Are you certifiable? If you're an individual working in the logistics/supply chain profession, there's a pretty good chance you are. Today, there are a variety of certification programs out there 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 it's a different story for organizations. The industry has long lacked a similar certification system for facilities like warehouses and DCs. The closest thing it has had has been a section of the International Standards Organization (ISO) 9000 standards that covers activities like receiving, storing, packing, and shipping.
That's about to change. The Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) recently announced its Warehouse Certification Program, which is designed to verify an individual warehouse's 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 ISO's 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 ISO's, not a replacement for it.)
Under the WERC program, auditors benchmark a warehouse's operations against the standards outlined in WERC's 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 assign scores to each activity based on a five-point scale—poor practice, inadequate practice, common practice, good practice, and best practice.
As for what's 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 improvement—participants get a written report of the audit's results along with the auditors' recommendations. They also receive a set of benchmarking tools that can be used as the basis for continuous improvement programs.
But the warehouses themselves aren't 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 LSP's visibility in the industry and raise it to a level above its non-certified competitors. That's not to say there won't be good uncertified operations; but in a competitive situation with all other things being equal, I find it hard to believe the certified facility won't 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/facility_cert/.