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SAP leading supply chain into the future

Sustainability is extremely important for SAP and is part of the company’s core culture. Image: SAP.

Darcy MacClaren, Global Head of Digital Supply Chain at SAP, sits down with MHD to speak about the enterprise software application company, its harnessing of artificial intelligence, sustainability practices, diversifying staff, and the future of the industry she’s been working in for more than three decades.

Darcy MacClaren as Global Head of Digital Supply Chain at enterprise software application company, SAP, has spent 30 years growing, differentiating, and improving businesses through technology transformation with a focus on supply chain. 

Over the past decade at SAP, she has been deeply involved in leveraging technology to transform businesses. She has developed innovative strategies to enhance customer business operations while she’s been in leadership roles at SAP, including Senior Vice President of Digital Supply Chain and Industry 4.0 for SAP North America. 


The supply chain and its technology have drastically changed since Darcy joined SAP in 2013. 

“Supply chain practitioners realise they must embrace technologies in order to do their job,” explains Darcy. “With all these frequent and severe disruptions, we need technology to act as a buffer; to provide the connections that guide businesses on what actions to take so they are resilient instead of reactive at every disruption.”

She identifies three key initiatives that SAP practises: connected, ensuring every business process within its supply chain and across its business is connected; contextual – linking real-time operational and business data together throughout the work process; and collaborative – creating digital connections with all its trading partners.

“Our solutions are built on the HANA platform, which was a game changer for building the integrated business planning product,” adds Darcy. “We also incorporated the concept of synchronised planning into it. This is the ability to go from strategic operations all the way down to execution in one holistic solution.” 

Back in 2015, SAP formed AI governance internally and externally. It ensured it would be responsible, reliable, and relevant. Darcy reveals this is embedded throughout the supply chain and part of SAP’s solutions.

“By 2025,” notes Darcy. “Based on cluster adoption, and the size and scale of SAP and the number of customers we have, we forecast that we’ll be the largest AI solution provider in the world.

“When we use the term ‘reliable’ with regards to AI, we mean that we understand our customers’ data. When we say ‘relevant’, our 25,000 customers trust us with their data, and allow us to use their business processes so that we can learn with our huge ecosystem and enhance our algorithms. 

“When you combine your ERP and embedded supply chain data, and you include AI – the returns are a big boost to your bottom line. With businesses’ permission, we can keep training our learning models.” 


Sustainability is extremely important for SAP and is part of the company’s core culture. It expects its employees to report, record, and act. 

“We truly believe we put technology in place to ‘help the world run better’,” explains Darcy. 

“And it’s more than just a tagline. The future of supply chain is open, collaborative, and connected through sustainable ecosystems. Built to create positive outcomes that are beneficial for the planet, it’s people, as much as it is for profit.”

SAP tracks and collects information on a business’s sustainability practices. Acting responsibly isn’t related to being a good corporate citizen or because it’s what’s right, but because it’s now statutory. 

Darcy MacClaren, Global Head of Digital Supply Chain, SAP. Image: SAP.
Darcy MacClaren, Global Head of Digital Supply Chain, SAP. Image: SAP.

“We’re keeping up with these regulations and putting those into and creating products such as the green ledger, to help our customers track their carbon emissions,” says Darcy.

“You’ll see different statistics from 60 to 72 per cent of the carbon footprint being within the supply chain. The onus is on supply chain practitioners. We’re recording it, we’re reporting it, so you can not only see it, but take action to improve it.” 


The COVID-19 pandemic cast a spotlight on supply chain and showed how a major disruption could put immense pressure on an industry and force it to react swiftly.

Darcy points out that this global event along with the following Suez Canal blockage, extreme weather events and wars, have made it necessary for businesses to de-risk their supply chains. 

“First and foremost, they’re seeing how supply chain is becoming core and central to their operations, and that they need to risk-proof it,” notes Darcy. 

“This is why breaking down silos and having a holistic outlook and approach are essential. Collaboration is key. Rival businesses can even collaborate for the better of industry. 

“SAP knows building networks, making it easy for people to connect with their logistics service providers, and adopting technologies such as cloud services are integral.” 


Darcy is a trailblazer in a male-dominated industry. Over the past three decades, she’s achieved many significant milestones, but despite this, she’s shocked the industry has only progressed a little in terms of diversifying its workforce. 

She says there are several reasons for this lack in progression. One of them is no real recognition of space for women in the field. 

“Firstly, there haven’t been enough women entering the supply chain workforce,” explains Darcy. “Secondly, we usually lose female employees when they reach the middle stage of their careers. This is why we need to educate businesses on the importance of diversity.

“I formed Empowering Women in Supply Chain (EWCS). It consists of SAP customers and partners. It’s all about addressing the talent shortage and working together to get women in it. EWCS helped me improve the overall diversity at this organisation. It started in North America and is now reaching out globally.

“We’re doing our best to figure out what will help us retain female workers. We want to keep them in middle and senior positions – not just junior positions. It’s a tough problem we’ve yet to solve.”


Darcy started her career at Hewlett Packard as soon as she finished her university studies. It was there she discovered her passion for manufacturing and supply chain. When she undertook and completed an MBA, she fell in love with operations, research-based work, and algorithms.

“I enjoy helping businesses delight their customers,” she explains. “Bringing a product to the right customer at the right time in a sustainable way is thrilling. I find it all fun and interesting yet challenging.” 

As for the future of supply chain, Darcy says the massive influx of technology will continue while labour shortages will remain a constant and pressing issue. 

“Repetitive jobs in the supply chain will be automated,” she adds. “New roles will be made for workers where they’ll need to possess a specialised knowledge to do them. The role of a supply chain practitioner is going to considerably change. The technology is ready. Now it’s all about learning how to adopt it.

“We’re witnessing a mass exodus of experienced workers, but the next generation is tech savvy. Whatever they lack in experience, they make up for with their abilities to use technology in new ways. AI and sustainability will be built into this new system. 

“You’ll be able to ask this technology a question like, ‘why is my profit margin low in my west region’, and it will provide an explanation, and suggest what you can do to fix this problem. This is where a business’s supply chain should be in the next five or more years.”

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