With globalization reaching unprecedented levels, organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to compete in the highly interconnected and interdependent international markets. Traditional enterprise boundaries have gone into oblivion leading to loosely connected and networked, service oriented structures formed by organizations spread across the globe. Thus, the management of such symbiotic systems has become very complex and crucial for success. The economic downturn has further highlighted the fact that many of the firms have been able to weather the storm because of their robust business models backed by efficient operations and supply chain strategies. There has been a huge focus on enhancing efficiency and optimizing organizational processes to allow firms to stay in business, profitably.
Given the increased importance, there has been a surge in the investments by organizations for enhancing their value chains leading to an upswing in the demand for professionals with skills in this domain and many of the MBA’s are starting to look at opportunities in this industry. The supply chain and operations club at the Smith School, one of the more active clubs at the school, in collaboration with the Supply Chain and Logistics department, provides students access to resources that help them in developing competence and building knowledge in this domain, beyond the coursework.
Recently, the Tauber Institute for Global Operations at the University of Michigan, supported by the Ross School of Business, College of Engineering, and the Operations Management Club, organized the Global Operations Conference 2009 focused on redefining operations and strategies for future success. In addition to the formal conference program, Ricardo Strategic Consulting sponsored a rigorous two-round student case competition. The Supply Chain Management and Operations Club at the Smith School invited nominations from the MBA students to represent the school at this conference in Michigan.
I always wanted to participate in case competitions, but somehow had not been able to find time for it, or probably I had just been too lazy. Operations and Supply chain is not my forte, but I convinced myself to take up this challenge. I sent in my nomination and was able to not only get a spot, but was also made the coordinator for the team. My team consisted of Neil Vora, Chia-Chia Chang and myself, from the second year and Srivatsa Sarvepalli, from the first year.
We got the case the next day and had a week to send in the recommendations on 10 power-point slides. The case was about a fictitious wind turbine component manufacturer that was facing some problems in the business – low profitability, high manufacturing costs, lower than expected growth, high defect-rate and warranty costs etc., and the board wanted to know whether the firm should become be an OEM, and if not, what direction it should adopt.
Our schedule that week, like in most other weeks, was hectic. We had our mid-terms and some finals that very same week. Thus, it was difficult to meet and spend a lot of time working on this; still the team met a couple of times and prepared the recommendations. We were not strongly convinced on our recommendations, especially because the recommendations were tough, and not in line with what the board of the company would have liked. With some last minute touches to the slides, we submitted our slides and forgot about the whole thing.
A week later, we received an email from the organizers, and it was not a “Thanks for participating” note, as we had anticipated, but a congratulatory note announcing that we made it to the final round, and the details for which would follow. Out of sheer curiosity, and excitement, I inquired about the teams that had participated in the event, and the number qualifying for the final round. We found that 28 teams had participated in the event, including the ones from schools like Northwestern Kellogg, NYU Stern, UCLA Anderson, in addition to the 15 teams from University of Michigan Ross School of Business. The five finalists were two teams from Ross, a team from MIT Sloan, one from Chicago Booth, and one – ours, from the Smith School.
I am glad we made it to the finals, as this in itself is very gratifying, for we beat some teams from very good schools. Now, we need to work on the second part of the case, and present the recommendations at the event in front of the board on November 6, 2009.