Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared of AI Bots Taking Your Procurement Job

AI Bots are coming for your procurement job – quick, look busy! But are they? Or is it time to overcome our fear?

‘An AI robot is coming for your job!’

It’s a headline that’s been doing the rounds on the news for the past few years now. Along with it comes the idea that we in procurement need to upskill quickly, learn quickly to beat the robots at their own game, and get promoted faster as management will be less vulnerable to automation.

We read these headlines and inevitably it sends a chill down our spine. We envisage an imminent conversation about our imminent redundancy – perhaps delivered by a robot?! Don’t worry though, because Procurious cares deeply about all of our procurement colleagues out there. And because of this, we decided to dig a little deeper on these ‘a robot is coming for your job’ claims. 

And fortunately, we found that the threat was somewhat overblown and there were good reasons for you not to be scared of AI bots coming to take your job.

Reason 1: Job ‘replacement’ is typically only happening to manual (or menial) labour  

Ok, ok. We hold our hands up – guilty as charged. Yes, recently we did ask whether in 2030, we’d all be reporting to a robot. The reality is, though, that out there in the broader economy, while robots are entirely replacing jobs, the jobs they are replacing are mostly manual or menial, and they certainly don’t involve the level of skill that procurement and supply chain requires. 

For example, in recent times, many front-line customer service jobs have been replaced with AI robots (who hasn’t spoken to a robot on the web?). AI-powered robots are also increasingly being used in parts of manufacturing, supply chain and logistics. In addition to these, some more skilled professions – such as accounting – have seen a large part of their job automated to systems such as Xero or MYOB. 

But many of these roles were extremely rule-based to begin with, thus it was easy to program a computer to complete them. Can you imagine what code you could possibly ever write to help a robot with a supplier negotiation?

Reason 2: Education provides good protection 

The reality is that there’s a steep divide between whose job will be replaced, and whose won’t. And those whose job (like procurement) requires a level of education and personal development will have much less chance of having their job completely replaced. 

MIT professor David Autor says job replacement largely affects (and will continue to affect) those who have not completed an education beyond high school, and who would typically work in blue-collar jobs with less decision-making and more repetition. This comes back to our previous point on manual and menial tasks, rather than focusing on roles typically held by highly skilled workers.

Reason 3: Our jobs are more complex than we think 

As technology advances, so too does the amount of available data and information that procurement needs to make sense of. Fortunately, AI has a big role to play in big data processing. Fortunately, this doesn’t actually mean that AI will replace the role of procurement, more become an assistant to the procurement professionals themselves. 

If we take a closer look at the role of the average procurement professional, from managing supplier relationships, to negotiating, to handling stakeholders and adding value in a myriad of other ways, it would be all but impossible to automate some (or all) of the role. 

And as procurement moves to a place where it innovates and adds more strategic value than simply cost savings, the complexity of the job alone means that replacing it with a robot anytime soon would be completely infeasible. 

Reason 4: AI may do some tasks … but that’s probably a good thing 

Although we’re certainly not about to meet Robot the Category Manager anytime soon, all procurement professionals should be advised that as part of the Great Reset, AI will most certainly be used a lot more in our profession … but that’s actually a good thing.

From running automated checks on supplier compliance, to gathering and analysing swathes of data deep into our supply chains, AI gives us the power to understand and know more, while simultaneously doing less manual and administrative tasks. Armed with the new insights that AI can give us (and the time it frees up), we actually benefit as we can add more strategic value than ever. 

So if anything, an AI robot is not our replacement, but our best partner. 

Still concerned that an AI Bot is coming to take your job, or worse, have world domination in mind? There’s no need to worry! Learn all you need to know about the role of AI in Procurement in our fascinating, “What’s Next? The Great Procurement Reset” research report.