UA’s supply chain management team — strong links, big victory



Members of the winning team are, from left, Annie Nelson, Courtney Ou, Patti Bailey Roach, Christopher Cesta, Mark (Xiao) Sun, Nicholas Waggoner and Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi, faculty adviser.

With the right combination of data, not to mention talent, knowledge and resourcefulness, six UA business students took first place in the Mid-Atlantic District Student Case Competition on Feb. 22 in Pittsburgh. This is the second consecutive year that UA has won first place at the event, which is hosted by the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS).

In taking the top spot over 10 other schools, the UA team of supply chain/operations management majors won the grand prize — a $5,500 award that will be used for travel expenses to compete at the International Case Study Competition at APICS 2014 in New Orleans in October.

John Sulka, director of membership for the Akron chapter of APICS, says the UA team set itself apart from the other schools with its "data driven approach to justify its finding."

Fast-paced and intense

The teams do not arrive with well-polished presentations — their preparation of the case study is all part of the competition, and is done on a very tight schedule. This year, it began on Friday evening when they received the case. Written reports were due by 10 a.m. on Saturday, slides for the oral presentations had to be in by noon. From 1 to 3:30 p.m., the presentations were delivered to an audience of APICS chapter officers and practitioners.

Team member Mark (Xiao) Sun, a graduate student, credits the case studies they've done in classes, as well as advance preparation, for helping them to perform so well under pressure.

"To familiarize ourselves with the process, we were able to review the materials from the previous year and we were given a new case of similar size and difficulty to submit prior to attending the competition as practice," explains Sun, who will graduate in December with an MBA in Supply Chain Management.

"All team members have individual strengths, and we each played to those," adds Patti Bailey Roach. "We worked very well together, and were very supportive of each other."

Rounding out the team are Christopher Cesta, Annie Nelson, Courtney Ou and Nicholas Waggoner. Dr. Jeong Hoon Choi, assistant professor in the Department of Management, is the team's faculty adviser. Both Cesta and Ou were on the 2013 team as well.

The challenge before them was a case titled "Whirlpool Corporation: Reverse Logistics,” which focused on Whirlpool's response to Ontario's proposed Extended Producer Responsibility legislation. Whirlpool can argue the legislation is unnecessary, or, it can develop a "take-back" policy. Issues such as cost analysis, competitiveness, complexity, location analysis and enhancing customer-service are part of the case study.

Real-world insight

"I loved being a part of this team — we worked hard but we laughed hard as well," adds Waggoner, who is majoring in human resources management as well as supply chain/operations management. "It made for an enriched learning environment and gave us insight into what professional organizations must face (when) forced to create a solution in a very narrow time frame."

And that is the goal of the exercise, notes Dr. Steven Ash, chair of the Department of Management. 

"More than anything, our student team's performance is an indicator of what they have learned," notes Ash. "Industry professionals design the case and judge each student team's analysis and recommendations. When a team does well on these scenarios, it means the students are ready to 'hit the ground running' and provide immediate value to the organizations that are lucky enough to get them."

The other schools in the competition were Penn State University, placing second and receiving $2,000; Cleveland State University, placing third with a $1,500 prize; along with Ashland University; Bowling Green State University; Duquesne University (graduate and undergraduate teams); Robert Morris University; University of Delaware; University of Pittsburgh; University of Toledo and York College of Pennsylvania.