Why supply chain professionalisation is driving the PtD coalition

“No people, no programme,” affirmed Scott Luton of Supply Chain now earlier this month on the Supply Chain Buzz radio show (listen to the podcast recording here) – this could well be People that Deliver (PtD)’s new mantra. He was joined by People that Deliver (PtD)’s executive manager Dominique Zwinkels and Upavon Management’s Jenny Froome to discuss why the PtD coalition is so focused on the people who manage health supply chains and why professionalisation of the supply chain workforce is its central goal.

“The health programmes that the supply chain workforce supports: these are the programmes helping to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, malaria and tuberculosis,” Dominique said.

Jenny was quick to add, “We must never, ever, ever take people for granted in the supply chain. And I think it’s so easy with technology, with artificial intelligence, to forget the people. When you are in this public health space you realise even more just how important the people that are part of the supply chain are. 

Professionalisation: The key to health commodity access

Asked about what professionalising the health supply chain workforce entails, Dominique had this response:

“It comes down to having accurate job descriptions and a defined career pathway. Governments and national institutions need to request that their health supply chain workforce has specific skills.” If not, she pointed out, it can cause an “imbalance between the demand and supply for these professionals in low- and middle-income countries.”

PtD’s Professionalisation framework is the document that has been central to the steps taken by several countries to professionalise their supply chain workforces. Through its Professionalisation hub, PtD supports countries to work with all stakeholders – government agencies, educational institutions, private companies and others – to ensure that the supply chain workforce is qualified and competent.

“We know that … by professionalising the supply chain, organisations can improve efficiency, reduce risks and can enhance their overall performance,” Dominique added.

The Professionalisation hub will be officially launched next year at the PtD Global Indaba – the only global conference on human resources for health supply chain management – the second edition of which will take place in Bangkok, Thailand, from March 6-8, 2024.

The PtD Global Indaba: A catalyst for professionalisation

“This time we’ve chosen to take the Global Indaba to the Southeast Asia region because it has very similar challenges to sub-Saharan Africa. To give you an example, in both Thailand and Vietnam the public health supply chain is fragmented across health programmes as well as hospitals.

“In these countries there’s no real specific capacity for planning and managing human resources for supply chain management. There are no supply chain professionals hired in the public health system and both operations and management are assigned to clinical practitioners like doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

“This is an area that I’m hoping to bring forward and have policy decision makers make a decision on – whether they want to invest in the workforce. At the Global Indaba we’ll be showing that this is an area that needs investment."

Soft skills and the value of leadership

Another way to invest in the supply chain workforce is to support health supply chain leaders and when asked about her biggest takeaway from November’s Global Health Supply Chain Summit in Keyna, Dominique was keen to highlight the vital role played by country supply chain leaders.

“There’s a real need for high-level leadership in supply chain management. Health supply chain leaders play a pivotal role in ensuring the availability of critical vaccines and health commodities. But often what we see is that a lot of the countries we work with lack the appropriate skills and training. They may have those hard skills at operational level but when it comes to strategic competencies, those soft skills are often lacking.

The strategic training executive programme (STEP 2.0) managed by PtD, builds these key skills within health supply chain leaders. And what’s really interesting and what makes the programme unique is that public health supply chain leaders work with private sector coaches to counter these challenges that they have in their workplaces.”

This year STEP 2.0 has been implemented in five countries – including a regional implementation in Thailand in which the coaches worked with supply chain leaders from six countries to overcome supply chain obstacles – and even more is planned for next year with an additional focus on Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Find out more about PtD here and register for the PtD Global Indaba here.