Sapics reports that, according to Barloworld Logistics’ 2013 Supply Chain Foresight report, the supply chain skills shortage is viewed as one of the top five constraints to South African supply chains and the single biggest constraint on competitiveness.

Topping the list of skills that are in most demand, identified by participants in University of Johannesburg’s researchers Rose Luke and Gert Heyns research study, are the following: Customer focus followed closely by Ability to plan and prioritise, and then Business ethics.

‘It’s interesting that the top 10 highest ranking skills comprise mostly ‘softer’ and broad management skills,’  Luke pointed out. Meanwhile, customer focus and the ability to see the big picture are the two most important logistics awareness skills viewed as essential by respondents.

According to Luke and Heyns, the high importance placed on business ethics may be a reaction to a heightened awareness of corruption and mismanagement that currently pervades our society. ‘Also, the prominence of customer focus in the survey indicates that companies are realising just how important the fact-to-face aspect of the supply chain is,’ said Heyns.

Sapics notes that, while highly educated and skilled individuals are desperately needed in the planning phases of the supply chain, the research confirms the fact that finding, for example, truck drivers who are also able to interact well with customers, has emerged as an area of great importance.

It is vital also to note that companies are recognising the role that ‘seeing the big picture’ plays in driving greater productivity and effectiveness across the supply chain. ‘Businesses are placing a high importance on getting all their staff to see the interrelatedness of what they do – that if someone drops the ball, it affects everyone’s work – and therefore to encourage people to perform even better; whether they’re the boss or the driver,’ said Luke.

Another interesting finding that merged from the study is the high importance placed on education, particularly by those working at an operational level. A total of 40% of respondents felt that high school education is a must for working in supply chain, further emphasising the importance of the education system producing what the economy requires, Sapics reports.

‘The results (of the study) imply that there are significant skills shortages in the supply chain industry in South Africa and that urgent interventions are required to attract and retain the skills needed to operate efficient, effective and competitive supply chains. These severe skills shortages have a significant impact on the competitiveness of South African sup-ply chains and the ability to develop commerce with our major trading partners,’ concluded Luke.

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Skills most In Demand- SAPICS