by Media Xpose

The supply chain is the backbone of almost every business. If it breaks, an organisation may never recover from the lost time, money and customers. A bionic supply chain – which harnesses the best that humans and machines have to offer – may sound like something out of science fiction, but according to SAPICS (The Professional Body for Supply Chain Management in Southern Africa), it is what African businesses should be building, to future proof their supply chains in an increasingly volatile, uncertain and complex environment.

The latest technology that is being leveraged in bionic supply chains will be in the spotlight at the upcoming 45th annual SAPICS Conference, the organisers have announced. The conference, which takes place in Cape Town from 11 to 14 June 2023, is Africa’s foremost knowledge sharing and networking event for the supply chain profession. Local and international experts will examine technology like generative Artificial Intelligence (AI), autonomous drones and business intelligence tools, and share their insights on how and why these advances are revolutionising supply chains.

According to 2023 SAPICS Conference presenter Johan Steyn, generative AI like ChatGPT, will continue to grow, and with more advanced algorithms, will increasingly be used in supply chain and logistics – for predictive maintenance, automation in warehouses, in supply chain finance and to enable more collaboration between companies. “Organisations that capitalise on these trends will be well-positioned to thrive in a competitive marketplace,” Steyn asserts. Generative AI, he explains, is the latest advance in the rapidly maturing smart technology era. “At its core, it is a type of machine learning that focuses on creating new and unique outputs rather than simply recognising or classifying existing data.”

In his SAPICS Conference presentation, Steyn, who is a human-centred AI advocate and thought leader, will help attendees to understand generative AI and its potential in the supply chain, including offering them a practical roadmap to embrace it in their organisations. He will also examine the practical applications of the technology and outline the pitfalls to be avoided by supply chain professionals on their AI journey.

Automated inventory management powered by self-flying drones is on the 2023 SAPICS Conference programme in a presentation that will focus on pushing the boundaries of inventory management through innovation. “A zero-error warehouse is no longer a luxury. Improving inventory accuracy has become an imperative for big-box retailers, 3PLs (third-party logistics providers) and manufacturers competing for customer loyalty,” says presenter Judy Bezuidenhout, who is the national inventory manager at DSV Solutions.

“Drones can scan inventory in warehouses and distribution centres during nights and weekends – literally while we sleep – and they can identify inventory discrepancies and distil that data into valuable insights. They offer a sustainable way in which to manage our manhours and resources. This presentation will highlight the importance of inventory management and what the benefits are when you have the correct stock in the correct location physically and systematically,” Bezuidenhout explains. She will address the downstream impact of inventory errors and the potential risks, while introducing conference attendees to the innovation of fully autonomous drone cycle counting. “This technology is awesome because it can replace unsafe and arduous manual barcode scans, provide accurate inventory reporting, and reduce inventory investigation,” Bezuidenhout stresses.

Big data and analytics have been ranked among the most important topics in supply chain in 2023. They are also on the agenda for this year’s SAPICS Conference. Supply chain specialist Lee-Ann Bartlett will share her experience and expertise on leveraging data analytics to optimise supply chain management. “Businesses are making use of several information systems to manage their respective business functions, for example transport management systems, enterprise resource planning systems and warehouse management systems,” Bartlett notes. “A lot of data is captured and gathered by these systems daily. This data is then used by management to create the management reports required monthly. They typically do this by using spreadsheets to consolidate the data and transform it into an acceptable format. However, the problem is that these spreadsheets can be corrupted, and finger errors are unavoidable,” she says. “Using business intelligence tools, this process can be streamlined by automating the gathering of data, calculations, and the transformation of the data – to drive insightful decision-making. Investing in these tools will provide organisations with peace of mind regarding data cleanliness and standardisation of key performance indicators (KPI) calculations,” Bartlett states.

Her SAPICS Conference presentation aims to create awareness about the amount of data gathered daily and enable supply chain professionals to understand what is useful and what is not. She will explain the flow of data from the myriad of information systems to create insightful reports and will outline how to merge the continuous improvement and data analysis cycles to achieve high process efficiencies. “The savings that can be achieved through investing in data analytics outweigh the cost associated with the development,” Bartlett stresses.

For further information, or to register for the 2023 SAPICS Conference, call the Conference Secretariat at Upavon Management on 011 023 6701 or email info@upavon.co.za. Up-to the-minute information is also posted on the SAPICS conference website: https://conference.sapics.org/

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