For students at Penn State University's Smeal College of Business, the quest to understand the inner workings of the supply chain is about to get easier. The school has teamed up with IBM to open a new supply chain research laboratory in Smeal's new building on the school's University Park, Pa., campus. The new lab, which will double as a classroom, replaces an older supply chain research lab that was created in the fall of 2003 using software, server and storage technology donated by IBM. The new lab has been outfitted with additional IBM hardware.
Penn State's lab is linked with similar IBM labs at Michigan State University, Arizona State University, University College Dublin and National University of Singapore. The interconnected computer grid allows faculty and students at these universities to collaborate on simulations that will help them understand the effects of various decisions and developments on the interconnected parts of a global supply chain. For example, researchers would be able to examine how changes in a foreign silicon supplier's shipping and inventory policies would affect an electronics manufacturer's inventory and payment systems.
Participants hope that the unique supply chain simulations made possible by this collaborative effort will help companies build dynamic global supply chains that can sense and rapidly respond to changing customer demands and market conditions. "Because we are working together with four other schools, we have the potential to authentically simulate supply chains in a manner that was never before possible," says John E. Tyworth, chair of the Department of Supply Chain and Information Systems at Smeal.
The labs also provide hands-on experience to students, preparing them for a career in supply chain management. Experience with the simulation technology will enhance their employment prospects, says Linda Cantwell, vice president, business growth initiatives, IBM Integrated Supply Chain. "Students who understand how to use ... grid technologies to simulate the supply chain's ability to respond to real company business problems will be in high demand upon graduation," she predicts.