DSC_31721.jpgUniversities need to do more to understand the changing business environment to produce graduates that will best serve in the supply chain industry.

Many graduates are not making a valuable contribution to the industry because of a lack of proper practical integration by universities, said Prof. Johan Du Plessis, Managing Director of Logistics International and Adjunct Professor at the universities of Johannesburg and Unisa.

In fact, major role players in the industry are beginning to turn to in-house training to produce a well trained workforce, said Du Plessis.

Speaking at a supply chain management roundtable on university programme offerings, Du Plessis urged universities to produce graduates who are not only well grounded in theoretical subjects, but are able to apply their knowledge to practical situations.

Over the years, supply chain management has evolved and its application and expectations are different across industries and sectors, said Prof. Hannie Badenhorst-Weiss, Purchasing and Supply Chain Management professor at Unisa.

This evolution has to be taken into account in the practices and strategies for supply chain management capacity development.

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 and recurring challenge among graduates.

“Graduates need to be taught how to actualise theory to enable them to perform better,” said Hansby.

‘Traditional’ obstacles remain

The roundtable, hosted by The Supply Chain Management Research Group in collaboration with Unisa SBL and CIPS also highlighted the organisational obstacles in supply chain management’s path.

Companies still fail to decide whether supply chain management falls within the support function or the strategic function, said Prof. Douglas Boateng, Supply and Value Chain Management at Unisa SBL.

The time is ripe for supply chain management to break away from the stronghold of Finance.

“Finance has taken over supply chain management, meaning that cost defines the limit of development, which further hinders its leverage,” said Boateng.

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”.

Boateng said that without a proper procurement process and supply chain management, countries will not be industrialised.

“Importing goods from outside the continent disturbs the management of supply chain and poses a threat to industrialisation,” he argued.

He added that Africans should use their buying power to influence industrialisation, as it was another way in which supply chain management and procurement could be used to the advancement of the continent.