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ME businesses must adopt new technologies in response to global supply chain risks

ME businesses must develop their capabilities and embrace new technologies to take advantage of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to tackle increasing threats to the global supply chain.

Investment in technology and skills can help firms mitigate supply chain risks Key issues and opportunities to be discussed at the Procurement and Supply Chain MENA event later this month “Technology itself is an enabler rather than a risk" - Sam Abchampong, Head of the CIPS MENA

Middle East businesses must develop their capabilities and embrace new technologies to take advantage of a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to tackle increasing threats to the global supply chain, according to industry experts who are set to convene in Dubai at the Procurement and Supply Chain MENA Summit on 30 October.

Sam Abchampong, Head of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) MENA, Dirk Karl, MTN Group Executive and CPO, and Maha Bouzeid, VP Head of Sourcing in the MEA region for Ericsson, are among the line-up of respected industry figures who will be participating in the Summit.

While all agree that the Middle East is relatively well-placed to weather the worst excesses of key issues such as protectionism and global trade wars, Achampong warns that more needs to be done to ensure the right tools and capabilities are in place for companies to deliver industry best practice. 

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“Technology itself is an enabler rather than a risk,” he says. “However, the lack of readiness to deploy the correct systems and solutions, as well as a shortage of talent with the relevant skills to be able to operate and add value in today’s business environment, is a risk.”

While the region’s proactive approach to technology puts it in a strong position to adopt the latest solutions such as artificial intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Blockchain, Achampong believes training and development must be prioritised.

He adds: “Industry 4.0 technologies provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for procurement and supply practitioners to re-examine what skills are needed, what tasks are crucial and what activities can be better undertaken by the technology at our disposal. The availability of increasingly effective technological tools allows procurement and supply practitioners to focus on strategic objectives aimed at generating real value and competitive advantage for an organisation, free of repetitive and transactional tasks.

“There is some way to go, however, to ensure that capability development initiatives continue to be in line with the skills required by employees now and in the near future.”  

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MTN’s Dirk Karl agrees that technology has a major role to play in strengthening supply chain management in the Middle East. He says: “There is a lot of investment into cognitive technologies in the UAE and exposure to some of the best conferences centred around technologies such as AI and machine learning, so we are well positioned to implement these to increase visibility and gain new levels of understanding using data to predict supply chain disruptions and put mitigation measures in place to reduce risk.” 

Karl believes those companies which are proactive will be best equipped to mitigate the potential for supply chain issues: “The best way to capitalise on supply chain risks is to be better than your competition at managing them. If you are an organisation who is an early adopter of technology and process then you are more likely to be able to manage supply chain disruption, maybe even avoid it fully.”

According to Ericsson’s Maha Bouzeid, companies in the UAE can also draw on the benefits of the country’s safe and stable working environment. She says: “The UAE is well equipped to deal with supply chain risks as it facilitates a base for international companies to establish themselves in the region. Safety, telecom infrastructure, schooling and healthcare are key factors for companies to choose the UAE over less safe or stable options. That is why Ericsson has invested in the establishment of a Supply Hub in Dubai to support the Middle East and East Africa markets. Businesses need to highlight the safety and the added value of doing business both with the Middle East, and within the Middle East through the UAE.”

Bouzeid also urges businesses to have an adaptable, long-term approach, adding: “They need to be flexible in their cost base to cope with economic dynamics, and provide true added value for Customers with affordable products and services.”

Karl suggests that the Middle East also has a natural advantage over other parts of the world because of its geographic location, adding: “A key benefit for Middle East businesses is the ability to access supply chains easily from the East or West, making it potentially less disruptive to make a switch if the need arises.”

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