FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas proved that it has a competitive edge in more than just athletics during the recent Bowersox Graduate Supply Chain Challenge. The team took first place in the prestigious challenge.
Held Oct. 25-26 at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., the challenge required each team to use a simulated, real-time supply chain environment to test its skill designing and managing dynamic supply chains against a common scenario, said Loray D. Mosher, assistant director and research associate in the Supply Chain Management Research Center in Walton College.
The simulation — the Supply Chain Operations Decision Environment — was developed at the Broad College of Business at Michigan State in cooperation with major corporations that included Chrysler, Dow Chemical, Flextronics, IBM, and Motorola, according to a press release from the U of A.
The teams took on the simulation and made numerous supply chain decisions ranging from modes of transportation to production schedules and order fulfillment. Teams were then ranked based on total revenue, order fulfillment, inventory turns and a profit called “supply chain contribution.”
In addition to receiving a trophy, the U of A team won $5,000. The members decided to donate half their winnings to the university’s Full Circle Campus Food Pantry, a student-run assistance program that distributes food and personal products to members of the campus community.
Mosher, who selected the team about three weeks before the competition, said she based her decisions not just on the team members’ qualifications and skill sets but also her assessment of how their personalities would fit on a team. The University of Arkansas team was comprised of master of business administration students in the department of supply chain management in the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
“I did a little bit of personality profiling on them,” said Mosher, who along with a doctoral degree in educational leadership with emphasis on social justice holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in educational counseling.
“It was like a conductor putting together this concert of personalities that just worked so incredibly fluidly together,” she said. “They allowed one another to operate in their skill sets and trusted one another completely that they were making the right decisions.”
Consequently, Mosher said there was a wide distance between first and second place.
“They didn’t just win it, they really knocked it out of the park,” she said.
It was the University of Arkansas’ second win at a national supply chain management competition this year. In April, the U of A team won the IANA Logistics & Supply Chain Management Case Competition at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, finishing ahead of the defending champion, University of Tennessee.
“This is exciting news for both the University of Arkansas and the department of supply chain management,” Walton College Dean Eli Jones said. “Winning this prestigious competition reinforces the reputation of Walton College as a national educational leader in supply chain management.”
Matthew A. Waller, who chairs the supply chain management department, which was established on July 1, 2011, said winning the Bowersox competition is “equivalent to winning the BCS championship in football.”
“The programs that were competing there were top programs,” said Waller, holder of the Garrison Endowed Chair in Supply Chain Management. “They are huge programs with decades of history. They set the standard. The fact that we beat all of those schools shows the MBA students in the Sam M. Walton College of Business are as good or better than any in the top 10.”
The University of Arkansas team members were Zack Hall, Amberle Morgan, Jason Schloss and XiaoYan Zheng. Hall said he and his teammates exchanged high-fives and yelled “woo, pig!” when they were announced as the winners.
“We were pumped up,” said Hall, of Springdale, who graduated from U of A in December 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in transportation and logistics. We felt like we didn’t make any mistakes. When you are going up against schools like Michigan State, Ohio State and Carnegie Mellon, it earns their respect. All those schools know that we mean business down here and we know what we are doing when it comes to supply chain management.”
“When these students compete in these competitions, they’re having to take what they’ve learned in the program and apply it to a real-world situation,” Waller said. “That’s connecting scholarship with practice.”
The Walton College’s supply chain management program has consistently ranked among the top 20 in the nation. The U.S. News & World Report 2011 America’s Best Colleges ranked the college’s supply chain management/logistics specialty in 10th place among the public undergraduate schools offering that specialty and in 13th place among both the public and private business schools. The magazine’s 2012 supply chain management rankings have not been released.