By Clifford F. Lynch
WERC, January, 2011
Are you certifiable? If youíre an individual working in the
logistics/supply chain profession, your chances are good. There are a number of
industry certification programs that will provide outside verification that you
know your stuff. You can choose from programs offered by organizations like the
American Society of Transportation & Logistics (AST&L) and APICS: The
Association for Operations Management, as well as those offered by colleges and
universities. Nowadays, you can even find programs online.
But itís a different story for organizations. The industry has long lacked
a similar certification system for facilities like warehouses and DCs. The
closest thing to it has been a section of the International Standards
Organization (ISO) 9000 standards that covers activities like receiving,
storing, packing, and shipping.
Thatís about to change. The Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC)
recently announced its Warehouse Certification Program, which is designed to
verify an individual warehouseís capabilities and its ability to perform core
warehousing processes. The group awards this certification to facilities that
qualify based on inspections conducted by qualified independent experts.
WERC says its new program differs from ISOís in one significant way: While
the ISO program simply confirms that a given process is being performed (or not
performed), the WERC audit evaluates how that process is conducted. (It
should be noted that WERC considers its program to be complementary to ISOís,
not a replacement for it.)
Under the WERC program, auditors benchmark a warehouseís operations against
the standards outlined in WERCís Warehousing Fulfillment Process Benchmark
and Best Practices Guide. The assessment covers eight standard warehousing
processes: receiving and inspection, material handling, slotting, storage and
inventory control, warehouse management systems, shipping documentation, picking
and packing, and consolidation and shipping. The auditors then assign scores to
each activity based on a five-point scaleópoor practice, inadequate practice,
common practice, good practice, and best practice.
As for whatís in it for the warehouse, WERC says the benefits for
participants go far beyond a certificate and a plaque. For one thing, the audit
tells them exactly how they stack up against industry standards. For another,
they receive a customized blueprint for process improvementóparticipants get a
written report of the auditís results along with the auditorsí
recommendations. They also receive a set of benchmarking tools that can be used
as the basis for continuous improvement programs.
But the warehouses themselves arenít the only beneficiaries. Shippers that
use contract warehouse services also stand to gain from the program. For
example, when they go to evaluate prospective partners, the certification
provides assurances that a candidate meets minimum standards. And for those who
are already working with a service provider, the audit can assist in identifying
process improvement opportunities.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of all are logistics service providers (LSPs),
who receive the same benefits as private facility operators plus what I feel are
significant advantages. The marketing potential here is outstanding. Such a
certification will enhance the LSPís visibility in the industry and raise it
to a level above its non-certified competitors. Thatís not to say there wonít
be good uncertified operations; but in a competitive situation with all other
things being equal, I find it hard to believe the certified facility wonít
have at least a slight edge.
If you operate a warehouse or distribution center, the program is worth
taking a look at, and I recommend that you do. The cost is reasonable and the
value should be high. For more details on the program, visit www.werc.org.