Forty-year commitment to WERC and to developing the warehousing and logistics profession
Bruce Abels has the dual distinction of being the Warehouse Education and Research Council’s (WERC) first president, and the only person to serve in that role for three consecutive terms—from 1977 to 1980. At the conclusion of that service, Abels continued his involvement as a frequent speaker and lifetime member of WERC, which is currently celebrating its 40th Anniversary.
"I was young and innocent, and because my name started with the first letter of the alphabet I was asked to chair WERC’S first organizational meeting," Abels recalls. "When it came time to elect officers, someone in the back of the room said, ‘You’ve done a good job running this meeting; I nominate you.’ I was ‘railroaded’ into the job."
Although Abels, who was Director of Distribution Operations of the disposables division of American Can Company at the time, politely declined, the motion was rapidly seconded. There were no other nominations, and he was quickly elected. In addition to that role on WERC’s Board, (shared with many of warehousing’s most respected leaders, he notes) Abels chaired the first WERC Annual Conference and led WERC for two more years.
At the time of WERC’s founding in 1977, warehouse operations had become a professional discipline. Yet, no organization existed to support the professional development of warehouse practitioners, both seasoned management veterans and those new to the industry.
"There was a desire to make resources available for people who tackled day-to-day, practical, hands-on warehousing ‘stuff,’" Abels continues. "Those of us who founded WERC felt a need to focus on warehouse operations and strategy and its role in supply chain. As the role of the warehouse has changed dramatically over the last 40 years—with the emergence of real-time fulfillment, sophisticated hardware and software technologies and third-party logistics service providers—WERC has evolved as well."
Today, as the President of Fairfield Logistics Advisors, Abels is still an active member of WERC, attending Conferences, networking and sharing his expertise with other members.
"People turn to WERC for knowledge, skills, networking and educational resources. In my own client base I see people who can learn a lot from WERC," he adds. "I often encourage clients, particularly when they make a critical new hire, to send that person to WERC’s educational events, publications and Annual Conference to get better educated and more quickly up to speed on our industry."
Abels cites WERC’s networking opportunities and educational offerings as being the most valuable to him while navigating his own supply chain career over 40 years.
"I was so young and had so much to learn when I became WERC’s first President. I have always been very grateful to those professionals who were wiser and more experienced than I, who were willing to share all they had to offer to me as a friend and colleague," he notes. "And, I have always loved WERC’s ‘hands on’ focus, delivering usable information and skills to everyday practitioners, like me."
After 40 years, it’s safe to say that WERC has likewise been impacted just as positively from Abels’ leadership, notes Michael Mikitka, WERC CEO.
"Bruce has had a profound influence on WERC’s growth and development in the past four decades," Mikitka says. "His leadership and guidance is something that I personally have come to rely on many times since I joined the organization in 2001."
To hear more about Bruce Abels’ 40-year journey with WERC, click here.