who often are data owners, must learn to speak this language if they want to retain the ability to manage and make decisions."

Encouragingly, awareness of untapped opportunities in this complexity is rising. It is the first step towards filling the knowledge gap within companies and preparing them to increase in-house capacities and capabilities.

When trust and technology unlock new potential

Most industries are just at the beginning of Industry 4.0. They know how to collect information, analyze and visualize it, and use it to help make business decisions. Among the most advanced in this area, already working with predictive models, is the Finance industry. They operate in a world full of rich data sources from customers, banks and the stock market.

According to Kiritsis, theirs is a complicated, but not complex environment. The world of operations in contrast is complex, rapidly evolving, and driven by vast information flows. This means that data technologies in this domain remain under-explored and therefore under-exploited.

"The final chapter of Industry 4.0. will see companies move beyond automation and into the world of autonomy. A world in which data sets can model and suggest solutions without being actively managed. Trust is the critical enabler for this transition, in both human and technology dimensions. The agents of trust we most need to create shared understanding and language today are those working along the entirety of the value chain."

Author: Tom Zamzow

Source: Sustainable Resilient Value Chains

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