The Future of the Supply Chain Is in Good Hands

We often talk, as we should, about supply chain optimization. Today, I'd like us to take a longer look and suggest that this optimization begins by cultivating the talent our industry needs to meet the challenges of the future.

Last month, as part of the annual Avnet Tech Games, we hosted the “Supply Chain Challenge” — a virtual supply chain simulation designed by Responsive Learning Technologies and used in supply chain curricula at colleges and universities around the world.

A hundred teams and 325 undergraduate and graduate students from 41 schools competed in the simulation that compressed two years of business activity into an intense four-hour competition, challenging the student's analytical skills and their supply chain knowledge. A team from Yale University won the competition. However, it could have been a team of students from anywhere in the world.

Truly, the caliber of supply chain curricula available the world over is impressive and reflects the importance of supply chain management in today's globalized business community. Moreover, the caliber of students attracted to these majors is equally impressive and reflective of career opportunities in the field. However, when looking toward the future it is not enough to assume that schools can do this by themselves. In fact, the vibrancy of these programs depends on a two-way engagement between supply chain leaders and higher education.

As supply chain professionals and leaders in the field, each of us can “pay it forward” and make a difference by becoming directly involved with the departments of supply chain management at schools in our communities, sharing our knowledge, experience, and understanding of the dynamics that drive the global supply chain.

Doing this is personally rewarding and can take many forms. At Avnet we regularly participate in the classroom as guest speakers, sponsor MBA student teams working on projects at our facilities, offer supply chain internships, and participate on curriculum advisory boards. We also host class visits, inviting professors to bring their students on tours of our logistics facilities, followed by a Q&A session with members of our management team. Each time we have done this we have learned from the students, gained insight, and been energized.

So begin optimizing tomorrow's supply chain by reaching out today and contacting your local college. I welcome your input and thoughts on this subject.

9 comments on “The Future of the Supply Chain Is in Good Hands

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 5, 2012

    Gerry–were there any “out of the box” breakthroughs during the competition? Or was there already a solution and students had to find it?

  2. Ariella
    December 5, 2012

    @Barbara I'd think it would be much more exciting and meaningful for the students to create their own solution rather than find “the right one.” 

  3. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 5, 2012

    Absolutely! You get tunnel vision when you work in an industry; fresh eyes are always a help

  4. Ariella
    December 5, 2012

    @Barbara Exactly, that's the premise behind the contest hosted by Kaggle — opening up a problem to new minds that can bring in fresh approaches. 

  5. Daniel
    December 6, 2012

    Gerry, picking the right one and train them from the root level is the best way. That's the reason most of the companies are walking through university campus by offering different internship programs and projects. This will help the students to groom themselves to the competitive environment with a professionalism.

  6. Daniel
    December 6, 2012

    Ariella, you are right. Now in some of the universities, they had either changed or introduced some new papers with industrial real problem case studies. Its student’s responsibility to find solutions for such case studies and this will help them to face real world issues.

  7. Gerry Fay
    December 6, 2012


    In our game, the students manage a hypothetical company and make decisions about inventory levels, bid on orders, manage capacity, monitor customer demand, schedule production and cash flow. Each decision affects their cash position. The four-hour game simulates 730 days of business activity and is very fast moving. The team with the most cash on hand is the winner.

    There is no pre conceived right answers and all decisions are tradeoffs…just like we face in the supply chain each day.



  8. Ariella
    December 6, 2012

    @Gerry thanks for the explanation. Very interesting, a grownup version of Lemonade Stand, with more complicating factors built in. 

  9. Daniel
    December 10, 2012

    Gerry, you mean something like case studies. Obliviously such case studies will help to analyze their strategically positions and managed decisions based on real time scenario.

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