College of Economic & Management Sciences

New technologies present opportunities for supply chain management

The incorporation of new technologies, especially artificial intelligence (AI), for the implementation of more robust supply chains, is a clear opportunity in the current crisis, Unisa’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Puleng LenkaBula, argued in her welcome address at the 2nd Annual Pan-African Supply Chain Management Virtual Summit.

The summit was hosted by the African Institute for Supply Chain Research (housed in the College of Economic and Management Sciences) and Unisa.

“As organisations transition to a digital supply network, it would allow more visible connections in the supply chain. This kind of network promotes greater transparency and co-operation and reduces blind dependence on a disconnected supply chain,” she further submitted.

Africa was hard hit by the disruption of supply chains and those who sit at the apex of the continent’s supply chain are justifiably worried about the events of the past 18 months. Covid-19 has highlighted the weaknesses within the supply chain infrastructure, as the pandemic affected global supply chains. “We were faced with suppliers being out of stock, not only of vanity products, but also life-saving pharmaceutical products and other medical supplies, as well as food and other essential products, and those who sit at the apex of Africa’s supply chain are justifiably worried about the events of the past 18 months,” she stated.

Many manufacturers found themselves facing unforeseen supply squeezes, as those, whom they previously depended on, could not meet their supply or production requirements. According to LenkaBula, it is clear that there will be no return to the old ways of managing the global supply chain, and companies and countries will have to transform their global supply chain model.

It has, by now, become clear that, without a fully-integrated supply chain plan, many of the procurement plans that existed prior to Covid-19 were vulnerable. A new approach is needed: one that recognises that supply chain management is a critical component of organisational performance. Referring to the closedown of supplies from China, she advised organisations to reassess their vulnerability to global shocks, especially with regard to their supply chain, and that they tap into the potential of new technologies, to engineer a new kind of supply chain: one that is able to anticipate and withstand major shocks.

“Within Unisa, we are excited about unleashing the power of technology to tackle old and new problems alike. Our innovators are ready and willing to work with professionals like yourselves to deliver tangible benefits for our people across the continent,” LenkaBula said.

*By Ilze Crous, Communications Specialist, College of Economic and Management Sciences

Publish date: 2021-10-15 00:00:00.0