If you want to get students excited about supply chain management, take them out of the classroom and into the field. Not only will it rev up their interest in the subject, but they'll develop a deeper understanding of what's involved in the process.
That's exactly what happened to students at University of Texas-Austin's McCombs School of Business, said Prof. Michael G. Hasler in a presentation at the recent SCOPE West supply chain conference in Las Vegas. With help from supply chain executives at Target Stores, students in Hasler's Introduction to Operations Management class traced the progress of three items—a calculator, a patio furniture set, and a doll—from Target's store shelves back through the supply chain to their origins in Asia.
After observing and analyzing retail, transportation, and distribution operations in the United States, the class spent nearly a month at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. While there, they got an in-depth introduction to design, manufacturing, vendor-managed inventory, logistics, and order fulfillment.
The students' reaction to their experience was remarkable, according to Hasler. "They are on fire about supply chain management," he reported. "They know that a decision about stocking shelves in Austin will have implications back to the quantity of plastic pellets a manufacturer buys back in Guangzhou." Based on the program's success, the school has decided to make it a permanent offering. The course may also be offered for practitioners through the business school's executive education arm.