HOW COVID-19 IS MAKING SUPPLY CHAIN MANAGEMENT VISIBLE AND SEXY

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Covid-19 has made supply chain management sexy and, as a result, the profession may emerge from this crisis stronger and with a pipeline of talent ready to rise to the next disruption, according to SAPICS, The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management in Southern Africa.

“This pandemic has highlighted the importance of supply chains to everyone. The conversations around supply chain are happening far more frequently. I expect that more people will begin to have an interest in the subject, and we will be able to leverage that to build a stronger workforce for the industry,” says SAPICS director Richard dos Santos.

He contends that the profession’s response to the coronavirus crisis has showcased the exemplary work that supply chain professionals are doing daily. “They have risen to and overcome extraordinary challenges both on the supply side when it comes to medical commodities and on the demand side in terms of consumer goods. Despite being pushed to the limits, supply chain systems have not buckled. From being a field that was not well understood and sometimes undervalued, working in the supply chain profession is now something to aspire to. One upside of the Covid-19 crisis is that it has drawn attention to the profession and elevated it,” dos Santos says.

“Historically, we have not seen the largest groundswell of school leavers making supply chain a field of choice to study within. Until now, the profession was not attracting the young, emerging talent that it needed. A lot of this has to do with marketing and awareness. This crisis is changing perceptions of the profession and increasing understanding of the valuable role it plays. With cutting edge and attractive technologies like AI (artificial intelligence), robots and drones increasingly being leveraged to optimise supply chains and logistics – and to enhance safety during the pandemic – supply chain management is being seen as a sexy profession of choice.”

Dos Santos notes that Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of many supply chain disciplines, not least of which is the importance of inventory and distribution planning. “It has also put the spotlight on emerging disciplines such as supply chain risk planning. In addition, there is growing awareness of the critical need for non-supply chain job roles to also incorporate supply chain knowledge.

“Virtually everything that we use or touch every day has reached us through supply chains. They connect everything and really do make our societies and economies function, and this has never been more visibly apparent than it has been during the Covid-19 pandemic. Supply chains and effective supply chain management have the power not just to ensure the smooth flow of goods and services from the point of origin to the point of consumption; but hold the power to save lives, to save the planet and ensure brighter futures for individuals, organisations and communities,” dos Santos stresses.

The 2020 Supply Chain Salary and Career Survey Report recently conducted by the US-based Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), to which SAPICS is a Premier Elite channel partner, revealed that an overwhelming majority (88%) of supply chain professionals have a positive outlook on their careers and 85% say that they would recommend working in supply chain to those in other industries. The data collected from over 2 400 supply chain professionals in the United States shows that in addition to offering high salaries and good benefits, a career in supply chain offers job fulfilment, opportunities for advancement and variety of work.

“As the workforce is reshaped by this pandemic, the need for supply chain professionals will only continue to grow. The role of the supply chain professional has evolved into a strategic imperative essential for every aspect of a company’s operations to provide the goods and services needed for the economy to thrive,” says ASCM CEO Abe Eshkenazi. “While supply chain professionals have always known that their work was contributing to something bigger than themselves, consumers are now more keenly aware of the direct impact supply chain has on their daily lives.”

A new component added to the survey this year looked at skillsets, and it revealed that APICS certifications matter. These internationally recognised supply chain certifications are offered in Southern Africa by SAPICS through its association with APICS. SAPICS is the South African custodian of the APICS CPIM (Certified in Production and Inventory Management), CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) and CLTD (Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution). In the ASCM survey, supply chain professionals who held at least one APICS certification reported a 21% higher median salary than those without a certification, and 18% higher than those with other certifications.

A suite of designations from the Demand Driven Institute in the USA is also offered by SAPICS and is increasingly sought after, highlights dos Santos.

“We need skilled, professional, suitably qualified supply chain professionals now more than ever, and superior education and training like that offered by SAPICS will ensure that supply chains keep moving now and beyond Covid-19,” he concludes.

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