Continuing Education, Professional Associations, and APICS


This entry is the first of a series that I will be writing in an effort to reveal some of the wonderful resources that are available to professionals, businesses, and agencies that are manifest in what I will call, generically, “professional associations.”

The Power of EducationI am often approached by young people who are about to embark on exciting new life paths, but are not quite sure what direction to take. Let’s assume that they are interested in Supply Chain Management. They want to build the best credentials and to accumulate the best skill sets in order to be successful in their careers. They are anxious to make a contribution to a new employer, to earn a decent paycheck, to have the potential to advance and grow, and maybe even to make a difference in their chosen profession. This might be idealistic, but it really is all about achieving fulfillment in life and career.

The Buddha said that there are 84,000 paths to enlightenment, and there are at least that many paths to career fulfillment. Each person must chart his or her own path, and each will undoubtedly be different.

It is my hope that this series will be of interest to persons who are considering building a career in Supply Chain Management (SCM), or to those might be new to the field of SCM and are looking to add to their tool box of skills. Perhaps the person is one who needs a change in career, and wants to focus on a particular niche within SCM. It’s all good.

But this should also interest employers – operations managers, and Human Resource Managers – who are wrestling with supply chains and operations that have become exceedingly complex. You need competent workers, strategic thinkers, and team players. Professional associations can help you to find the right people for the right jobs.

To those employers, my advice is to seek out, or develop PWKWTAD’s: “People Who Know What They Are Doing.” Many of the associations that I will review have the power to confer professional designations, such as CPIM (Certified in Production and Inventory Managament) or CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) that are solid evidence that a candidate or employee has shown a mastery of the body of professional knowledge.

To the students or new practitioners, I try to avoid promoting any “cookie cutter” approach vis-a-vis career development. If, however, you have heard about supply chain management and want to develop a career in the field, I believe that there are three key ingredients:

1. Finish High School

2. Earn either a University degree or an undergraduate College Diploma

2. (a) Pursue a post graduate degree such as a Masters or MBA

3. Earn a professional certification or designation

These three steps (well, maybe four steps!) may sound very simple – even self-evident. But many fail to achieve even the first of these benchmarks, and may struggle in life and career  as a result. Statistics show that simply by finishing high school, a person’s chance at living a fulfilled life increase substantially. I will discuss these three steps more fully in subsequent submissions, but suffice it to say for now that achieving steps 2 and 3, in that order, opens the doors wide to increased earning potential, increased opportunity for advancement, better personal marketability (i.e. a better resume), and enhanced professional fulfillment.

Step 2. (a) is wonderful if it can be managed, but it can be out of the reach of some. Do not despair. The other three steps will lead you to very solid ground and have launched many a successful career.

Supply Chain Management is a very broad field of practice. Depending on how one defines SCM, it may contain any or all of the following interrelated disciplines: logistics, traffic, transportation, warehousing, manufacturing, inventory control, inventory management , forecasting, sales & operations planning, quality management, operations, procurement, purchasing, buying, master planning, ERP, IT, maintenance, reverse logistics, health and safety, and so forth. This is quite a laundry list. So, it is a good idea for the individual to do some soul-searching and identify a field, as best one can, upon which he or she can focus. Any good undergraduate academic program will cover most of these bases, but different associations tend to excel at slightly different areas. It is good to pursue a designation from an association that most closely aligns with your career interest.

One final note by way of introduction: many fine schools, including Michigan State University and Penn State University now offer Masters Degrees in SCM, even on-line. This was never available when I was young, but it is a huge testament to the respect that has been earned by the SCM profession. If you have the Right Stuff to pursue a Masters Degree, it is a wonderful competitive advantage. I highly recommend it.

APICS, The Association for Operations Management


APICSI should declare a minor conflict of interest here: I have been an APICS member since 1996, and have been an active volunteer from those early days until 2010.  I have served the APICS Durham Chapter here in Canada as its President, Vice President of Strategic Planning, and a number of other Executive level portfolios. I have performed committee work at the National level. To say I am a supporter of APICS would be an understatement. However, I would not have pursued a professional designation through APICS, and would not have volunteered countless hours of my time, if I did not believe that this association offers a path of continuing education of the highest quality. I recommend it without hesitation.

That said, there are other associations who offer tremendous resources as well, and I am not so myopic that I cannot acknowledge the tremendous worth that they provide. On the contrary, I celebrate the diversity and breadth of opportunity. One by one, I will examine the Best of the Best as well.

There can be no doubt that the supply chain has grown in relevance and importance to business enterprises over the past thirty or more years. Economic factors such as globalization, the disintegration of the factory, increased competitiveness, and consumer advocacy have contributed to the supply chain in particular and operations management in general becoming increasingly complex. Customers and consumers are demanding higher quality products, delivered on time, quickly, at lower costs, and rightfully so. Firms across the spectra are seeing and feeling the pressures: from Canada to Asia, from big to small, from multinational to local, from manufacturing to retail to health care. Operations management and supply chain management are now critical elements to the strategic direction of all firms. Just as they provide the opportunity for leaders to use powerful tactical business tools, they can pose complicated challenges to management.

