APICS Portland Chapter

The APICS Portland Chapter gives its region’s supply chain pros a leg up through education and certification. By Chris Petersen

The way most companies think about their supply chains has changed dramatically over the last few decades. In the past, supply chain was considered just another element of operations, but today companies like Amazon have demonstrated that supply chain can be a significant competitive advantage, and many companies have put their supply chains under the microscope to find ways they can be improved, streamlined and overhauled into an engine that keeps their operations running smoothly.

In this new environment, it has become more important than ever that companies have supply chain professionals on staff who are knowledgeable, skilled and effective. For more than 50 years, APICS has been helping supply chain professionals achieve the certifications and gain the education they need to be the best at their jobs, and the organization’s Portland, Ore., chapter is leading the way in the Pacific Northwest.

Founded in 1957 as the American Production and Inventory Control Society, APICS today is one of the leading nonprofit international educational organizations for supply chain professionals. APICS has more than 45,000 individual and corporate members representing more than 20,000 companies, and specializes in providing education and certification for supply chain professionals. APICS has developed two internationally recognized certification programs: Certified in Production and Inventory Management and Certified Supply Chain Professional. The organization also is recognized as a producer and distributor of hundreds of educational programs and publications aimed at supporting and developing supply chain professionals in the manufacturing and service industries.

APICS Portland Chapter President Frank O’Connor, CFPIM and CSCP, says the organization strives every day to be “the leading community in the Pacific Northwest for end-to-end supply chain education.” Thanks to the strength of its instructors, the broad knowledge base it has at its fingertips and its outreach to the next generation of professionals, APICS Portland is living up to its mission statement. “We do everything we can to foster the growth of individuals and their companies in order to improve the bottom line,” O’Connor says.

Life Experience

apicsinfobox copyAPICS Portland draws from the resources of the national organization to deliver the best possible educational and networking opportunities to its members, but O’Connor says the knowledge available from its Portland-based instructors gives APICS Portland an added depth. All of the chapter’s instructors – including Portland-based supply chain professional Derek Westfall, CPIM and CSCP – have master’s degrees in related fields and bring decades’ worth of hands-on experience to their programs.

“They’re all experts in the field itself,” O’Connor says, adding that he has seen first-hand the benefit students receive from real-world operations management experience. “When they conduct a class and they’re talking to students, not only do they demonstrate a body of knowledge, but they also draw on a lot of experience from their own careers.”

Westfall says the ability to connect supply chain professionals with experienced colleagues is one of the most beneficial things APICS Portland provides for its members. “One of the key benefits is the chance to mentor students,” he says, adding that there have been numerous occasions in which a student he instructed during an APICS course reached out to him for further guidance. “I’ve had numerous students come back and tell me that they have been certified and have been promoted.”

In addition to educational courses, APICS Portland holds nine professional development meetings a year. O’Connor says these meetings bring together some of the most respected and knowledgeable speakers in the industry and provide members with the opportunity to network with other professionals.

Greater Importance

Westfall says the resources that APICS Portland provides for supply chain professionals have become more important than ever now that companies have a better understanding of how their supply chains can help or hurt them. In years past, he says, production planning or purchasing or logistics were seen as independent elements of a company’s operations, and little effort was made to integrate them in an efficient manner.

Today, however, professionals in the supply chain realm understand that it takes more than a piecemeal approach to draw out the greatest efficiencies. “It’s all of those things, and they all work together to make your company successful,” Westfall says. “If your supply chain is operating well, your business should be operating well. If you ask me, supply chain is what makes or breaks your company.”

At the same time, the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United States and the rise of offshoring have only increased the need for companies to ensure their supply chain operations are functioning at full efficacy. O’Connor says this is why APICS Portland remains dedicated to helping its members improve their operations and bottom lines.

Next Generation

APICS Portland continues to keep one eye on the future, with strong connections to student chapters on the campuses of many major universities throughout the region. O’Connor says APICS Portland has been engaged in teaching its certification courses as part of the course curriculum at many of these institutions so that students graduate with their degrees in supply chain management as well as the certifications that will help them stand out in the job market.

O’Connor says APICS Portland is proud to have helped so many of its members bring the best practices to their jobs. “One of things that we see time after time is that individuals go home from our classes, and the next day the light comes on,” he says. “We get that feedback all the time.”