To ensure the efficient and effective movement of goods in the agriculture sector, the implementation of technology, such as SMART logistics, is imperative, says South African Association of Freight Forwarders CEO Dr Juanita Maree.
“An efficient supply chain is required for the movement of goods, particularly in the agriculture sector, because aspects such as vessel schedules, seasonality and expiry dates of produce need to be taken into consideration.
“An effective logistics system will ensure that, from farms to packhouses,moving by road and rail to the land terminal, intothe port stack working area for loading onto the vessels, and finally enroute to its final destination, these goods are timeously transported.”
However, the performance of the logistics network remains uncertain and unreliable – an issue that stems from the lack of interconnectivity throughout the supply chain exacerbated by a disconnect between the relevant players who are responsible for the movement of goods.
“Smart logistics, in essence, creates an environment for the agriculture sector where we have a predictable supply chains with estimated time of arrival predictions, factoring in traffic, weather and environmental impacts, as well as real-time rerouting if there is an issue,” adds Maree.
Digital tools and other forms of disruptive technology will enable all players in the supply chain to see whether supply chains are intact across the route using real-time alerts that, in turn, allow for the planning and predicting of when goods should be moved, she explains.
Maree believes that the type of smart logistics required for South Africa should include a Port Community Portal.
“This will enable all the different stakeholders access to the whole supply chain required for the movement of goods, and give them the opportunity to look at the data and update it.”
The portal will incorporate smart logistics, such as Big Data analytics, machine learning, blockchain technology and remote monitoring, which are all aimed at creating harmony in the supply chain.
This will improve real-time visibility and predictability, ensure route optimisation, enable players to make decisions in real-time and, ultimately, improve risk management and last-mile delivery, she adds.
Sustainable logistics infrastructure can be achieved using technology – this will provide South Africa with a competitive advantage for trade by strengthening sectoral connections and increasing trade volumes.
If South Africa is to stay competitive in the international market and ensure that goods from the agriculture sector are exported, the technology will also assist in increasing the scope of distribution and production activities, which, in turn, will allow for “vital” social and economic development and job creation, she concludes.