The perception of the supply chain profession is in the main; all about conveyor belts, forklifts, procurement and logistics yet the opportunities for engineers to make their mark and enhance their scope of work is great. The answer to the question as to where engineering fits and enhances supply chain processes will be evident through the workshops and discussions at the 2014 SAPICS Conference, from June 1 to 3, at Sun City, in the North West province.
The last scarce skills list released by the South African Department of Labour dated 2006/ 2007 listed occupations where shortages are being experienced. These included engineering and associated professions all of which have a critical role in the success of the supply chain.
INDUSTRIAL ENGINEERING IN THE SUPPLY CHAIN
In view of the importance of the supply chain profession and its need to encourage engineers to embrace the sector more, engineers need greater exposure as to where they can contribute and how, and the supply chain sector needs to profile, perhaps more visibly, to engineers the opportunities that can be found that can offer professional satisfaction. The perception that supply chain management is logistics and procurement focused is incorrect and needs to be rectified. Businesses have an internal supply chain process that dovetails, and at times, incorporates the entire value chain. The two are more complimentary than realised.
Industrial engineering is a discipline that addresses complex systems and looks at the methods and processes that can be utilised to evaluate and then improve certain processes that are prevalent in the supply chain profession. The term industrial engineering found its roots in manufacturing but the methodology conducted is found across all sections of industry where any method or quantitative approach to optimise operations is needed.
Engineers from across all disciplines offer analytical skills which give value to supply chain issues, and vice versa, with industries within the supply chain able to offer the opportunity to develop human resource and financial management skills, often not prevalent in the technical side of business.
Liezl Smith, Industrial Engineer, SAPICS director and specialist consultant and training provider at Businessix Business Brokers and Services said: “Engineering is more than a technical discipline; it is a way of thinking. In the supply chain sector, the ability to think and find innovative solutions is much more important than just executing tasks. Therefore it is no surprise to me that engineers, of all disciplines participate throughout the supply chain processes.
“Engineers generally have a ‘can do’ attitude and enjoy the challenge of problem solving. With the supply chain being such a wide and encompassing profession embracing sourcing, manufacturing, distribution, asset development, inventory control, production processes, transportation, logistics, infrastructure and resources – the list is endless - an engineer will find his or her niche easily amongst such a vast array of professional choices and be able to make a valuable contribution to that environment.
“Exposure to management is a natural progression for an engineer, it does not make their technical expertise redundant, but rather creates a ‘complete circle’ approach, a widening of horizons utilising the full intelligence and thinking processes of engineers.
“Engineers can fit into any role if they are prepared to make a slight shift from pure technicalities and embrace the wider business challenges. This is where I believe an Industrial Engineering degree offers great value. It focuses on the right elements to prepare one for a career in the supply chain sector – it offers up a bigger picture and not a singular view,” concluded Smith.
The SAPICS Conference and Exhibition will highlight the wide range of roles in the supply chain sector. Various local and international topics will be presented and debated enabling engineers to see the benefit of utilising supply chain approaches themselves for career advancement and for optimising their operations for their employers or clients benefit.
Many universities globally are offering Industrial Engineering or Manufacturing Engineering degrees which encompass modules such as Operations Research and Optimisation Techniques; System Dynamics and Policy Planning; Corporate Planning; Robotics; Management Sciences, Productivity Improvement and Materials Management to name a few.
SAPICS CONFERENCE AND EXHIBITION
The 36th Annual SAPICS Conference and Exhibition affords supply chain professionals the opportunity to network with over 1 000 supply chain management professionals from around the world. Case studies and peer-to-peer knowledge exchanges are scheduled as well as visiting the displays and demonstrations on products and services available to the profession.
A diverse programme of events has been created for the SAPICS event via discussion groups; learning games; panel discussions, workshops and presentations as well as presentations by specialists in their respective fields of expertise - all in 50 and 30 minute sessions.
Delegates ranging from Chief Supply Officers, to Heads of Transportation to Sales and Marketing Managers from a cross section of industries will be attending.
The SAPICS Conference is endorsed by the Southern African Institute for Industrial Engineers (SAIIE) enabling industrial engineers, through the Engineering Council of South Africa, to earn Continuing Professional Development points. It is sponsored by Barloworld Logistics, Bidvest Panalpina, Imperial Logistics, Oliver Wight and UTi.
SAPICS was established nearly 50 years ago and is a professional knowledge-based association that enables individuals and organisations to improve upon their supply chain business performance through education and training and offers members a country-wide network of accomplished industry professionals.