SAPICS 2022 - Trends and Insights

23 June 2022

I recently had the privilege of attending the #SAPICS2022 Conference. It was amazing to finally connect with all the people I have been speaking to online for the last three years. Being in person is far more meaningful than online. This month, I thought I would share some of the insights and themes I picked up on at the #SAPICS2022 Conference.

But before I begin, I must mention that I am a technophobe and things like Big Data, IoT and AI scare the living daylights out of me. So, I was rather sceptical about some of the topics 😂🤣.

The first speaker, Johan Steyn, reminded us of the famous book 1984. It was written by George Orwell back in 1948. Looking back at some of the quotations from 1984 in the 21st century is eye-opening. Already in 1948, Orwell spoke about the telescreen that would watch you in your home, as you were watched back.

But the one thing he was convinced of was:

“With all their cleverness, they have never mastered the secret of finding out what another human is thinking.” – Orwell, 1948

However, today even that is within in the realms of possibility, as technology to restore sight and other aspects by human machine integration is becoming more and more likely.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I do find these conversations fascinating.

So, it was reassuring to learn that the experts believe that there is still a need for us humans, despite all the technical advancements in the world. Without people, technology will not add the right value.

A key takeout from Johan Steyn’s presentation is the fact that AI will not add value to your organisation unless the people and culture are addressed first. There is no point in putting fancy solutions in place if the people are disengaged, unhappy and making mistakes. Replacing them with robots would be like putting a Band Aid on a broken leg. It would not fix the underlying issues in the organisation.

“Automate the right things, for the right reasons, in the right ways” – Prof Johan Steyn, SAPICS 2022

Sticking with the digital theme, another key lesson from the Digital Disruption of the Supply Chain panel discussion was don’t jump straight into a technological solution. You first need to understand the business model, then test it, then start developing.

The example given was Uber Freight. The initial planning and operations for Uber Freight looked at one route on the Texas Highways and the model was built in … wait for this … Excel. Yes, even Uber uses Excel. Once the model was working better, it was moved to Google Docs and only once this worked well, did the organisation consider an application or technology solution.

The lesson here … get the basics right first. You need a strong foundation to build a profitable solution.

One theme that spanned every session I attended was the question: “What problem are you trying to solve?”

As a society, we are programmed to solve problems. We are fixers. We want to make things right.

But if we do not understand the problem, we will treat the symptom and not the cause. By not taking the time to fall in love with the problem, we will continue to do the same things over and over while expecting a different result.

Therefore, as you navigate your Supply Chain Career remember this:

  • People first, then add technology
  • Test the business model, then add technology
  • Get the basics right, then add technology
  • Fall in love with the problem, then add technology

Technology will aid and support your journey, but it won’t solve all your problems.

Written by Special Guest Writer, Chanti Wilson. Executive Leadership Coach |Business Consultant | SAPICS Director

A Supply Chain Consultant with over 20 years’ experience, Chanti Wilson has experience in a range of industries including FMCG, Automotive, Agricultural and Packaging, where she has implemented the practices of Supply, Demand, Sales & Operations Planning and Procurement. Chanti is currently a Director at SAPICS – The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management and chairs the SAPICS Small Business Hub sub-committee.   In addition, Chanti works as Client Support Manager for CCi and MBA Teaching Assistant at UJ for their Operations and Supply Chain Module. Her passion is developing skills that will grow the South African economy and actively does this through coaching and mentoring young Supply Chain Professionals.

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