Six Supply Chain Certification Trends to Watch in 2018 and Beyond

As the supply chain industry becomes more complex—and as technology, data, analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to have an impact on the space—that coursework is getting more and more specific.

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  • APICS is the association for supply chain management and the leading provider of research, education and certification programs that elevate supply chain excellence, innovation and resilience. The APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM); APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional…

  • For more than two decades, the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics has been a world leader in supply chain management education and research. CTL has made significant contributions to supply chain logistics and has helped numerous companies gain competitive advantage from its cutting-edge…

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Chris Caplice remembers a time when supply chain professionals got the necessary credentials and then proceeded to enjoy their careers without needing much additional education or training.

“Those days are gone,” says Caplice, executive director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics.

“Credentials are no longer a ‘one stop and done’ kind of thing, like degrees have historically been. Now it’s a continual, lifelong learning journey.”

As part of that lifelong journey, supply chain professionals are earning certifications, getting credentialed, earning degrees, and taking online courses that help them stay current on specific topics and applications.

As the supply chain industry becomes more complex—and as technology, data, analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to have an impact on the space—that coursework is getting more and more specific.

“The education that’s coming out now is smaller, more focused and easier to digest. Professionals can handle the education at their own pace; you no longer have to devote two to four years to getting credentialed.”

This is particularly useful for existing professionals who need to get up to speed on modern technologies, applications, processes and strategies.

Caplice:

“A lot of people who have been in the field awhile may be bit rusty,” says , “or they may have missed the boat on certain things that have [since] changed.”

To help fill those gaps, supply chain certification extends the educational experience beyond traditional college degrees and gives individuals a way to achieve new levels of specialization and expertise. Offered by groups like APICS (“CPIM”), CSCMP (“SCPro”) and ISM (“CPSM”), along with most leading academic institutions, certifications provide coursework in areas like internal manufacturing operations, end-to-end supply chains, logistics, transportation and distribution, among others.

Whether they are developing customized programs, tailoring those programs for government use, integrating mobile options into their course offerings or helping existing professionals fill in their knowledge gaps, certifications are playing an increasingly important role in the supply chain education field.

Here are six key certification trends that are taking place right now:

1. Turnkey programs that think “out of the box.”

Working with CSCMP, Broward College in Fort Lauderdale recently launched a Center for Supply Chain Education. A “turnkey” certification program that colleges, universities and businesses can use to train and  certify supply chain professionals, this program extends beyond the typical boundaries of the certification process and essentially “thinks out of the box,” according to Leslie Backus, national project director.

Backus:

“This is sort of a ‘supply chain in a box’ program, that allows schools and businesses to take the developed content and adapt  it to their own programs and/or their own needs.” If, for example, a firm’s supply chain training is already strong in an area like warehousing and inventory management, but is weak on the procurement and demand planning fronts, then the program will pick up where the company has left off. “It can be adapted to the needs of the individual student or employee. This level of flexibility  works well for schools and for individual firms that want to offer an adaptable and relevant supply chain certification.”

2. Certification that targets existing professionals.

When MIT launched its MicroMasters in SCM, it intentionally targeted existing professionals who already possessed undergraduate or graduate degrees, but who needed more professional-level coursework. Officially launched in 2015, the MITx MicroMasters in SCM is offered 100% online and can be completed in roughly 18 months.

Zhang Yao, senior manager at online grocer Red-Mart.com, says one of his organization’s biggest challenges is finding talented engineers and analysts who have the “right skills and mindsets,” and then training them to design and build the company’s supply chain facilities, processes, and systems.

“After finishing all the SCx classes, I found that the program provides a broad coverage and helps students see the bigger picture of supply chain management. It serves as a perfect foundational course for further development in the supply chain and operations management domain.”

Yao himself is now responsible for designing and managing RedMart’s industrial engineering graduate program, a 12-month in-house program to rotate fresh university graduates through all major areas of the RedMart supply chain process.

“I am happy to report that our first batch of rigorously selected applicants will start their training in July,” he says, “and selected SCx classes will be an important part of their training program.”

3. Programs that morph to meet user needs.

Since its inception in 2002, The University of Alabama in Huntsville’s supply chain program has seen a significant uptick in interest. In many cases, that interest comes from the many different government and industrial  entities situated near the college, which offers a graduate  degree in supply chain management along with various  credit and non-credit supply chain certifications. Jatinder  Gupta says the program has been well received by the U.S. Army.

