Ignorance on supply chain management worsens S.Africa's water crisis


According to the South African Production and Inventory Control Society (SAPICS), the long term solution to the on-going service delivery problems of South Africa should begin by changing the public sector understanding of basic supply chain management principles.

Water shortages have been blamed among other things on corruption at municipal level, lack of maintenance planning at water treatment facilities, to copper theft and electricity infrastructure failures, and most recently, to the unexpected hot weather.

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“In acting on their mandate to deliver basic services to citizens, state officials tend to focus on the procurement of goods and services rather narrowly, whereas they should be looking at the supply chain as a whole, from the sources of raw materials to the end-user,” said Colin Seftel, a former director of SAPICS.

Seftel added that supply chain management looks at the whole chain, which usually begins with the production of raw materials and ends with delivery to consumers.

Supply chain management attempts to balance supply with demand, and so its starting point is the consumer demand.

“In balancing supply and demand, it includes disciplines such as demand planning, quality management, capacity planning, maintenance planning, as well as increasing and upgrading infrastructure and resources in line with future growth,” added Seftel.

“Government’s supply chain has somewhat different dynamics, but the principles are not dissimilar,” Seftel maintains.

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Seftel said the current problem stemmed from the strong focus on procurement in government supply chains, instead of a focus on delivery.

“What if government were to consider the supply chain in its entirety and how to get it functioning optimally—and geared to supply what the customers or citizens want?” questioned the industry expert.

“That way you would start to get the various components of the supply chain working together to satisfy the citizen, rather than each one simply trying to optimise its own profit, and government could start to see its spend being more directly linked to benefits its citizens.”

 “In other words, you wouldn’t be looking for the lowest tender for supplying replacement parts to a water treatment facility, but the most efficient way to supply clean running water to a thirsty community.”