The Opinion Page
News and comments about the issues facing today's SCM and Inventory Management professionals.
A number of my students have been working very hard lately to earn a professional accreditation in freight forwarding.
I am pleased to report that they all succeeded wildly in their final exam. I was very happy for them. It has been a long, difficult journey for them. They earned it. They are now allowed to put certain letters after their name on business correspondence. They may now be called "people who know what they are doing!"
Such an accreditation is valuable. It affirms their mastery of a certain level of acknowledged best practices and an esteemed Body of Knowledge. It helps them to gain competitive advantage in the job market. It helps them to earn higher pay than their less-qualified colleagues. It sets them up for better opportunities at career advancement.
Let's pretend that I am a hiring manager in the field of Operations Management. Reviewing a stack of resumes for a job opening that I have posted for my firm, I get excited when I see a number of candidates who have included the letters CPIM or CSCP after their names at the header of their resume. These CV's are put in my "A" pile.
Upon closer scrutiny, I find that some of the candidates have put a qualifier after their claim to professional certification, In the body of the resume; they include the words "in progress" or "expected" after CPIM or CSCP. I confess that I might experience what we used to term "lunch bag letdown."
Have I been misled? Is this a breach of ethics?
On the one hand, I have initially been led to believe that the candidate is a person who has demonstrated mastery of the OM Body of Knowledge by successfully completing all examinations and course material as required to achieve certification. This is by virtue of the fact that the candidate has presented himself as "Fred Smith, CPIM." On the other, the candidate wriggles himself off the ethical hook by including the "in progress" disclaimer deeper in the resume.
How would you feel as a hiring manager? Would you pursue the candidate's application further? Or would you think - as I might - that the candidate is bending the rules just a little and I might be tempted to put the resume into "File 13."
Not long ago, I accepted a new assignment. I was reviewing the CV's of my new staff, and noticed that one of the operatives on the team - who had been hired a couple of years before me - had claimed on his resume that he was "APICS Certified." It helped him win his job. The previous hiring manager, not being an APICS person, accepted that individual at his word, and failed to exercise "due diligence."
Being an APICS person, I thought that I had happily found a colleague. I rather innocently asked the operative about his "APICS-Certified" credentials, He responded that he had been an APICS member once for a year, and had attended the Basics of SCM exam preparation course. Exam? No, he hadn't written one of those. But he had a certificate to prove that he had attended that Basics course. Here I was faced with an individual who was "certified" simply because he said that he was "certified." Interesting.
Bending the truth, or even telling an outright lie about your certification is one thing. But here is an issue that clouds the ethical picture a little bit more.
Many professional organizations are now demanding that certified members re-certify every few years. These are often called "maintenance" programs, and required that the certified individual work in the disciple, remain a member of the association that certified him or her, keep up with current trends and developments, and in one way or another "give back." to the profession.
Often, maintenance programs will come with a price tag. Not everyone likes to shell out $100 every 5 years or so to keep their certification "current." So, they don't. And yet, some of those same individuals continue to claim that they are - for example - CPIM. "I passed all the exams," they might say, "and I volunteered for years. I just do not think it is right for the association to ask for more money. It is simply a cash grab."
I met another person a couple of years ago who claimed to be CPIM. It was on his business card. He also claimed to be an active member of CAPIC. (At one time, CAPIC was Canada's version of APICS, and a subsidiary of the parent association. Many years ago, it was absorbed into the broader APICS organization.) When I met this chap, CAPIC had not existed for over a decade, and when I advised him of this he told me to my face that I did not know what I was talking about. And I happened to be the Past President of the local APICS Chapter at the time. Nope. He was right, I was wrong. He was an active "in-the-loop" member of a non-existent organization, because he said so.
I see a lot of this these days. People who claim certification, or give the false impression that they are "certified," when in fact they may only be members, or have made it only part-way through their studies. If someone says he is some thing - a professional, a pilot, a doctor, a first-responder, a nurse, an engineer, a lawyer, an electrician, a mechanic - does that make it so? I suppose in some peoples' worlds, it does.
It seems to me that - if only for the sale of my students who have just earned their new credentials - that we are obliged to do what we can to protect the value of those credentials. Current trends to bend the rules concern me. Should we, as professionals, be concerned? If yes, how should we enforce appropriate protocols?
"Learning is not compulsory...neither is survival"
W. Edwards Deming
Question: "But what if we train and educate our supply chain people and they leave?"
