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Cooperative Learning

By Elizabeth Rennie | May/June 2013 | 23 | 3

Cooperative LearningThe APICS body of knowledge advances materials management education

Ken Crawford, CPIM, joined APICS in 1999 when he was was the only supply chain employee at a very small company. “I needed a network for benchmarking and for sounding out ideas,” he says. A lot has changed since then: Today he is manager of supply chain programs for the Eaton Corporation electrical division’s Americas region—a $5 billion business segment. But one thing that hasn’t changed is his appreciation of the value of APICS affiliation.

“I’ve made it one of my objectives to indoctrinate the benefits of APICS into Eaton,” he explains. “This started several years ago when we established the enterprise membership program ... That was the first step in getting APICS on the map here. Everything started in grass roots fashion, but slowly we’ve gained executive support, and improved interaction between Eaton and APICS occurs each year.”

Crawford says the supply chain programs at Eaton strive to develop people, advance processes, and assess capabilities in materials management. He and his colleagues have created a materials management training program, which was jointly developed with the Pittsburgh APICS chapter and is comprised of 72 hours of instructor-led coursework. The program merges APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) materials with Eaton’s way of doing things. 

“We also have a materials management assessment process that is unique in that it is very thorough and covers all aspects of materials management,” Crawford notes. “The assessment leaves no stone unturned and is used by the organization to drive continuous improvement … and prepare facilities for [enterprise resources planning] (ERP) conversions. The third piece is developing and deploying standard work in the materials management function. This is perhaps the biggest challenge we face because the company has grown through acquisition, so each facility has its own legacy way of doing things and requires significant change management skill to be successful.”

Know what you’re doing
Crawford has earned his APICS CPIM designation and says this credential is as valuable as his MBA. “Besides the fact that [the CPIM] provides foundational supply chain knowledge, it is not an easy certification to get. It takes determination and persistence,” he says, adding that certification is particularly important for buyers and planners because they are responsible for purchasing millions of dollars of goods. “They have got to understand how planning systems work ‘under the hood.’ The costs that occur from errors due to the lack of this knowledge can be huge—and can have significant financial impact to the company.”

Crawford says he views it as the financial responsibility of the company to sponsor, and the manager to support, the pursuit of certification. Furthermore, as organizations get leaner and leaner with less oversight, he believes people who really know what they’re doing are a requirement for success.

The APICS body of knowledge provides a good foundation for any supply chain professional, Crawford adds. He tells the story of a “green” employee who earned his APICS CPIM credential: “Once he passed the last test, you could see how much confidence that gave him. He went from being uncertain in his actions to knowing that he was making the right decisions based on the body of knowledge that was behind him.”

Crawford also believes in the importance of giving back. He participates on the APICS Corporate Advisory Board, comprised of people from global corporations with roles similar to his own. He says serving in this capacity has put him in touch with peers who offer great advice that he can apply to his role at Eaton. “We meet twice a year with APICS leadership in a voice-of-the-customer capacity and help the organization determine its market needs. We help make it possible for APICS to help meet the needs of industry—a true symbiotic relationship comes into play.”

Elizabeth Rennie is managing editor for APICS magazine. She may be contacted at editorial@apics.org.

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