South African Manufacturers: Adapt or die!
While it is certainly true that South Africa’s manufacturing sector is facing challenges that can only be resolved at a governmental level, one of the take-home conclusions reached at the 37th annual SAPICS conference was that, no matter what the circumstances, managers need to take control and adapt.
"No company can operate today the way it did 40 years ago," said Dawid Janse van Rensburg, MD of CargoSolutions, a South African supply chain and logistics provider. "Everything has changed, and some of the largest manufacturers in South Africa need to accept the cliché of 'adapt or die'."
He also added that business should stop laying all the blame on utilities, laws, or state of the economy and that management should take full responsibility and implement much needed changes and adaptations.
He added: "Competitive local manufacturing is less about smart technology than about smart decisions: those made by management.
"Local manufacturers need to get over their egos, embrace true leadership. Without this fundamental change, no other changes by government, utilities or of IT systems will have a sustainable effect. You need breakthrough intervention; something substantial to motivate South Africa's purchasers to buy locally manufactured goods."
South Africa has been in a state of consistently negative trade balances since 2012; The sporadic spikes in exports, mostly due to surges in the precious metals trade, is offset by imports of fuel and high value added goods. South Africa's footwear and steel producers specifically have felt the impact lately.
"The Theory of Constraints (TOC) is one way that major change can be identified, managed and implemented," van Rensburg said. TOC looks to identify the most important limiting factor (constraint) that stands in the way of achieving a goal and then improving that constraint until it is no longer an issue.
While management are adept at ensuring the effective functioning of a company, it can often be more difficult for them to adopt a more open mind-set, not to mention momentarily putting aside macroeconomic challenges. Those that can do this, however, will be those that can stay ahead of the curve and will prosper.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.