Optimism, innovation, and people

By: Cobus Rossouw, SAPICS President

The recent 37th Annual SAPICS Conference and Exhibition held true to its long-standing reputation as the leading event in Africa for supply chain professionals. The sessions covered an array of topics with some impressive speakers stepping up to the stage to deliver significant insight into topical issues, challenges and trends affecting not only the supply chain management profession, but also business in the context of global economic growth.

Opening keynote speaker Justice Malala bravely took on a political stance, often a risk, and provided some excellent perspective on the challenges facing the profession. His view was that there is plenty of noise in South Africa across both politics and industry and that it is necessary to be very selective in the issues one spends energy on.

Justice’s advice was elegantly simple – figure out a way to worry better. He advised us to spend more energy and thought on issues that could make a difference to our immediate environment, whether in the short or longer term. Although Supply Chain Management (SCM) professionals are experiencing frustration with government for seemingly not getting the basics right, there needs to be a way of channelling this energy towards positive outcomes.

Yes, we need to make the call to government and make them realise why these areas need attention, but we also need to focus on what SCM can do for economic growth. One of the reasons I am so proud to be part of this profession is that we always seem to find a way to get things done and, if we can’t find a way, we invent one. Innovation is central to the profession and the people that populate it.

There were a number of upbeat themes that threaded their way through the conversations and discussions during the event. SCM professionals are aware that to change and develop people there needs to be flexibility and adaptability alongside a commitment to using technology for change.

Being ready for, and forcing, change should be a focus area. We need to remain optimistic and go and search for another way to get things done. It’s amazing what we have accomplished, but we spend too little time celebrating our success and tenacity.

Another problem raised at the event was the lack of skilled and talented people who work hard and want to try new things and how it is impacting on the profession. This is not only relevant to SCM, but also to most of South Africa’s public and private sectors. Solutions put forward included changing basic education standards, decreasing bureaucracy around skills development and spending money not only on training, but ensuring that this spend is aligned with strategic business objectives.

The biggest challenge for SAPICS as representative industry body is to be relevant for business in general, not just supply chain management. SAPICS will therefore continue to strengthen alliances with both international and local bodies for the greater good of the profession, but we need the help of our incredible industry professionals to position the Supply Chain Management function as a strategic business imperative.