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.