“Back in the Dark Ages—when cost and price were synonymous and manhandling a 5 percent discount out of a vendor was considered the pinnacle of negotiation—I had my first introduction to purchasing,” explains Denise Hansen, CPIM, CSCP. She began with her employer as an administrative assistant to the production manager, but volunteered to assist her company’s buyer on a part-time basis. “Three days later, I was congratulated and advised that I was the new junior buyer.”
Hansen appreciated this opportunity, but was understandably anxious about all the new skills, knowledge, and experience she would have to acquire. “Luckily, I learned the mechanics rather quickly,” she says, “which is a good thing, because, within a matter of three weeks, the senior buyer who had trained me moved on to other endeavors ... I was suddenly the senior buyer on board. My job rapidly developed into something that didn’t in any way resemble what I had volunteered for.”
The events of September 11, 2001, resulted in Hansen losing that job; but she was hired by a new company just one month later. “My new position was a real eye-opener, as I migrated from a low-[stockkeeping unit] (SKU), fairly high-volume environment to a high-SKU, low-volume job shop environment—and a brand new enterprise resources planning system.”
Not long after, a group of coworkers from different divisions decided to sign up for the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) certification. Hansen calls studying for her exam “an enlightening look into the brave new world of the supply chain”—a concept that was formerly unknown to her. “I began to understand the puzzle and how all the pieces fit together,” she explains. “Planners are not enemy forces who are out to get the buyers; and the manufacturing group isn’t a disembodied entity that just happens to reside in a different area of the plant. Strange and wonderful concepts like concurrent engineering and partnership throughout the supply chain came to life … I was now part of the supply chain, a solid link in the chain that makes it happen.”
A couple of challenging years later, her company’s operations manager made it clear that she should pursue her APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) designation. She identified both instructor-led and online study courses and signed up. Hansen says it wasn’t easy—and failing one module did point out where she had some weaknesses and gaps in her experience. But not long after, she earned her CPIM designation and now believes strongly that APICS training and certification are what led her from buyer to supply chain career professional. “This is a realization that doesn’t necessarily hit during the process of certification,” she notes. “But it slowly becomes part of who you are.”
Hansen says what she does today in no way resembles what she was doing 20 years ago—and she adds that she’s sure “it won’t bear much resemblance to what [she] will be doing in five years,” noting, “This is one of the wonders and pains of a supply chain career. It is a mega-dynamic environment fraught with obstacles and rewards.”
Hansen believes her affiliation with APICS has revealed a fascinating landscape of collaborative thinking and sharing; a diverse experience, encompassing myriad cultures, processes, and ideas; and education that helps her innovate, succeed and improve herself.
“I was fortunate enough to work for companies that promoted education and training,” she says, “and I hope to encourage individuals— especially those who may become discouraged by the rapid evolution in the field and the challenges this can bring—to embrace education and certification and elevate their positions.”
Elizabeth Rennie is managing editor for APICS magazine. She may be contacted at email@example.com.