Supply Chain Management: Bridging the Gap Between Industry Realities and Academic Expectations

CIPS 24 October 2016

The Supply Chain Management Research Group (SCMRG) at CEMS in collaboration with SBL and CIPS organised a roundtable discussion on supply chain management:  Bridging the gap between industry realities and academic expectations lead by Prof Ambe held on the 4 October 2016.

The Supply Chain Management Research Group (SCMRG) at CEMS in collaboration with SBL and CIPS organised a roundtable discussion on supply chain management:  Bridging the gap between industry realities and academic expectations lead by Prof Ambe held on the 4 October 2016. The event brought together esteemed supply chain management professionals from academia, industry and professional bodies who shared thought leading insights on practices and strategies on supply chain management capacity development.

The event was opened by Prof Hannie Badenhorst-Weiss, who indicated that over the years, supply chain management has evolved and its application and expectations are different across industries and sectors. Prof Mogale welcomed the guests and echoed the strategic importance of supply chain management to socio-economic development of the country. He also indicated that the roundtable offers a unique opportunity for everyone to reflect on programme offerings to make sure that the university produces graduates that are ready for the job market.

“Supply chain management is often viewed as a source of corruption, especially within the public sector, where major tenders are issued. This is as a result of government’s failure to use public funds wisely and deliver better services within budget constraints”. This was a sentiment echoed by the panellists (Prof Boateng, Prof du Plessis, Dr Kilbourn, Ms Hansby, Mr Mlambo, Mr Coetzee, Mr Manyathi, Ms Setino) during the roundtable discussion.

The discussion was centred on the theme Supply chain management: Bridging the gap between industry realities and academic expectations.

The panellists emphasised the following:

Professor Johan Du Plessis, Managing Director of Logistics International and Adjunct Professor at the universities of Johannesburg and Unisa, said universities need to do much more to understand the changing business environment in order to produce graduates who will best serve in the supply chain industry. Prof Du Plessis said many graduates are not making a value contribution to the industry and this is a result of the lack of proper practical integration by universities. He said major role-players in the industry are beginning to turn to in-house training to produce a well trained workforce.  He urged universities to produce qualified graduates, who are not only well grounded in theoretical subjects but are able to apply their knowledge to practical situations.

Janine Hansby, Procurement Executive at Standard Bank, also expressed concerns at what she described as the lack of preparedness of graduates when they enter the industry. She said this is a common challenge that keeps on recurring amongst the graduates. “Graduates need to be taught how to actualise theory to enable them to perform better,” she said.

Professor Douglas Boateng, Professor Extra-Ordinaire in Supply and Value Chain Management at Unisa’s Graduate School of business Leadership (SBL), said people often confuse supply chain management with the mere procurement of goods. He argued that supply chain management is far bigger than just procurement and it lies at the heart of industrialisation. He said one of the biggest obstacles is that companies still fail to decide whether supply chain management falls within the support function or the strategic function. Boateng says the time is ripe for supply chain management to break away from the strong hold of Finance as this subverts development and cost is used to define the limit. “Finance has taken over supply chain management and the cost defines the limit of the development and further hinders its leverage,” he said.

He also criticised the African governments, saying, “it is a shame that the continent does not have a clearly defined strategy to use supply chain management to unlock economic growth and use the continent’s buying power to its advantage compared to the rest of the world”. Prof Boateng believes that without a proper procurement process and supply chain management, countries won’t be industrialised. He made examples about countries like China, which are the world’s largest economy, relied on supply chain management to build industrialisation and to grow its influence. “Importing goods from outside the continent disturbs the supply chain management and it poses threat to industrialisation,” he argued. He added that Africans, especially women, should use their buying power to influence industrialisation, saying that was another way in which supply chain management and procurement could be used to the advancement of the continent.

Rebecca Setino, Chief Procurement Officer at the South Africa Maritime Safety Authority, said that supply chain management is a relatively new discipline and those who wished to emerge as experts in the field should invest in personal development.

By Prof IM Ambe
Supply Chain Management Professor
Leader: Supply Chain Management Research Group, Unisa

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