ISM students earn high honors in regional competition

contact: Stacey Markin
| WMU News
Photo of the students who took second place in the competition.

WMU's second-place team

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Two teams of students enrolled in Western Michigan University's integrated supply management program finished second and sixth overall in a field of 25 at the 2015 Association for Operations Management Great Lakes District case competition Feb. 20-21 in Downer's Grove, Illinois.

Members of the second-place team were Tyler Plude, of Gladwin, Lynsey DeGraaf and Stephanie Gries, both of Parchment, Michael Merling, of Jackson, Shawn Sullivan, of Niles, and Ed Mulford, of Midland.

Members of the sixth-place team were Lindsay Delling, of Grand Blanc, Jordan Carini, of Holland, Aaron McClendon, of Westland, Ashley Cekola, of Portage, and Michael Penn and Zach Cutshaw, both of Kalamazoo.

Notably, the second-place team placed first among undergraduate teams in the competition, besting several MBA teams as well.

Meeting the challenge

Part of the challenge for student teams was the short time frame allowed. Teams were given the case at 8 p.m. on a Friday and had to submit and be prepared to present their solutions by 9 a.m. Saturday. The WMU teams found ways to improve the operations of a fictitious company, Beautiful Bags, a manufacturer of designer handbags, facing significant supply chain issues.

Photo of the students who took sixth place in the competition.

WMU's sixth-place team

Teamwork was the key to success, according to DeGraaf.

"Before going to the competition, we designated certain positions within our team," DeGraaf says. "We selected two teammates who had great presenting skills to actually present our case. Our other team members had skills in analytics, writing and leadership. We also set out a timeline to help establish deadlines and goals. Our teamwork allowed us to bring up different points about the case without criticism, through an open and collaborative environment.”

Another competitive advantage for the WMU teams was the breadth and depth of the ISM program's curriculum.

"I was confident we would be able to showcase the well-rounded knowledge and tools that the ISM program teaches us," says Penn. "The case was multi-faceted, which was a great fit for us. We addressed make-or-buy decisions, balancing lead times and inventory, demand variation, and accurate forecasting. One of our improvement strategies that I'm most proud of was creating a strategic supplier relationship with the foreign-based supplier. It's a common theme in our program that strategic relationships help reduce lead times and costs as well as increase innovation."

The teams relied on foundational knowledge of the supply chain from coursework as well as team members' experiences in industry.

"Both teams performed at the highest levels and represented the ISM program and WMU extremely well," says Ken Jones, director of executive education and integrated supply management instructor. "To place so highly, and ahead of many teams comprised of graduate students, is quite a testament to their understanding and application of supply chain concepts. This is clearly an example of when great teamwork and effort produces fantastic results."

Integrated supply management program

Ranked No. 5 in undergraduate supply chain education by Gartner, a leading information technology research and advisory company, and No. 2 in the nation for emphasis on teaching technology, software and quantitative tools by Software Advice, WMU's ISM program has been recognized nationally by several organizations and publications for its leadership in preparing students for careers in supply chain management. WMU's curriculum combines engineering, information technology, logistics, supply chain and business education. The program also includes Bronco Force consulting teams, which give students experience in business consulting with companies on their supply chain challenges. The WMU Center for Integrated Supply Management was established in 2014 by the Haworth College of Business.

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