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Tsholofelo Tsholofelo | 23 January 2024

The changing face of global supply chains demands a new kind of professional – one who is not only a custodian of procurement and logistics, but also a steward of sustainability.

The constant changes occurring in the logistics space point to a sector different from what people might have imagined 10 years ago.

I believe the supply chain landscape is at a crossroads as traditional paradigms are being disrupted by digitisation. Once characterised by linear processes and limited connectivity, supply chains are experiencing a seismic shift as they embrace the power of the technologies.

The transformation is not merely a modernisation of age-old practices; it signifies a reimagining of how goods are produced, distributed and consumed.

Moreover, the infusion of data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things (IoT) into supply chain operations has given rise to a new era of real-time insights and predictive capabilities. This is at odds with traditional supply chain paradigms which relied heavily on reactive decision-making, and after-the-fact solution mapping.

The shift has empowered logistics firms, giving them the ability to anticipate disruptions, optimise routes, and enhance inventory management, cutting down on costs and improving customer overall customer satisfaction as goods are delivered on time.

The technologies do not come without risk, however, with increased digitisation, meaning organisations must be vigilant to issues such as cyberattack and data privacy intrusions.

But new technologies are not the only change turning the sector on its head.

The greening of supply chains has also sparked innovative practices, from eco-friendly sourcing to circular economy models.

That said, sustainability brings its own challenges.

Balancing economic viability with environmental responsibility remains a delicate dance. The realisation that sustainability encompasses social and ethical dimensions adds further layers of complexity to the equation.

What all this means is that future supply chain professionals will be compelled to take a “value-beyond-price” approach in the execution of their duties.

They will need to be an ethical professional through and through, with a passion for the socio-political and socio-economic environments they operate in.

In addition, the rise of e-commerce has engendered a change in consumer behaviour that has ushered in an era of demand volatility, personalised experiences and expedited last-mile deliveries.

The supply chain is challenged to synchronise itself with the whims of an ever-changing consumer. In this regard, warehouses are evolving into fulfilment centres that double as distribution hubs, further blurring the lines between online and off-line shopping. This shift has prompted supply chains to pivot swiftly, adapting to the new rhythms of digital commerce.

The “revolution” occurring in the logistics realm is also seeing greater collaboration where, for example, sharing data for mutual benefit is becoming the new normal, while resilience is becoming a prized asset in any organisation.

The future supply chain professional will embody a versatile set of skills that transcends anything their predecessors had. From harnessing data-driven insights to reimagining network structures, they stand at the forefront of leveraging innovation for optimised operation.

Their role extends beyond the boardroom, as they will have to collaborate with cross-functional teams and bridge the gap between evolving technologies and human expertise. The future supply chain professional is not merely a responder to change, but a proactive agent of it.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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