The last time I wrote about 7 ideas on how to develop your Supply Chain team. I left out the question of whether it’s worth getting certification in Logistics. I deliberately did not answer questions such as:
- What certifications are available in the Supply Chain field?
- Should I choose offline or online certifications?
- When is it even worth doing certifications?
- What does it take to get certified?
I didn’t mention certificates at all because it is a broad topic. It requires a separate discussion. Besides, I do not have (yet) any logistics certification myself. Paradoxically, I have always learned “in combat” by leading projects.
Therefore before writing this post, I decided to search other experts who can present reliable information. People are willing to share their experience with certification in supply chain.
As a result, an article was written in cooperation with Ilona Smółka, Adrian Białoń and Rafał Gałązka. Ilona holds a CSCP certificate. Rafał has earned his CPIM and CIPS diplomas. Meanwhile Adrian has completed the Six Sigma Black Belt training process.
You can find more about each co-author at the beginning of the respective section. We all look forward to reading together!
What certifications are available in the Supply Chain field?
Adam Sobolewski, Supply Chain & Logistics Operations Manager. He helps to develop businesses by building modern Supply Chains. In his career he implemented IT systems to support Logistics, created S&OP processes, supported opening new warehouses, and led many projects in larger and smaller organizations. Author of the blog Logistics Simply, which you are reading
You’re wondering whether to get a certification in Logistics, Supply Chain or Production. You probably already know at least the names of several certifications offered on the market.
But what is behind each of them? How do you expand the often complicated names? And where does the certification body come from?
Looking for a certificate that meets my expectations, I created a list in the form of a mind map shown below. Certificates visible on the map are grouped according to the institution that issues them.
The map contains all the certificates worthy of consideration (according to my own opinion of course). You have my word that when any other institution creates a Supply Chain related certificate, I will update the list. In case you think I didn’t notice some new certification in Supply Chain – please let me know.
You will find a description of each institution and its certificates in the appendix at the end of the article. The information contained therein should help you choose the best certificate for your needs.
However, before you choose, read what a certificate in Logistics entails. Check if you should invest your time and money in this often lengthy process.
What does it take to get certified?
Ilona Smółka, Demand Planner with over 8 years of experience in different areas of the Supply Chain. In 2018 she moved with her family to Singapore, where she earned her CSCP certification and a few months later found her dream job. In her spare time, she runs the blog Life on the Equator (in polish), where she describes the challenges of expat life and her family travels in Asia and Australia.
When one day Adam invited me to share my experiences about certification I couldn’t refuse.
Not so long ago, I asked myself if it was worth my time to get certified. I wondered if an international certification would help me advance my career?
But before I dispel your doubts, I would like to explain why, at a particular stage in my life, I started to consider investing time and money in learning again. In March 2018, we decided with my housband to emigrate to Singapore. He was offered a new career opportunity.
However, the decision to leave was accompanied by changes in my own professional life. I decided to devote myself to my family. Otherwise, we couldn’t have handled the level of stress that awaited us on the other side of the world.
The day I handed in my notice in one of the Warsaw corporations I already felt that I had a long and bumpy road ahead of me before I would build up my professional position again.
After an initial challenging period of acclimatization, I decided to return to the job market at the end of 2018. However, my enthusiasm was quickly extinguished when I realized that neither the European companies I had worked for so far nor my higher education meant much in the eyes of potential employers.
Restrictions on hiring foreigners proved to be additional barriers, but I decided that the ultimate goal was worth every effort.
Basing on an analysis of job advertisements in international companies I decided to get certification in Supply Chain. Almost all positions I aspired to apply for required, or preferred candidates with APICS certification.
After reviewing the American association’s offerings, I decided that CSCP best reflected my professional interests. On one hand, it covers the topic of the entire supply chain. On the other, it emphasizes the areas of demand planning and process improvement. I know I would like to further develop my skills over the coming years in these areas.
