University of the Western Cape’s novel partnership leads the way in solving supply chain problems

GIPS4VC is a project that was developed through a collaboration between the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the Hochschule Neu-Ulm (HNU), and has been generously funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

The GIPS4VC course utilises state-of-the-art physical simulations and virtual collaborations to provide inventive approaches for managing a complete supply chain. One of the course’s cornerstones involves presenting students with real-world application challenges; in this case, developing a drone with components sourced or manufactured from different parts of the world. It ensures seamless global trade amidst a landscape of geopolitical and economic uncertainties.

The virtual collaborative classroom environment is the foundation of this pioneering teaching methodology. Its implementation significantly reduces the costs of executing and modifying processes. In addition, the environment ensures data parity between participants who act as workstations for the global supply chains. Students who participate in this course will learn about the industrial process and gain first-hand insights into the crucial interdependence of actions within it.
Professor James Njenga observing participants working
collaboratively on their tasks

UWC Professor James Njenga emphasised the transformative power of the teaching method.

“The theoretical concepts can be brought to life by designing tangible cases with physical simulations. This, in turn, creates a truly immersive learning environment. This approach allows students to experience the realities of industry setups, understanding the interaction between humans and machines, and seeing how their actions can influence others in the supply chain,” he said.

The potential of GIPS4VC was recently demonstrated during a showcase held at UWC. Students presented a case study on the process flow of global supply chains. The experience of managing inter-company collaboration for manufacturing drone components provided students with hands-on experience, which underlined the complexity and interconnectedness of international supply chain management.

The demonstration notably featured an industry-accurate component integrating human and machine interaction in line with Industry 4.0 principles. By handling cutting-edge technologies such as robotics, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, and integrated information systems, students navigated the intricate dynamics of human-machine interfaces and learnt how their actions can impact the supply chain.

In addition to hands-on practical learning, theoretical principles were deeply embedded into the case study’s design process, underscoring the importance of theory in guiding practical applications and allowing students a holistic grasp of supply chain management.

The pioneering GIPS4VC course heralds a transformative era in supply chain management education, integrating theory, practice, and human and machine interaction. It prepares the next generation of supply chain managers to navigate and solve future industry challenges adeptly. With an eye on the horizon, Professor Jürgen Grinninger of HNU, noted the future ambitions of the programme: “Our vision for the future of GIPS4VC involves establishing complete production facilities at both UWC and HNU. These setups will allow for complete physical simulations, taking our innovative joint teaching approach to even greater heights.”