“Much of the industry in this region is defense- related, so we’ve also included those needs and viewpoints into our overall program in order to accommodate that  demand,” says Gupta, president of the Decision Sciences Institute, director of the Integrated Enterprise Lab, and an Eminent Scholar of Technology at the university’s College of Business Administration.

Updated regularly to meet the needs of government and industry, the program now includes a business analytics track that addresses big data, enterprise resource planning (ERP), and IoT. Going forward, Gupta sees supply chain security, governance and disruption as topics that can be addressed through certification.

“Other topics that we are looking at, and that aren’t currently being addressed, include supply chains related to situations that are not the usual manufacturing or services (e.g., space exploration and education), and living supply chains connected with bio-systems and people.”

4. Education that helps professionals stay relevant and current.

In a society that places much emphasis on education, and where many professionals hold a bachelor's degree (or higher), the question: “Why should I take the time to earn a supply chain certification?” tends to come up a lot. Someone who already holds an MBA or a supply chain degree, for example, hasn’t always understood the value of putting a new acronym after his or her name. But Nora Neibergall, SVP of certifications at ISM, says that sentiment is changing as supply chain certifications continue to morph and evolve.

Neibergall says:

“Professionals need to stay current, and they need to be able to show that they care enough about their career paths to set themselves apart.” Certification not only helps establish that baseline, but most of the offerings also give professionals access to a third party, independently validated certification process. That certification can then be transported from industry to industry, and from country to country, to demonstrate the broad spectrum of compentes that one needs to master as a supply chain management professional.”

She adds that ISM’s continuing education requirements also denote that a student has taken the responsibility to learn and grow within his or her job. “Certifications remain relevant in today’s world,” Neibergall concludes, “because they show that someone is keeping current and staying on top of what they do as professionals.”

5. Certification is paying off.

Certifications help professionals “fill in” their skillset and knowledge gaps while also helping them keep current and up-to-date on the latest and greatest supply chain trends and applications. But do they pay off when it comes to salaries, promotions and job opportunities? According to APICS’ most recent data, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” Of those surveyed, 44% held CPIM designations and 33% have CSCP designations.

Individuals holding the CPIM designation received an average of approximately 10% higher compensation compared to those without the designation, according to APICS, and experienced a 77% favorable hiring decision impact (over those job candidates without the certification). Similarly, individuals with a CSCP designation received on average approximately 12% higher compensation than those without CSCP certification and a 76% favorable hiring impact.

6. Coming soon: Courses made for mobile consumption.

Staying “connected” without being tethered to a desk, chair or couch has become a way of life for all professionals, and supply chain specialists are no exception to the rule. Knowing this, nearly all of the certification providers interviewed for this article say that they’re working to include more mobile options into their coursework. At APICS, for example, Dean Martinez, EVP and COO, says mobile is becoming an increasingly important aspect of the organization’s educational delivery.

“We’re all looking at how to incorporate mobile technology as part of the training and certification process,” he notes. Focused on learning how its educational products are “consumed,” the organization recently learned that more than 53% of students are using mobile devices to access and interact with the course content—up from 23% in December of 2016.

Martinez:

“That’s a 100% increase of use in a six-month period. That’s significant. To accommodate that shift, he says providers will need to start going beyond “mobile friendly” and actually creating content designed for mobile devices. “It sounds like splitting hairs,” says Mar-tinez, “but it’s a significantly different approach than what we’re all used to.”

Supply Chain Management Professional Organizations and Universities Certifications
Every company that delivers a product or service has a supply chain management department. With the increase in the complexity of supply chains, all companies are looking for people who can be good managers and lead the supply chain with minimal issues.

Certifications in SCM can be a great boost for anyone who aspires to a career in this field. The aim of this article is to expand upon the available recognized SCM certifications in the United States and to aid budding supply chain executives in their efforts to keep abreast of this rapidly changing area.

Download the Paper: Organizations and Universities Certifications

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About the Author
Bridget McCrea, Editor
Bridget McCrea is a Contributing Editor for Logistics Management based in Clearwater, Fla. She has covered the transportation and supply chain space since 1996 and has covered all aspects of the industry for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review. She can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter @BridgetMcCrea
 
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