If you’re interested in how much time, money, and how I prepared for the exam, I invite you to read an article on LinkedIn where I share my experiences: How I passed APICS CSCP on my first attempt?
When people ask me about the benefits of preparing for the certificate, I can say that it has strengthened and expanded my supply chain knowledge gained so far in practice. It also expanded my industry vocabulary, which impacted my subsequent job search in Singapore.
However, the most significant value the certificate has brought to my professional profile is the fact that it confirmed to future employers that I have the necessary competencies to fill the position I am applying for. In a short time, only 3 months after receiving the certificate, I found my dream job in an international company!
I took on the position of Market Planner, responsible for demand planning for the Singapore market as well as several other Southeast Asian markets.
Although it hasn’t been a year since I’ve worked at my new company, I feel that the knowledge I’ve gained from the certification has helped me broaden my horizons to a great extent. I have a deeper perspective on the business and the conjugations between the different teams.
I am also more aware of my short and long-term goals, which I plan to implement step by step.
“Back to school” also made me realize that learning in adulthood, preceded by several years of professional experience, gives also another level of satisfaction apart. Not to mention the the CV entry.
That’s why I encourage anyone who wants to take their career to the next level to pursue international certification.
I am currently delving into the certifications offered by the Demand Driven Institute. I am also expanding my knowledge of S&OP, a process that, in addition to the financial benefits, brings a number of advantages.
Note: Adam has written about S&OP many times in Polish and I am sure he will write again in English pretty soon. You can be sure I will share my own impressions sometime as well.
Should I choose offline or online certification?
Adrian Białoń, Logistics Manager, was associated with the logistics industry from the very beginning of his career. He has worked for exporters, importers and companies providing logistic services. In his free time, he is passionate about motorization and shooting sports.
The multitude of certifications and certification agencies can make your head spin. You can choose from both classroom-based processes, usually conducted in groups, and online training, undertaken individually.
I have heard the opinion that online training is a new form of correspondence training, and employers do not appreciate these. Nothing more misleading.
Most people seeking certification in Logistics, Supply Chain and related areas are gaining knowledge to capitalize on it. Finding a job with a more reputable company, a promotion or a career change is the most commonly cited reason for seeking certification institution.
The whole process is accompanied by the impression that, as in the case of studies, the more recognized or prestigious the certifying body, the higher the profits.
So to ensure the greatest return on their investment, candidates look for programs designed by the best. They also look for the forms of certification that best suit their current or target employer.
Some organizations offer to partially or even fully cover the cost of certification and help you plan your career path. However, they expect to fulfill certain requirements – like choosing a specific certification.
Despite the increasing level of business digitization, off-line certification processes still remain the preferred choice of most people.
However, I usually had the same question when choosing a training or course. What skills will I learn or improve to make me do my job more effectively? I decided to develop my skills in two areas – negotiation and process management.
To develop my business negotiation skills, I chose to pursue online: “Negotiations – Essential Strategies & Skills”. Materials supported the course at the University of Michigan in the form of videos, a text set for purchase, a dedicated discussion group and virtual meetings with the lecturer.
All this allowed me to assimilate the knowledge at the most convenient time and gave me the feeling that I was not left without substantive care, like having to look for answers to questions that arise in an Internet search.
In the case of process management, I chose the offline Six Sigma Black Belt program. Apart from the substantive knowledge, one of its significant advantages was the opportunity to establish lasting friendships.
The most significant disadvantage of this program was the rigid schedule of meetings. Unfortunately, most of the dates were scheduled during working hours, which combined with a lack of substitutes or the demands of ongoing projects, resulted in the absence of some of the meetings.
So to answer the question – what form of certification to choose – I believe that the certificate in Logistics should be selected taking into account what you want to achieve. Certification in both modes has its pros and cons.
To help you choose the proper certificate, Adam has prepared an extension. You can download it by subscribing to the newsletter.
When is it worth doing certifications?
