Tools for Professional Excellence

A look at how professional certification is bringing benefits to more than just the individual supply chain executive


"Even though I have a lot of experience in this field, I viewed the CSCP certification as a way to both challenge myself and to validate my knowledge and expertise," says Anderson of the program, which involves a self-study course combined with a series of workbooks and online Q&A. "The program also gave me the chance to see what the latest thinking was in the industry and to bring my skills up to date," he says. In addition, Anderson believes that the certification will benefit his company. "Going forward, we're going to need to find additional ways to differentiate ourselves, and this certification is one more way that we can do that," he says.

Broadening Perspectives

At Palomar Pomerado, Paul Sas similarly believes that the supply chain training that his staffers are receiving on their way to certification will provide benefits both to the individual team members and to the healthcare system that employs them. Palomar Pomerado provides services to Southern California's Inland North County, covering an 800-square mile area that is the largest hospital district in California. Sas runs a supply chain staff of 38 people supporting the system.

The healthcare industry traditionally has operated something of a unique supply chain. Beyond the large number of manufacturers and suppliers serving the industry, and the broad specifications that supply management staff must take into consideration, the field also is very clinical-driven and more political in nature than might be the case elsewhere, according to Sas. With a largely young staff — including several team members still in college — Sas says that he looked to an external training program in part to help improve the staff's ability to drive hard-dollar savings, but also to expose the staff to supply chain concepts and procurement skills from outside the industry that they could then apply on the job. "I was looking for a program that would supplement their hospital training and introduce them to a broader spectrum of purchasing responsibilities than they would get just in healthcare," he explains.

The staff members that Sas initially wanted to involve in training were already working full-time, so Sas specifically sought an online program that would provide self-paced, flexible courses through the Internet. He looked at several options, including the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) and Certified Professional Purchasing Manager (CPPM) programs available through the American Purchasing Society, a professional association of buyers and purchasing managers that stakes the claim of being the first organization to establish certification for professionals in the field. Ultimately, however, Sas elected to go with a relatively new certification offered by Next Level Purchasing, a six-year-old company headquartered near Pittsburgh in Moon Township, Pa.

Next Level Purchasing offers a Senior Professional in Supply Management (SPSM) certification program. The program, which costs $1,149 per student, comprises six online courses, including Mastering Purchasing Fundamentals, Microsoft Excel For Purchasing Professionals, Supply Management Contract Writing, Microsoft Project For Purchasing Professionals, 14 Purchasing Best Practices and Savings Strategy Development. Upon completion of the coursework, students must pass the online SPSM exam to receive their SPSM certification.

Building Independence

Besides the convenience of the online courses, Sas says that he went with the Next Level Purchasing program because it focused more on giving the students skills to help them act independently. "I really push being independent thinkers," Sas says, "and what Next Level does best is improve their ability to be self-directed."

Next Level Purchasing's emphasis on building supply chain professionals' ability to act autonomously stems from the personal outlook of the company's founder and president, Charles Dominick. Himself a C.P.M., Dominick spent most of the 1990s working in, and managing, procurement departments for such organizations as Kurt J. Lesker Co., US Airways and the University of Pittsburgh before putting up his own capital to set up Next Level Purchasing. Based on his experience in the field, Dominick says that he now believes one of the key challenges facing supply management organizations today is that staff members are not being encouraged, or are not acquiring the necessary skills, to be independent actors. As a result, he says, "they are not letting their leaders lead."

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