#10Q: Siyabulela Ngcukana on catering for Covid supply chains

Siyabulela Ngcukana, new KFC SA chief supply chain officer, talks about supply chain management under Covid.

Siyabulela Ngcukana has been appointed chief supply chain officer at KFC South Africa. After joining KFC in February 2019, KFC said he has been instrumental in building capability within the supply chain team, enabling best in class supply chain processes and supporting the delivery of business goals across functions for the brand. Furthermore, during COVID-19, which has challenged business as usual and meant elevated operational efficiency, Ngcukana and the supply chain team ensured the hygiene readiness of the business and supported the business’s supply chain health during non-trading times; all of which allowed KFC to open in excess of 800 restaurants in less than a week – a global first. “We are proud to welcome Siya to the KFC leadership team and know that under his guidance, our supply chain will continue enabling key business objectives,” said Rudi Van Schoor, general manager at KFC South Africa.

1. What is at the top of your to do list?

One thing that is always a priority on my list, daily, is ensuring team wellbeing and cohesiveness. Another high up item on my list is the pursuit of excellence, not perfection – I believe that working hard is what keeps me better than yesterday.

2. What are your core deliverables?

My focus is primarily on the following: ensuring ingredient and product quality that is non-negotiable – this is paramount to consistent customer experience; creating a supply that is always reliable – due to the complex nature of agricultural production and long lead-times on items like equipment, there is extensive risk management required to ensure the right level of availability at the right time; and creating optimal cost for acquired products and services – stringent cost management is a key driver for a strong business model and delivering profitability for our franchise partners.

3. How has the Covid pandemic impacted your industry?
  • Visibility – the lockdown has reduced the predictability of our supply chain and therefore there needs to be less reliance on forecast, but more real-time information for effective decision making. There is also an increased requirement to understand key data and information across the extended supply chain, not just in our own business, but also with our immediate suppliers given that COVID -19 had immediate and delayed impacts across various sectors at different times. For example, instead of just looking at production at our chip supplier, we now need to know how much potatoes are being planted by the farmers (our supplier’s supplier), as too much might lead to massive write-offs and too little, might lead to shortages.
  • Agility – with the uncertain times, there has been a bigger expectation for a supply chain that is responsive to ever-changing business decisions, with reliable supply at the same or even better costs.
  • Foreign exchange risk – the rand has devalued substantially, and COVID-19 has caused markets to plummet with uncertainty being the name of the game. There are fully imported items and some components for local supplier production which are exposed to this risk; and of course commodities whose pricing is dependent on global markets and as such, localisation and supply-partner joint risk management has become even more critical.
  • Cash-flow management –as with many businesses, during levelN5 lockdown, our restaurants revenue generation was significantly impacted, and a lot of cash tied up in inventory across our supply network. This had created a gap in cash flow, and thanks to our great supplier relationships, we were able to make the necessary arrangements to get through that challenging period. This has forced us to think differently about how we manage cash-flow in our supply network.
4. How does your sector need to innovate to thrive?

If anything, the pandemic has taught us that in order to thrive and succeed, innovation has to be at the heart of our business strategy through embracing the opportunities that technology has made possible. The supply chain is already complex on its own, so new technologies hold a promise of streamlining processes, speeding logistics and transforming the old into a more advanced, functional process to ensure a smooth transition into a more digitalised supply chain that embraces predictive analytics and automation.

5. Tell us more about your strategy?

Our business strategy is focused on how our brand delivers the best customer experience possible, and so the supply chain strategy supports this through ensuring consistency of our product when it comes to safety, quality, supply reliability and affordability.

6. Proudest career moments?

Honestly, my proudest career moment was joining KFC; and being promoted to Chief Supply Chain Officer in August 2020. Working for this brand has afforded me the opportunity to lead some of the most talented people I’ve ever met. I love the brand as it pushes me to be my best self in all aspects of my career – which ultimately makes it a great place to work.

7. Do you have a life philosophy?

Yes, I do. This is something I mentioned earlier – pursuing excellence, not perfection. I try to include it in my daily work routine so that I always do better than yesterday in all areas of my life, be it personal or professional.

8. How do you inspire others?

I honour my commitments. In my experience, people respect and trust those whose actions are congruent with their words. I believe it is a form of leading by example, and a foundation for mutual respect. Additionally, I am a firm believer that if you are going to engage on something or with people, you need to do so whole heartedly – a person’s energy is very infectious and can influence your environment – so do it with passion.

9. What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading two books; A course in miracles and Khamr, the makings of a Waterslams. A course in miracles is a book that is helping me learn how to always act from a place of love, and this is something that helps me portray the best version of myself not only for me, but for those around me. And Khamr, The makings of a Waterslam is an interesting read that focuses on the life of a gay coloured boy growing up in post-apartheid South Africa. I am just fascinated by other people’s stories and how they navigate through adversity – I believe it gives a different layer to your life and improves relatability.

10. What is your superpower?

I have a great sense of resolve – once I set my mind on a goal, it is as good as achieved as I am a highly determined individual. I strongly believe that progress has an exponential correlation to the work that one puts in.


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