Hundreds of supply chain practitioners from across Africa and around the world will meet in Cape Town next week for the annual SAPICS Conference, Africa’s premier skills development, knowledge sharing and networking event for the profession.

Hosted by the Professional Body for Supply Chain Management (SAPICS), this year’s gathering represents a vital opportunity for supply chain managers to connect and learn while the profession navigates ongoing challenges like geopolitical tensions, climate crises, economic instability and unpredictable consumer behaviour, SAPICS says.

The organisation notes that change has been the only constant in supply chains for some time now, and reflecting this, the 46th SAPICS Conference is being held under the theme “Supply Chain Metamorphosis”. It will explore the changes, challenges, best practices and opportunities reshaping the world of supply chain management. The event takes place from 9 to 12 June 2024 at Cape Town’s Century City Conference Centre. SAPICS is hosting it in association with the Southern African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) for the second consecutive year.  

Backbone of healthcare systems

Because efficient supply chains are the backbone of healthcare systems, and strong healthcare supply chains are essential to fight killer diseases like HIV, TB and malaria, the 2024 SAPICS Conference features a global public health supply chain track. Exceptional local and international experts will share their insights on healthcare supply chain issues, including the challenges of last mile delivery and the transformative role of technology, such as drone delivery.

Blood may seem like an unusual supply chain related topic, but a powerful presentation this year focuses on the South African National Blood Service’s logistics challenges. Every day, around 3 500 units of blood must be collected from donor centres across the country. This life-saving service depends on a resource intensive supply chain solution that ensures the uninterrupted daily collection, processing and delivery of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets to public and private hospitals and clinics. An efficient, flexible and time-sensitive supply chain network connects donors to patients and saves thousands of lives every day.

Shipping disruptions

The vast majority of goods are still transported by sea, but according to SAPICS, sight is often lost of how shipping disruptions have a far-reaching impact on global trade and supply chains, including inflation and food and energy security. From piracy off the coast of Somalia to Houthi rebel attacks along the Suez Canal and the devastating drought impacting the Panama Canal, maritime trade is facing a host of problems. Businesses must be able to identify the risks and have plans in place to mitigate them, SAPICS stresses. An insightful conference presentation focuses on supply chain disruptions on the high seas and offers steps to take to mitigate the risks, including contractual and insurance arrangements.

As our natural resources dwindle and carbon emissions rise, sustainability and circular supply chains are becoming more critical than ever. United States-based Author and circular supply chain guru Deborah Dull will share her important circular economy insights and expertise with SAPICS delegates this year. Supply chain’s ability to reduce and eliminate resource requirements makes it integral to any circular business model. The supply chain contributes to an organisation’s zero waste goals, can help it to reduce its footprint and impact, and circulate inventory.

Artificial intelligence

The last ten years have seen phenomenal growth in tools like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, which are being used successfully in a range of applications in the supply chain, including demand forecasting, risk, inventory and quality management, and transport and distribution optimisation, says SAPICS. Recognising that AI is advancing at an unprecedented rate and has enormous potential to further enhance supply chain management, compelling presentations focused on this technology are on the 2024 SAPICS Conference programme.

Supply chain finance is an increasingly critical aspect of supply chain management, enabling organisations to improve their cash flow, mitigate risk in their supply chains, and ensure the continuity of supply and the financial health of their suppliers, according to SAPICS. In the public health sector, lives depend on efficient supply chains to ensure that essential medicines, vaccines and healthcare commodities are available to patients and vulnerable communities when and where they are needed. However, the financial side of these supply chains can often be a complex hurdle that impedes the effectiveness of health programmes, SAPICS says. Sessions at this year’s conference will delve into the relevance of supply chain finance for today’s supply chain manager.

The line-up also features an update by logistics and transport industry stakeholders on the National Logistics Crisis Committee’s work in South Africa and a panel of experts will discuss strategies to enhance the competitiveness of the country’s ports.