APICS Becoming ASCM: CEO Abe Eshkenazi Details the New Direction

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APICS announced recently it was launching a new supply chain organization that would push the industry association out of its niche for talent development and into corporate transformation strategy.

Called the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM), the new organization seeks to create a fully encompassing group for all professionals who touch the supply chain. Its goal is to drive innovation in the industry with “new products, services and partnerships that enable companies to further optimize their supply chains, secure their competitive advantage and positively impact their bottom lines,” according to the association’s website.

The APICS brand will live on under the umbrella of ASCM. All certifications provided by ASCM will retain their names, like APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional. And the new association will continue to support APICS training even as other ventures like APICS Magazine shift to the new association.  

More than a rebrand, the creation of ASCM signals a shift in strategy at APICS as well as within the businesses of the customers that the association serves, APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi told Spend Matters in a recent interview at the APICS 2018 conference in Chicago.

As supply chains become more deeply integrated with all aspects of a company’s operations, solely developing the supply chain professional would no longer be enough, he said. APICS felt instead that facilitating broader organizational transformation with dedicated benchmarks, frameworks and partner networks would be necessary to develop supply chains of the future.

“APICS is clearly recognized and valued for the certification and the body of knowledge but not for organizational transformation, nor for bringing a network of providers to a customer,” Eshkenazi said. “More importantly, we want to be closer to where supply chain is going, as opposed to trailing the industry by two or three years.”

An advertisement for next year's annual APICS event, now hosted by ASCM. 

Rationale Behind the Decision

The need to transform APICS from an organization for professional development into one that could tackle broader transformational strategy has its roots in the Great Recession, Eshkenazi said.

Before 2008, the supply chain field held less sway in corporate boardrooms. Improving supply chain performance was mostly a bottoms-up effort, and APICS at that time made about 65% of its sales to individuals, Eshkenazi said.

But after the financial crisis, businesses looked to their supply chains for ways to cut costs and provide operational security in an uncertain business environment. Boards started to prioritize the development of their supply chain organizations as a whole. Today, Eshkenazi said, APICS makes 65% of its sales to corporations.

This trend reflected what APICS recognized from conversations with customers: Businesses wanted an integrated solution for their integrated supply chains, because they saw that model as where the industry was going. After looking at its products and services, APICS knew it could not go to market as that integrated solution in its current form.

Where ASCM Is Going

Where exactly is supply chain going — and how ASCM plans to fit into that — is still an open question. But part of the new organization’s mission is to help define what the future should be, through a reorientation around research and advisory for supply chain strategy and technology trends, Eshkenazi said.

One example of the strategy side is ASCM’s new SCOR-E program, which extends its SCOR concept from the individual to the organization. Short for Supply Chain Operations Reference for Enterprises, the program provides a framework through which corporate supply chains can demonstrate to customers and consumers that they exceed industry standards in three areas: ethical, economic and ecological.

The ethical dimension focuses on criteria such as anti-corruption and antitrust, codes of conduct, confidentiality of information, human rights and labor practices, and intellectual property and patents. The economic area covers issues like board and corporate leadership, materiality index, responsible tax, and enterprise risk and crisis management. The ecological dimension rounds out the two with a focus on climate strategy, energy, water and waste, material usage and product lifecycle stewardship.

The ASCM research that went into developing this framework is based on what the association sees as essential capabilities for future supply chains. SCOR-E gives organizations across industries a consistent way to benchmark their supply chain, as well as gives functional leaders an additional way to tie their work for business growth.

“Transparency and visibility will become much more commonplace in the future, and organizations need to prepare themselves to be able to talk to the consumer and demonstrate to the consumer that they are sustainable on those three dimensions,” Eshkenazi said. “This is a way for them to demonstrate it without an internally focused approach and using a standard that is accepted already in the industry.  

And ASCM is not leading this charge alone. SCOR-E is one example on the sustainability side, but on the front of digital transformation, Eshkenazi cited collaborations between his organization and business leaders like Deloitte and PwC to develop a similar framework. Much like creating a consensus on how and where to apply a technology like blockchain will require multiple partners to work together in fostering that ecosystem, ASCM wants to bring supply chain organizations, consulting firms and technology providers to form a common effort around advancing the function.  

“Our organization endeavors to be a network of partners that identify and make a difference in the world — not only for the organization but for the consumer at the end,” Eshkenazi said.

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