West Virginia University continues to put a winning team into the supply chain arena, as a four-member group comprised of business and engineering students won the Race to the Case Supply Chain Management Competition for the third consecutive year October 8. The case competition was held at the University of Pittsburgh and included a field of nine teams.
The team was made up of two students each from the College of Business and Economics and the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. Of the four years the competition has been held, WVU has won three times. The group included engineering students James Carnes and Ashley Skertic, and business students Ryan Jadra and Amy Toscano.
“The case study was about a company that produced spices,” said Toscano, a junior global supply chain management major from East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. “The company’s biggest problems were the inability to fulfill customer orders on time due to the large variety of products and unpredictable demand. Forecasting and inventory management were a major challenge for the company.”
The competition is modeled after the Emmy award-winning TV show “The Amazing Race,” and incorporates teams comprised of both business and industrial engineering students. The WVU team’s philosophy in solving the challenge for the international company in the case was to divide and conquer.
“Two members of our team worked on the qualitative answers that were more concept-based. The other two team members focused on using problem solving skills to do the quantitative questions. Our team decided to have a system that allowed the company to have two separate production lines which would focus on two main product categories,” said Carnes, a junior industrial engineering student from Weirton, West Virginia. “Having to present to corporate judges in the final round was an amazing experience that cannot be taught in a classroom environment. It forced our team to prove to industry experts why our conclusions from the case study were correct using data and concepts learned from classes or previous work experience.”
Ednilson Bernardes, associate professor of global supply chain management at B&E and faculty advisor of the supply chain team, said the students met the challenge head-on and as a team — just as they would be expected to tackle the problem in the real world.
“We are thrilled the WVU team won this unique competition for the third year in a row,” Bernardes said. “The team reflects WVU’s values of performing at our very best, supporting and valuing each other’s contributions, and seeking opportunities through innovation. Effective supply network systems operate with speed, accuracy and innovativeness. The competition challenges students to display those qualities, while requiring them to work collaboratively in a multifunctional team. This mirrors the professional environment the students will enter shortly, where global supply chain management professionals and industrial engineers are faced with solving problems.”
“I’m very pleased that our students were successful again in the Race to the Case competition,” added Kenneth R. Currie, chairperson and professor, industrial and management systems engineering at WVU’s Statler College. “What is significant to me is that our winning team is very young in their major. This shows how quickly our students learn the practice of their profession.”
The competition is designed to mirror the real world, where global supply chain management professionals and industrial engineers are faced with solving problems. They must rely on the talents of each team member and demonstrate teamwork — all in a timely manner.
“As a team, we divvied up our strengths,” said Skertic, an industrial engineering junior from Manassas, Virginia. “We worked in pairs and were able to continuously double check one another throughout each problem that was addressed.”
Jadra, a senior global supply chain management student from Westminster, Maryland, said, “We approached this case with confidence and trust. There were many problems from a logistical standpoint that the supply chain group tackled, whereas the engineers worked on the manufacturing side of the business. We had to trust each other’s expertise in order to be successful.”
The University of Pittsburgh placed second in the competition, while Penn State placed third.
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