Dr Craig Voortman (second from right) spoke at the CIPS Middle East Conference 2018
Dr Craig Voortman (second from right) spoke at the CIPS Middle East Conference 2018

Three lessons from CIPS Middle East Conference

13 July 2018

SM attended the CIPS Middle East Conference. In a line-up crammed with ideas, here are three things we learned…

1. Get to grips with blockchain

Blockchain is coming to disrupt your supply chain and your processes, whether you like it or not, so procurement pros need to get on top of it now, said Dr Craig Voortman from the Saudi National Center of Excellence in Supply Chain and Logistics. “Blockchain is not a fad,” he said. “It’s bigger than you think and it will be used in all supply chains. Smart contracts are coming your way.” Head of CIPS MENA Sam Achampong echoed this message: “We need to take a lead and come up with procurement applications for blockchain, otherwise someone else will do it for us.”

2. The need for speed

Christopher Harvey, head of procurement at Saudi Arabia’s private research university KAUST, shared how digitising processes had helped his team reduce time getting import permits for products from 6-8 weeks to 20-30 minutes. “Speed is very important [to our stakeholders],” he said. “They need to know when their materials are going to arrive.” Several speakers raised the need for agility. But this brings challenges, said CIPS group director Duncan Brock. “The challenge is balancing risk with agility,” he said. “How can you be fast when you are also trying to make sure everything is clean down your supply chain?”

3. Focus on innovation

“By now procurement has earned that place at the table, so the next challenge is where to add that next level of value,” said Richard McGuire, VP procurement at Dubai’s Expo 2020. Enabling innovation is one way of doing so. “Innovation is out there,” he said. “The challenge is how to identify it, drive it into the business and deliver it.” Expo 2020 has built a platform to help suppliers network and share ideas with each other. For Levent Topçu, head of procurement at Turkcell, the future of procurement “lies in supplier-enabled innovation”. “We are privileged as we see all the requirements,” he said.

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