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The IMM Graduate School is adding two new SCM qualifications to its arsenal: A Higher Certificate in Supply Chain Management and BCom Honours in Supply Chain Management. They will be accredited by the internationally recognised Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, a first for any SCM tertiary qualification in South Africa.

Although supply chain management (SCM) and the pivotal role that it plays in business hasn’t always been widely recognised in the past, an unprecedented 2020, with its Covid-19 pandemic, has made it abundantly clear that competent and proficient SCM is a significant catalyst when it comes to economic growth, both locally and internationally.

So, what is SCM and how are businesses able to embrace the ongoing learnings from last and this year and leverage their SCM to make their bottom line swell?

SCM practices are essentially the management of upstream and downstream activities with maximum efficiency, with a view to amplifying the customer experience and enhancing customer value. The aim is to achieve not only a sustainable competitive edge but also one that is superior to competitors within the same class of business.

Upstream activities relate to the source of the business’ inputs – such as raw materials, suppliers and the processes for managing important supply chain partner relationships effectively and cost effectively. In contrast, downstream activities consist of the business’ processes associated with the distribution and delivery of final products to the final consumer via the organisation’s distribution channel. Competent SCM also includes the management of procurement (inputs), operations, warehousing and transportation logistics.

Traditionally, organisations could rely on the loyalty of their customers, but increasingly, a shift towards service delivery instead of brand loyalty has become the first and foremost differentiator in customer expectations – and buying patterns. It’s worth remembering B2B customers are not as brand loyal as consumers.

So, back to the original question – how can businesses leverage their SCM to reduce costs, grow their bottom line and retain customers?

New thinking needed

For a start, new thinking is needed with a definite shift in the application of old methodologies. With elongated supply pipelines, increased supply and supplier risk and extreme fluctuations in currencies, the only true way to maximise the benefits of SCM strategies are to ensure superior customer value, service delivery and the management of the integral logistical functions within the SCM cycle.

The adage of the customer is king has never rung so true, and the fusing of high-quality operations and superior customer service will be the clincher when it comes to distinguishing features what features in the eye of your consumer.

Service SCM is one of the highest growth areas worldwide, so it is evident that although there are still substantial skills shortages within the field globally, businesses – nationally and internationally – are realising that services SCM is most definitely the key to improving overall company performance.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a small or large organisation, proficient SCM provides an open-ended opportunity to enhance the customer experience,” says Marzia Storpioli, lecturer at the IMM Graduate School and leading subject matter expert. “The value added by excellent service, delivered by an agile and responsive supply chain, will most certainly result in far greater customer retention – something each organisation is desperately seeking.”

Mitigating risk and introducing further success into an organisation’s SCM strategy means taking a hard look at management practices. Technology plays a massive role in today’s markets and for any business to have a hope of remaining competitive, the appropriate technology processes and systems must be put in place.

The technological advancements associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – which include artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), automation, blockchain and cloud computing – are disrupting and transforming all end-to-end processes within the supply chain. Business leaders can no longer focus on developments and trends in their sectors alone but need to understand potential transformations and disruptions in the entire world of suppliers, customers and markets.

Education and training a vital component

Education and training are vital components in the understanding of the complexity of SCM, especially as company leads start to realise that process and system changes – which will impact their suppliers, markets, capabilities and daily operational readiness – must be implemented if they want to stay ahead of the curve.

The IMM Graduate School, one of Africa’s foremost online education providers specialising in marketing, supply chain and business disciplines, is adding two new SCM qualifications to its arsenal: A Higher Certificate in Supply Chain Management and BCom Honours in Supply Chain Management.

“The key differentiator to the standard SCM modules and the postgrad offering will be the accreditation by the internationally recognised Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), a first for any SCM qualification in South Africa,” explained IMM senior lecturer and researcher and SCM subject matter expert, Dr Myles Wakeham.

“Along with a full spectrum of groundbreaking educational modules, offering a new perspective on SCM in light of global changes, a module solely dedicated to AI, digitalisation and blockchain technology will be introduced for the first time in any SCM course. Another progressively innovative module will address ethics and risk management in the supply chain, which has to date, seldom been included in any learning material within any SCM course.”

As the world settles into its ‘new normal’, companies will fall into two very divided categories. Those that don’t learn dig their heels in and hope that there will be no further disruptions. Then there are those that have learned from this economic crisis and invested in their future by interrogating their systems, supply networks and customer service standards to redefine the road map, so that afore-planned objectives may be reached with solid solutions if and when new disruptions occur.

It really is clear to see which out of the two strategies will emerge as the winner.


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