Dr Munyaradzi Bvuchete’s new qualification helps in fight against a global health pandemic

Munyaradzi Bvuchete’s childhood dream to become a medical doctor changed over time. However, after graduating in April 2020, he can still write Dr in front of his name, albeit now as a doctor in Industrial Engineering.

Dr Bvuchete who hails from Zimbabwe, explains: “Actually, my childhood dream was to become a medical doctor, but growing up in a family that enjoyed fixing anything that had a mechanical engine influenced my decisions to become an engineer. I couldn’t escape this path, because my Dad started engaging me every weekend when he was fixing different types of mechanical engines at a tender age of seven. So, this became an acquired passion.

“I am a systems thinker at the very least and my passion lies in trans-disciplinary problem solving through existing and future technologies. I am interested in working on projects that have significant social impact and that enable productive societies. At first, I had no idea what Industrial Engineering was about. What I wanted was to add value, design and modify, not on a single machine or component but an entire integrated system of machines, people, processes, materials, information and energy, only to mention a few, in order to maximise both efficiency and effectiveness. This is achieved through complex problem solving, systems thinking, technical and analytical reasoning. So industrial engineering was in alignment to what I ‘thought’ I wanted.”

The title of his PhD dissertation was A demand driven supply chain management maturity model for the public healthcare sector. How did he land up in the field? He replies: “I randomly came across an advert on a research funding or bursary opportunity offered by Glaxo Smith Kline pharmaceutical company which was administered by the Health Systems Engineering and Innovation research group in Industrial Engineering at Stellenbosch University. I emailed all the domain experts in the research group expressing my interest in the opportunity and only one person replied, Prof Sara (Saartjie) Grobbelaar who later pulled in my other fantastic core supervisor Dr Joubert van Eeden. A couple of reasons made me decide to join the Health Systems Engineering and Innovation research Group. Firstly, this group is known to produce cutting edge research outputs that have significant social impact. Moreover, the research group offers lucrative funding and networking opportunities locally and abroad. Therefore, the values of this group resonated with my personal values of excellence and integrity.

“There was freedom of choice in selecting a research topic but since I was being funded by Glaxo Smith Kline pharmaceutical company, I thought it was of value to do a research aligned to one of their organisational functions – supply chain management. Like any research, as we progressed, we realised that a pharmaceutical company was just one link in a long supply chain, hence the focus changed to the whole public healthcare supply chain network.

“My research topic in short is that supply chain complexities such as low forecast accuracy and high demand volatility in public healthcare supply chain networks have resulted in supply chain inefficiencies, medicine stock-outs, and poor healthcare outcomes. A transition from the classical supply push operating model to a Demand Driven Supply Chain Management (DDSCM) operating model is vital in the management of these supply chain complexities. This approach supports the rolling of the Universal Health Coverage since medicines play a pivotal role in the delivery of healthcare services.

“The main contribution of the research was the development of a network maturity mapping tool to assess both where the public healthcare Supply Chain Network is today on the maturity scale and how it can progress to more advanced maturity levels of Demand Driven Supply Chain Management. This allows for systematic and methodological planning of interventions for improvement of healthcare delivery services from the availability of medicines perspective.”

Dr Bvuchete speaks very highly of his supervisors: “My story is not complete if I don’t mention the role my supervisors played in charting my career path. Perhaps it is fair to say that it was comforting and an honour to work under Prof Sara Grobbelaar and Dr Joubert van Eeden during my research. On one hand it is because even when I stumbled onto  blocks of bewilderment, they had their ways of seeing the bigger picture that I as a  student was so blind to see. Moreover, they provided opportunities for extensive travel, locally and abroad, leading to the creation of my professional network. The biggest challenge in my research came during data collection to validate the artefact since it demanded me to go deep into some “scary” residential areas where some clinics and hospitals are located. Anyways, it turned out that these places are actually the ones in need for engineering solutions to improve their societies, so I don’t regret making that sacrifice.”

In turn, Prof Sara Grobbelaar praises her student: “Munya upgraded his master’s degree in 2018 and was awarded a PhD with only one year of extra study. He is a brilliant student who also worked very, very hard! He has been offered a very nice job at a company where he will be able to implement his PhD work. He also has published four articles from his thesis, two other articles are in review and one other is still conceptual.”

With his PhD completed, how does the road look ahead for Dr Bvuchete? “Well, I am trying to publish more articles from my PhD through the Consolidoc opportunity but most importantly, I recently got a job offer as a Health Programme Manager at Mezzanine – a subsidiary of Vodacom. Here, the vision is to create productive societies by solving Africa’s most challenging problems by leveraging digital technological solutions. So, I work in the health and social innovation vertical. This is an opportunity where I will be able to apply my PhD in enhancing healthcare access and better service delivery at last mile health facilities.”

During the lockdown period, he is therefore able to use his new qualification and acquired skills in the fight against Covid-19: “Certainly, Covid-19 has proved without doubt that it is a global disruptor of almost all sectors. I am lucky enough to be working for Mezzanine that has its digital technological products such as Stock Visibility Solution, eVouchering and AitaHealth contributing to the fight against the global pandemic. So most of my time is spent working in my home office but most importantly doing what I love most, writing. My future plans are centralised on this question: how can we continuously contribute to the inclusive development of productive societies by leveraging current and future technologies.”

Title: A demand driven supply chain management maturity model for the public healthcare sector.

Summary: Low forecast accuracy and high demand variability in complex public healthcare supply chain networks has resulted in supply chain inefficiencies, medicines stock-outs and poor healthcare outcomes. Many supply chain nodes are trying to transition from a supply push operating model to a Demand Driven supply Chain Management operating model. However, there are a few methodologies through which an analyst can impartially measure and support implementation of Demand Driven Supply Chain Management practices in public healthcare Supply Chain Networks (SCNs). In this study a network-maturity mapping tool was developed that support the design, implementation, assessment and maturation of DDSCM for unique supply chain nodes in the public healthcare SCN.


Dr Munyaradzi Bvuchete (centre) with his supervisors, Prof Sara Grobbelaar (left) and Dr Joubert van Eeden.