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LOGISTICS: SAPICS Makes Supply Chain Research a Priority


Recent Gauteng Business News

Following on from its participation in the ground-breaking global supply chain survey which was launched this year by MIT (the Massachusetts Institute for Technology), and is being sponsored in South Africa by Imperial Logistics, SAPICS added impetus to its research contribution by introducing a research panel discussion at the recent SAPICS Conference. This generated some important findings, notes SAPICS director Cobus Rossouw. He elaborates: "At this very successful panel discussion and reflection at the SAPICS Conference, three research priorities were identified in our profession. These are logistics infrastructure, supply chain integration and operational capabilities."

Cobus says the panel concluded that the key objective of research into logistics infrastructure would be understanding the challenges and development requirements associated with this area, in order to increase the competitive advantage of the SA industry and economy. Projects like the "State of Logistics" (which is sponsored by Imperial Logistics), CSIR initiatives and university initiatives were cited by the panel as contributing to research in this area, but it remains a priority. Comments Imperial Logistics marketing director Abrie de Swardt: “Business, as a whole, must consistently invest in and support research, both financially and through contributing practical knowledge, information and key learnings. At Imperial Logistics, we focus significantly on collaborating with business, industry bodies, government, as well as research and academic institutions. Initiatives such as the current MIT Risk Survey and annual State of Logistics™ Survey further logistics and supply chain best practice and importantly, enable us to collectively identify and find solutions to industry challenges that cannot be solved by just one company."

The second key research area defined by the panel is supply chain integration, and Cobus explains that the objective of this research would be to share innovative management approaches towards leveraging supply chain integration as a strategic enabler of the competitive advantage of companies. Initiatives like Barloworld's "supplychainforesight" are already committed to this objective, the panel noted.

The issue of operational capabilities is the third research priority that has been identified, and Cobus says that the aim of research in this area would be to define the requirements for skills development to support the internal capabilities required for organizations and industries to address operational management. SAPICS education is playing a crucial role, the panel concluded, along with University initiatives and company projects, but research into operational capabilities remains a priority in the Africa supply chain profession.

SAPICS's participation in the MIT Centre for Logistics and Transportation's global Supply Chain Risk Management Survey represented a milestone in the association's research function. "It's just the start," Cobus stresses, "of an ongoing initiative that will see SAPICS facilitating interaction between academia and industry to align efforts in the profession, and providing a platform for discussion.

"Global research like the MIT survey is extremely significant for SAPICS and for the local supply chain community," he adds. "It presents an invaluable opportunity to learn from the rest of the world, and for them to learn from South Africa. A global survey like this - particularly one run by a renowned and credible institution like MIT - really enables us to give something meaningful back to the profession. It's a chance for our opinions to be expressed; for our voices to be heard on a global level." Feedback from the survey has identified the most important local risks as those related to raw material and transport carrier failures, which is similar to international findings. Highly rated internal risks related to protracted labour disputes and electricity supply disruptions are more unique to the local environment. The lack of alignment between companies and their suppliers on urgency to address risk related issues has also been identified as an issue that needs attention. Further phases of the research will focus on understanding the differences between local and international risk perceptions and management approaches, Cobus explains. The project will continue to be sponsored by IMPERIAL Logistics.

In addition to the research panel discussion, the SAPICS Conference also provided a platform for the sponsors of major local research initiatives - like Barloworld supplychainforesight and the State of Logistics, conducted by the CSIR - to present their findings. Two major international research projects were used as the basis of presentations by Alan Waller ("Supply Chain Strategy in the Boardroom - The Reality") and Karl Manrodt ("Vested Outsourcing: Five rules that will transform outsourcing"). The latter received the best presentation award and the former presentation was also highly rated. by attendees. A follow up workshop by Alan Waller is being planned in South Africa in early 2011.

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