Progressive firms now, more than ever, want to hire and develop professionals to act as custodians of the supply chain, and to drive positive change. Forty years ago, it might have been sufficient for a firm to move relatively unskilled personnel into operations management positions. The staff could “learn on the job.” In a localized economy marked by a less acute competitive environment, firms could get away with this approach, However, as Dr. W. Edwards Deming observed, there is a problem with on-the-job training: poor quality operational processes and procedures can be passed from the experienced employee (the trainer) to the newcomer, just as easily as good ones. Who’s to know whether the firm is on the right operational path? How is one to know if the firm is developing best practices?

Human Resources Professionals and Business Managers need to know that they are hiring qualified people into their supply chain operations, and that their business is developing the proper skill set in existing personnel within their firm. A cornerstone should be certification.

The next time you are flying on an airplane out of Pearson International Airport, or O’Hare, or JFK, or LAX, ask yourself if you would be comfortable in knowing that the pilot of your aircraft did not have an up-to-date pilot’s license. I know your answer. The size of the airplane would not matter. All pilots of large commercial airlines as well as small private craft must carry a valid pilot’s license, gained through rigorous training and maintained through a process of constant re-certification. The status of a pilot’s license is checked regularly. Lives are at stake. Admittedly, having a pilot’s license does not guarantee that one is a good pilot. But without a license, one is not a pilot at all. It is a prerequisite.

APICS is one of a number of high-quality organizations that develop people towards professional certification in operations and supply chain management. Through a process of education and rigorous examination, APICS prepares people to achieve the prestigious CPIM (Certified in Production and Inventory Management) and CSCP (Certified Supply Chain Professional) designations. APICS is the only organization in the world that is authorized to confer these designations, along with CIRM (Certified in Integrated Resource Management).

APICS education covers a broad array of disciplines, but has traditionally focused on manufacturing where its Body of Knowledge is unparalleled.

With APICS certification, the HR Professional can be confident that the candidate, or the developing employee, has demonstrated a mastery of the Operations Management Body of Knowledge. APICS certification is a tangible measurement of a person’s core competency in the areas of supply chain management, production management, and inventory control and planning, as well as an ability to appreciate the impact that decisions made in the supply chain have on the firm’s bottom line.

APICS credentials are recognized, and have a consistent meaning worldwide. I live in Ajax, Ontario, Canada – the local Chapter here in the Durham Region is part of a network of Chapters across Canada. In turn, Canadian Chapters are members of an International network of APICS Chapters and Channel Partners from China to Mexico to the USA to India to Great Britain. All Chapters and International Associates teach the same Body of Knowledge, which represents Best Practices developed since our inception in 1957. Since 1973, the APICS CPIM program has educated more than 90,000 professionals about essential terminology, concepts and strategies related to demand management, procurement and supplier planning, materials requirements planning, capacity requirements planning, sales and operations planning, master scheduling, performance measurements, supplier relationships, quality control, and continuous improvement.

Recipients of the CPIM designation are further required to maintain their certification credentials through engaging in relevant learning opportunities, serving APICS in a volunteer capacity, and through teaching and instructing. Chapters offer a range of learning opportunities for graduates to keep their credentials up-to-date, and to expose newcomers to our knowledge base.

APICS Chapters are administered by a dedicated group of volunteers, who are keen to advance the Operations Management Body of Knowledge, to assist our members and colleagues in developing their careers in Operations Management, and to provide opportunities for our members and friends to pursue lifelong success through lifelong learning. CAPIC, founded in the early 1960’s as the Canadian Association for Production and Inventory Control, is now the Canadian District of APICS.

My Personal Story: An APICS Testimonial

After graduating from university, I was blessed to be able to forge a successful career in physical distribution and inventory management with a major Canadian retailer. After fifteen years, I was recruited into a vertically-integrated merchandising giant to manage global inventories.

My first venture into an organization involved with manufacturing carried responsibility for a portfolio that was worth over $1 billion in sales. I did not want to make any big mistakes. A trusted mentor pointed me in the direction of APICS, whom she felt was a gold-standard association that could help fill my knowledge gaps in the fields of production and supply chain management. Her advice would facilitate my professional growth for the next fifteen years.

I plunged head-long into the APICS bookstore. Fogarty and Hoffman’s Production and Inventory Management remains on my bookshelf to this day, within arm’s reach. Having renewed my passion for SCM, I became a CPIM candidate.

APICS, through the CPIM program, reinforced my pre-existing knowledge, and provided me with new tools with which I could face myriad challenges. I enjoyed a new level of confidence – certain that I was doing the right things in the right way. I had direct and measurable impact on enhanced financial results of my new employer: quantum improvements in ROI, fulfillment, seasonal merchandise planning, and support of new product introductions were realized.

My CPIM designation has opened many doors to professional enrichment and earnings growth that otherwise might have remained shut. My studies and APICS involvement put control of my career into my own hands. I became a professional.

But it was the joy of lifelong learning – the pleasure of continuously improving – that was my predominant motivator. A better pay check was really just icing on the cake.

For more information about APICS, visit their International web site by clicking here….

Is there a professional association that you would like me to review? Please drop me a line in the comments section!



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