This posting is our first day commentary regarding the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) 2011 Annual Conference being held this week in Philadelphia. According to CSCMP, this year’s conference has attracted over 2000 attendees, good for a supply chain educational conference in these times of budget austerity but down from previous years attendance levels.

We arrived mid-morning from an early morning flight and thus we missed this morning’s opening keynote featuring Stuart Varney, FOX Business Network Anchor.  We did manage to sit-in, albeit a bit late, in the mid-morning educational sessions as well as the rest of today’s sessions. One rather unusual aspect to today’s program was a two hour mid-afternoon break in educational sessions. We speculate that this was done to appease sponsoring vendors, with a suggestion that attendees tour the Supply Chain of the Future vendor showcase. Our observation was that most attendees found other interests.

After some hit and miss attempts to find some interesting sessions, we did attend the session- New Models for Supply Chain Collaboration: What we can Learn from Facebook and Wikipedia?  This session was facilitated by Mike Murphy, Assistant Director Global Logistics Procurement for Kraft Foods, and Sivana Narayanan of Rhodia Inc., a specialty chemicals provider which is part of Solvey Group. The session drew a full room and the speakers spoke of the enormous potential that social media tools can have in supply chain management, logistics visibility and collaboration among suppliers.  Rhodia is a provider of flavors, fragrances and coloring to Kraft and is very comfortable about making its supply chain logistics dashboard visible on social networks for customers to view.  The speakers also spoke to discovering the power of information sharing in times of supply chain disruption that occurred in 2009-2010, where information and insights were much easier to obtain within social networks.  The speakers also cited a recent example where the CEO of global ocean transportation provider Maersk Lines called for improvements across the shipping industry and certain shippers engaged that challenge via social network interactions.  While the speakers readily admit that their knowledge of social network tools is still a work-in-progress, they have come to understand the enormous impact that social media can have on improving global wide supply chain information sharing and knowledge. They went so far as to implore third-party logistics vendors to make their logistics transactional information visible on social networks.  Supply Chain Matters has written and spoke on the potential benefits of social media networks for supply chain business processes and it was an important milestone to now hear these concepts being addressed at the CSCMP Annual Conference.

One other highlight from today was launch announcement of the SCPro certification program being made available by CSCMP in 2012.  Readers may be aware of the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) certification program.  This author served a number of years as an APICS volunteer on the original CSCP Exam Review Committee, tasked with overseeing the certification exam content. After viewing an overview of SCPro, I can report that this new certification program is much deeper, involving three separate levels of certification that tests demonstrated problem-solving and proven industry experience.  The learning and reference materials are being made totally online allowing candidates virtual access from any location, work or home.  According to CSCMP, this program will also be made available globally upon launch. The levels of certification include:

Level One- Base foundational knowledge that is tested in a four hour, multiple-choice question exam. Level One equates to the current CSCP exam format.

Level Two- Requires Level One certification coupled with demonstration of analysis and application of addressing and solving supply chain challenges. Candidates are evaluated on their ability to successfully problem-solve challenges in supply chain risk, external process integration, supply chain network design, strategy or sustainability challenges.

Level Three- Requires Level One and Level Two certification with hands-on analysis of a working organization, development of a detailed project plan, which is monitored and evaluated by a panel of supply chain experts.

While members of the supply chain community may well be confused as to which certification program is which, SCPro on paper, has the potential to be a much broader certification of skill level.  Realistically however, it may take a candidate two or more years of dedicated effort to master all three levels.

That’s it for our day one summary. There are some rather interesting sessions scheduled tomorrow.

Bob Ferrari