Answer: "Worse yet, what if we do not train and educate them and they stay?"
Spring is here, and as we enjoy the beautiful weather, we are reminded that summer is just around the corner. Many of us will be investing a little money on home improvements – perhaps a new deck, or some landscaping, or a new front walkway, or new shingles on the roof. Some such improvements come at a hefty price, others can cost very little. But most are meant to make life a little more pleasant, perhaps a little easier, or might add value to your home.
How about adding some major value to your resume, or improving your professional credentials? Are you employed in operations and supply chain management? Do you want to make a career move into this exciting and demanding profession? Why not earn more money, advance up the ladder, make a bigger contribution, get more recognition for your work, and find more satisfaction in your job? And why not promise yourself that you are going to start right away? Stop travelling along that gravel road. You can pave your career path with a professional designation in Supply Chain Management, Operations Management, or Logistics, such as CPIM or CSCP.
There are myriad high-quality providers of education and training in North America, and your area of focus ought to be governed by that aspect of SCM that appeals to you most. I tend to favour the APICS-conferred CPIM and CSCP designations, as my areas of professional interest are inventory and operations management. But those companies who focus on transportation might want their employees to pursue the CITT designation, equal in prestige to CPIM, but focused on Logistics and Physical Distribution. Professional purchasing agents gravitate to C.P.P. (Certified Professional Purchaser) offered by the PMAC. SCM Executives are well-advised to pursue PLog or CSCP designations. The opportunities are too broad to list here.
Since 1973, the CPIM program has educated more than 100,000 manufacturing professionals on essential terminology, concepts, and strategies related to demand management, procurement and supplier planning, material requirements planning, capacity requirements planning, sales and operations planning, master scheduling, performance measurements, supplier relationships, quality control, and continuous improvement.
Attaining the CPIM professional designation, or other equivalent designations, carry many tangible benefits.
My Top Five list is:
1. Increased salary potential: Recent studies published in MM&D, Transportation & Logistics and Purchasing b2b Magazines show that a professional designation such as CPIM increases reported salary levels by significant levels, often over 10%. The 2006 Salary Survey published in MM&D Magazine in October 2006 showed that those who claimed to have APICS Certification reported average salaries of $90,504 versus those with only a University undergraduate degree of $80,216, and compared to those with a Community College diploma of $72,597. It seems that the CPIM designation can easily pay for itself!
2. Increased potential for career advancement: The PMAC Salary Survey published in November 2009 showed that 73% of respondents listed their employers as being increasingly aware of supply chain professionals, that 71% of respondents agreed that the current recession has made their employers appreciate their skills more, and that 2 out of 3 employers actually pay for full certification programs! (A higher percentage will pay for relevant courses). In this same 2009 survey, 72% of respondents agreed with the statement “For me to get ahead in my job, I really should have a professional designation”. One respondent to the same question in a 2006 survey commented “I found that when I did not have my credentials, that I was overlooked for new roles and positions even though I was quite capable of performing the task.”
3. A Better Resume: For those who are “on the move” in their careers, or looking for greener pastures, the CPIM designation serves as a great tool to set you apart from the pack. The current labour market is heated, and participants need every advantage to differentiate themselves from their competitors. When highlighted on your resume, along with a University Degree or College Diploma, your application to work with a new firm has a much better chance at being put on the top of the pile. Further, employers will see that you are willing and driven to improve your skills through lifelong learning.
4. You will learn from the best!: APICS training and education is readily acknowledged and recognized as being World Class. The APICS Body of Knowledge is second to none. Very few organizations have the resources to develop and own such knowledge “in house” – it is not a core competency for most. At APICS, education is what we do, and why we exist! You can be confident that APICS-provided education is recognized and valued around the world.
5. You can make a better contribution: We all want to make a contribution to our employers and our companies. We want to feel appreciated and valued as an employee. We want our companies to succeed and prosper. By pursuing the CPIM designation, you will increase your functional knowledge of production and inventory management. You will be able to predict outcomes more accurately. You will be able to increase efficiency across the processes of your organization’s supply chain. And you will be able to increase profitability by optimizing your firm’s inventory investment.
You should, as an individual or as a company, start to enjoy the benefits of professional designations for yourself or your employees as soon as possible. The Durham APICS Chapter, for example, offers CPIM examination preparation courses on Saturdays throughout the year.
Don’t delay! Start a new beginning today!
John Skelton is the Principal Consultant and founder of Strategic Inventory Management.