Professor Marcus Ambe – professor of Supply Chain Management (and chairperson of the Supply Chain Management Research Group) in the department of Business Management at Unisa – posed critical questions, which set the scène for the roundtable discussion around the professionalisation of supply chain management. The discussion was held at Unisa on the 2nd of March 2017, and was organised by the Supply Chain Management Research Group in the College of Economics and Management Sciences (CEMS) at Unisa – in collaboration with the Chief Directorate Capacity Building, in the Office of the Accountant- General, National Treasury.
From right to left: Mr Mark Kuipers, Prof Marcus Ambe, Charles Dey, Prof. Hannie Badenhorst-Weiss, Mongo Park, Prof. Thomas Mogale, Lusani Madzivhandila, Schalk Human, Ingrid Du Buisson, Winnie Dlamini, Prof. Goonasagree Naidoo, Dennis Mlambo, Mike Johnston, Prof. Douglas Boateng, Andre Coetzee, Prof. Christopher Mulaudzi and Dr Peter Kilbourn
The theme of the discussion focussed on: “Working together to professionalise supply chain management”. Over 217 delegates heading supply chain management in their organisation, attended the round table discussion.
Consensus about the definition of supply chain management
Professor Marcus Ambe stated that, “for over 34 years since the emergence of supply chain management, there is still no consensus regarding its definition, as well as no overarching and unifying theory. It means different things to different people, and numerous, overlapping definitions exist. Each functional discipline applies its own specific approach, methodology and priorities to supply chain management as they see fit; from logistics, transport, procurement, operations, marketing and distribution”.
According to Professor Douglas Boateng, “without a common understanding of supply chain management, South Africa and the rest of the continent will continue to struggle to economically emancipate themselves”. He reiterated that collaboration between academia, industry associations, the government and public sector as well as the private is vital for successful supply chain management professionalisation for meaningful gains. He further noted that, “without standards, there can be no improvement”.
Professionalisation in the public sector
Mr. Lusani Madzivhandila – head of human resources at the Gauteng Economic Development Agency – focused on the aspirations of National Treasury regarding supply chain management professionalisation. He confirmed that “supply chain management is one of the nine disciplines of public finance management. According to Treasury Regulation 16A.5.1, institutions should ensure that supply chain management officials are trained and deployed in accordance with the requirements of the Framework for Minimum Training and Deployment issued by the National Treasury”. He also indicated the alignment of supply chain management to Chapter 13 of the National Development Plan (which talks about building a capable state), as well as the Public Finance Management Professionalisation Model Vision 2030.
Professor Hannie Badenhorst-Weiss, who heads the Purchasing and Supply Chain Management section in the Department Business Management at Unisa, said that, “there is a strong body of knowledge and research locally as well as internationally on public sector supply chain management”. She stressed that the realisation of professionalism in the public sector is not only a dream but might become a reality for the country.
Professionalism critical for sustainability
Mr. Dennis Mlambo – Supply Chain Executive for the Denel Group – concurred that “there is a need to move supply chain management practitioners from being practitioners to professionals. This move will promote sustainability, fight against fraud and corruption, and uphold the codes of ethics and service delivery excellence on delivering national imperatives”.
According to professor Goonasagree Naidoo (director of the School of Public and Operations Management at Unisa), professionalisation is critically required in the light of supply chain management skills and capacity challenges in the country. “For an emerging economy like South Africa with shortage of supply chain management skills and lack of capacity, professionalisation is a key contemporary issue. Hence, the ‘need’ for a uniquely South African solution; a more professionalized approach to the provisioning of supply chain management education and skills training”
It was unanimously accepted that an overarching council should be created to:
• engage with academic institutions to bridge the gap between industry realities and academic expectations
• regulate and coordinate professional organisations in order to prevent conflict of interest, duplication of functions and roles
• coordinate all stakeholders to facilitate value-adding interaction
• co- ordinate and align communication with the public – and private sectors on matters pertaining to education, skills development, and other supply chain management related matters, and
• develop a roadmap for supply chain management training and accreditation”
From the presentation and discussions, it became clear that it is imperative for all key stakeholders to work together in the common interest of advancing supply chain professionalism. Partnership and collaboration were recurrent terms used by both panel members and delegates.