Rafał Gałązka, Senior Supply Planning Manager, has almost 20 years of experience in demand and procurement planning and contract manufacturing management in the Fashion & Beauty industry. He has led teams responsible for most of the Central and Eastern Europe markets during his career. After hours, he is the guitarist of the rock band Para Bellum.
My professional life is just the one company. Avon is a corporation that provides both opportunities to grow horizontally in various functions and vertically in leadership structures.
I made my career at a moderate pace. I went through all the levels. From junior specialist, then specialist, senior specialist, team leader, junior manager, manager, to senior manager.
I never thought of certifications as a tool when looking for a job and better pay. Why did I need any more certifications if it was going by the book?
I did the APICS CPIM certification at the suggestion of my supervisor. I had just moved from the demand planning department to the supply chain planning department. My boss told me to put into practice the theory that says
in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice but in practice there is
In retrospect, I believe that I was indeed able to gain new skills. Besides, I proved to myself that a lovely couple of years after college, I still know how to take in knowledge. I have a chance to continue to grow intellectually.
I remember learning for CPIM well because the scope of the certification was close to the function I started, so I was able to combine theory and practice and get into a new role quickly.
Moreover, the way of presenting the topics hit my natural predisposition – no water spouts, everything in a condensed form, lots of process diagrams and patterns.
On the other hand, the exams themselves are stressful – questions dealing broadly with broad topics, highly theoretical, requiring total concentration, some based on multiple sentences with double negations.
As soon as the exams came out, I wasn’t sure if I would pass even though, it turned out later that I managed to get over 90%.
I decided on CIPS certifications a few years later with no external motivation and maybe even despite my next boss. I was simply looking for something new.
I lacked the discernment of purchasing management for a complete supply chain picture – creating a purchasing strategy, negotiating, and managing contracts and suppliers.
However, learning for the CIPS proved to be a struggle with myself. I had never worked in this function myself. So there was a lack of translation of theory into practice.
In addition, there were great linguistic demands, e.g., some chapters are written in the simplified but still legal language of Anglo-Saxon legal doctrine based on precedents.
The positives of learning are the countless and well-given examples to illustrate the theory and the materials provided by CIPS. (Books, e-learning, numerous online resources, previous years’ question database).
As a result, the CIPS exams themselves were less surprising than APICS. Good preparation allowed you to go through the exam without any nerves and when you left the room, you could say with great confidence, “I’m going to pass” or “I missed the questions this time, I’m going to miss some”.
To sum up my experience of working towards becoming certified in Logistics, I can say that it is worth it:
- Choose certifications with broader rather than narrower areas of expertise. Working in silos is passe and collaboration is increasingly important in the present world. Having general business knowledge helps build relationships with partners.
- Make certifications sooner rather than later. Age does not help with knowledge intake. Besides, over time, more distractions and time thieves are associated with increasing work and family responsibilities.
- Approach the certification “upfront” as preparation for a new role or as a quick-fix addition to your knowledge, rather than “down below” to summarize some stage in your professional life. A theory first, then practice.
So is it worth doing certifications at all?
Three different experts. Three different stories. All mention that the certification meant a lot of work. However, no one regrets doing the certification.
So is it worth it to get certified in Supply Chain, Logistics or Production? In our opinion it’s worth it as long as you actually combine the certification with a specific career goal.
Ilona was looking for a job on the other side of the world where her experience with Polish companies was not considered. Adrian wanted to gain the skills needed to perform his job more effectively. Rafał wished to gain knowledge unavailable when you work for many years in one organization.
If after reading this article you would like advice on what to do in your own situation, do not hesitate to contact us. You can find Ilona, Adrian and Rafał on Linkedin.
You can write to me using the form in the Contact section or by replying to the newsletter. I assure you that it is worth subscribing to the newsletter. You will always be up to date on how to plan your development in Supply Chain.
You will also receive a supplement to this article guide – Certification in Logistics, Supply Chain, Production, and some materials not accessible any other way.
See you soon! In another post coming in two weeks.