Increased automation in the South African manufacturing sector could aggravate the country’s unemployment rate if supply chain management education and skills training initiatives are not prioritised, says supply chain and logistics consultancy Industrial Logistic Systems (ILS) chairperson Martin Bailey.
He notes that, as technology advances and proliferates globally, the cost of new solutions for the local manufacturing industry is decreasing. As a result, companies are increasingly upgrading their manufacturing facilities and logistics systems to improve their productivity and meet demand from a growing population. A core focus is to streamline operations and remove constraints – which often culminates in consolidating or eliminating certain processes through automation.
As this fundamental shift takes place in industry, Bailey highlights, training and education – such as provided through the courses and certifications offered by supply chain association Sapics and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport – are imperative to bridge the skills gap in a modern materials handling environment.
“ILS is proud to assist these industry organisations, offering support for their training programmes and facilitating practical training and several learnerships each year at our organisation,” says Bailey.
Pairing Local and International Knowledge
Sapics president Mungo Park similarly highlights that, as investment in South Africa grows, its infrastructure and technology will continue to catch up with those of First World countries. This will also ensure that demand for professionals who understand the complex dynamics of advanced supply chains increases.
“We need to prepare for the future and that means gaining the required expertise before it becomes critical.”
While Sapics offers a variety of courses and workshops through local programmes and international certifications, Park stresses that the value of the latter cannot be underestimated. “This is in terms of building local supply chain capability and providing a yardstick against which to test candidates applying for supply chain positions.”
Park argues that international certification should, thus, augment local expertise to prepare the materials handling and logistics sector in South Africa for globalised operations.
He points out that there are marked differences in context between developed countries – which are considering innovative approaches to supply chain efficiency, such as drone delivery or logistics driven by Artificial Intelligence – and developing countries, which still contend with fundamental supply chain issues and challenges.
While South Africa is embracing advanced technology in some areas, such as logistics tracking, Park notes that it is often underused or incorrectly applied in optimising supply chain efficiencies – often because of inadequate supply chain knowledge.
“Many individuals are skilled in certain aspects of logistics but few have the knowledge and experience to see beyond their scope of responsibility and understand the upstream and downstream impact of their decisions. This inhibits supply chain efficiency and improvement initiatives [in South Africa].”
Park stresses that education is key in surmounting this predicament, as many of the management skills gained through internationally recognised certification are universally applicable and relevant, despite local challenges.
Moreover, he points out that, as international certification is usually preceded by local training requirements, South African professionals will gain from local education and international training, thus producing a broader and more balanced range of skills. International certification also assures global customers that a high level of industry expertise is being applied, providing South African businesses with more credibility internationally.
“Overall, [international certification] offers South African professionals access to the leading principles and practices that are essential to addressing local constraints. It validates the skills level of supply chain resources but, most of all, it provides us with a robust base of supply chain capability on which we can compete with global markets.”
Sapics offers a variety of internationally accredited certifications from the Premier Association for Supply Chain Management, the Demand Driven Institute and the Institute of Business Forecasting and Planning.