Supply Chain Management Association (SCMA): To build leadership in supply chain management
By: Mudeeha Yousaf

The Supply Chain Management Association (SCMA) is the national voice for professionals in the supply chain industry to advance their skills within the trade and craft a better understanding about this leading industry. It was formed in 2013 through the amalgamation of the Purchasing Management Association of Canada (PMAC) and the Supply Chain & Logistics Association of Canada (SCL), offering a combined history of more than 140 years.  Today, the association stands as the largest association in Canada for supply chain management with a network of about 8000 members across 10 Provincial and Territorial institutes.

Cheryl Paradowski, President and CEO, has been with the association for over three years and has an extensive background in association management. She is also a Certified Association Executive (CAE), a designation awarded by the Canadian Society for Association Executives. Her background has brought her to work with associations who have had a focus on professional development, the setting of standards and on providing the opportunity for individuals to develop and demonstrate their competency in a profession. “The focus of the association is on building leadership and recognition of the value of the profession.”

A key turning point for the association, recalls Cheryl, was the act of changing its name in September 2013, which joined two associations, the former PMAC which was incorporated in 1919 with the former SCL, which was in existence for 45 years. “That was a year and a half in the making with the two organizations coming together and deciding we had a lot of mutual ground and that bringing us together would be good for the profession, establishing a single voice for the end-to-end supply chain.”

Both organizations had been active in supporting the sector, and when the past decade brought with it a significant transition from an operational and tactical function to a strategic function, there was a greater potential for members to contribute to a competitive advantage within their respective organizations, and for their associations to support them in developing the necessary skills to support the transition.

The function of SCMA, and the industry as a whole, remains to pinpoint specific trends that affect the supply chain field of practice and navigate through these inevitable changes. “Cost savings remains a major motivator with people looking for economies, whether on the logistics side of things, the sourcing side of things or inventory management.” Just as important, the trend towards establishing closer relations with key suppliers remains significant, as they become a partner in the company’s goal to serve their ultimate client. The association highlights the growing trend to sustainable practices and the desire to be more environmentally conscious, in keeping with a culture of corporate social responsibility.

SCMA invests heavily in qualifying their members in order to meet their potential while guiding them on the dos and don’ts in the industry. A Supply Chain Management Professional (SCMP) designation is offered which provides the ability to define what a professional looks like, their behaviors and competencies, and the ability to be measured against that standard to hold the designation. “[The SCMP] gives them recognition as a professional and provides the skills and knowledge they may not have had the opportunity to develop without having access to the program, which in turn gives them the ability to progress within their career and to contribute at a strategic level within their own company,” says Cheryl.

“We run an annual survey each year and it is statistically supported that our designation holders make a 17% salary premium over their colleagues that don’t hold that designation… it’s a return on investment because it is quite a rigorous program in which they invest to participate so we’re glad something comes back to them through their compensation and career advancement.”

As well, education and professional development programs are offered by the association, which include seminars, regional conferences, a leadership forum, as well as hosting an academic symposium and providing a fair number of communications, news briefs, seminars and e-flashes. The greatest perk of the association, however, remains the ability to provide a network where individuals can interact with other professionals with the opportunity to share practices and develop their own support system when they are looking for more perspective into their chosen field.

The not-for-profit organization is structured as a federation. “I’m the head of the national office, and we work in partnership with our 10 provincial and territorial Institutes. Our national organization hosts an annual conference in June every year which moves across the country,” says Cheryl. “It’s going to be held in Edmonton in June 2014.” There are also a number of regional conferences in the Fall to address issues and specific industry sub-sectors that are prevalent in the respective Institutes.

As achievements go, the SCMA has quite a few. Their SCMP designation was awarded the Global Standard for Purchasing and Supply Chain that is administered by the International Federation of Purchasing and Supply Management – the first program in North America and second in the world to be recognized. As well, the organization grants its own Awards of Distinction and provides recognition for fellowships and outstanding achievement to individuals who have made a significant contribution to the association and to the field of practice. The Supply Chain Excellence award is presented to companies who have excelled in supply chain innovation. The association emphasizes recognizing those that excel in the industry, highlighting best practices and role models.

The future looks promising for SCMA who will no doubt make a splash in the industry while soon approaching its one-year anniversary under their new brand. “We’ve just completed a new strategic plan that will take us through the next three years and our major focus is ensuring that employers truly recognize the contribution that supply chain management professionals can make to the success of their organization. We will be doing some in-depth market research to understand what employers think of our profession, association and designation that will give us the opportunity to address any gaps,” says Cheryl.

They will be keeping busy with the launch of their first leadership forum, which is an attempt to engage more senior leadership in Canada. Also in the process is the establishment of a new member-service database so members can have easy access to features, such as a searchable online directory.

“[The supply chain industry is] a high-growth area… there was some labour market research completed a couple of years ago that indicates that there will be 66,000 vacancies in supply chain management every year for the next five years, so there’s going to be a challenge in finding skilled people in this field,” says Cheryl. “It’s also a field that’s not particularly visible, so another big role for the association is to make sure that young people or people with related skills understand that they can translate them into this exciting profession.”