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In so many ways, Miki Minagawa is the poster child for an online supply chain management degree. That’s because, for starters, she is the Direct-to-Consumer director at Nike Japan. In Tokyo. And with what global, accredited school is she enrolled to earn a master’s in supply-chain management? Portland State University in Oregon, USA.

Minagawa had already worked in supply chain for two decades—split between the United States and Japan—when she decided to expand and formalize her knowledge.

In her role, she is a supply chain director for Nike-owned stores, Nike Factory Outlet stores and, the shoe retailer’s online shopping business. “Nike has decided to develop and grow the direct-to-consumer (DTC) business where we traditionally had a big business in wholesale,” she says. “Now we are having a focused team on the DTC side of the business. We sell a lot of stuff here in Tokyo to consumers. We import shoes and apparel and some equipment from factories around the world.”

Nike, which began and remains headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon (about seven miles from downtown Portland), has a formal partnership for corporate training with Portland State University (PSU). Every year, the company sponsors five high-potential global supply chain leaders to this course. Minagawa is in the second year of the online version of the school’s coursework.

“It’s quite incredible for me that, living in Japan, in Tokyo, I can earn a U.S. master’s degree,” she says. “The learning experience is amazing. And it fits my learning style. Rather than sitting in the classroom, I may learn more this way. Part of it is because English is my second language. In an online course, I can stop the lecture at any time and repeat it, if I don’t catch some words. I can also look up any word I don’t know with the online dictionary. It’s amazing that technology can make this happen.”

Some online courses and programs are solitary pursuits—the student and his or her computer. The PSU program, however, organizes its students in groups, for both the completion of projects and support.

“We have group projects in the course and we do the work via video group chat on Google Hangout, which is a similar application to Skype. We collaborate online with teammates via Google Docs,” Minagawa explains. “Time differences don’t matter. We gather in front of Google Hangout for two hours, editing a PowerPoint presentation or Word document together. I can see my friends constantly moving around, editing, typing over my words. We can chat—you know, ‘Why did you do that?’” she laughs.

“My recent professional focus has been making sure that our online web business works,” Minagawa continues. “I took a course in Reverse Logistics and we read a lot of articles about consumer return issues in online business. That was really relevant for me. Actions that the course recommended were really helpful for me to apply at Nike.”

Portland State offers both masters and bachelors level online programs in supply-chain management, delivering content and lectures asynchronous and synchronously.

“Programmatically, we teach the entire value chain and emphasize the circular economy,” explains Cliff Allen, dean of the School of Business Administration at PSU and founder of the master’s program in Supply Chain Management. “At the grad level we teach an entire course on reverse logistics and sustainability.”

The undergrad supply chain program at PSU is entirely online; the master’s program is the same except it meets in Asia for two weeks and once for a negotiations class. The graduate program is designed for mid-career students.

Daniel Wong is the academic director for PSU’s undergraduate Supply & Logistics program. He says that wherever a manager or executive goes for online education, the key is sticking with schools certified by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

“In order to be an AACSB accredited school of business, you have to have a certain ratio of faculty with PhDs, and you have to be accredited every five or six years,” Wong says. “There are a lot of other schools out there that claim they offer online, but those programs are coming from the schools that are not certified by AACSB.”

Minagawa says that Nike, as her sponsor, has been supportive of her educational needs. But, interestingly, the 17-hour time difference between Portland and Tokyo often works to her advantage.

“Most of the students want to study or collaborate after 5 p.m., PST, which is my morning office hours—8 a.m. We usually have a Google Hangout session between 10 a.m. and lunchtime in Tokyo. I often have to do those calls or attend class during office hours and my manager always supports me. He enjoys what I’m learning and hearing about what I have found out, also.”

Upon graduation, Minagawa hopes to leverage her degree in a return to Nike headquarters in Beaverton. n


What are the reasons to continue your education in supply-chain management?

If you’re the chief executive, what reasons might you have to support employees interested in returning to school?

Employees need to know how squeezing night and weekend classes into an already busy work/life schedule will be advantageous to the bottom line upon the completion of a degree in supply-chain management (SCM).

We talked to executives, educators and recent graduates to learn these 12 reasons to master supply-chain management.


Supply chain “is a critical business function,” says Larry Giunipero, professor of Supply Chain Management at Florida State University in Tallahassee, “and if you’re not world class in that function today and your competitors are, then you’re at a competitive disadvantage.”


The buzzwords that matter in SCM today are analytics, collaboration and technology. Going back to school is a chance to see how you measure up in those areas against industry leaders. You will be educated on the newest concepts driving businesses today.


Wherever you are in your supply-chain career, additional education will give you the ability to separate yourself from the person next to you. “It shows a degree of self-motivation and desire to improve your skill set in your field and in your profession,” Giunipero says.


Knowing more about SCM could elevate your value to your company, earn you a higher position or another position, which will then bring more dollars. Consider the investment and the return- on investment.


If you don’t like your current job, its conditions or the business, more education could lead you to a career in a different area of the field at your current firm or a new one.


Masters level programs are attuned to the global scope of this field. “A lot of people miss that opportunity of globalism to improve their company’s position in the marketplace,” Giunipero says. “Education gives you that more global perspective about our position vis-à-vis the rest of the world and what should be outsourced, what should be insourced and what should be re-sourced. It gives the individual a different outlook of the world that they operate in, no matter what their political philosophy or background.”


Education is more available than ever before, between evening and weekend classes, or even “whenever” courses taught online. You don’t have to come to class at six o’clock and leave at nine. There are fewer excuses to be made.


“We see a tremendous need for supply-chain talent by employers,” says Rudolf Leuschner, assistant professor and co-director of the online Master of Supply Chain Management program at Rutgers Business School in New Jersey. “They keep paying for students to come to our master’s program. … I think there is a definite trend toward a specialized degree program such as Supply Chain Management. We haven’t seen this type of growth in other programs.”


Complex problems usually involve more actors, and a lot of these actors are outside the four walls of your organization. They’re customers, suppliers and even competitors. Master’s degree programs go beyond a single company’s boundaries to deal with marketing, finance and accounting issues, in addition to the traditional SCM areas of procurement, manufacturing and logistics.


Colin Yankee is senior vice president of Distribution Logistics for Tractor Supply Co. in Brentwood, Tennessee. His introduction to supply chain came in the Army; he expanded his knowledge with a master’s in SCM from Michigan State University in 2009. The bonus for him was exposure to career pros from across multiple supply-chain disciplines and organizations. “There are people in my network today who have moved corporations and into different areas of supply chain, with whom I keep in contact. We have our own benchmarking group just within our cohort of people graduating from that program, who I’m able to bounce ideas off of and partner with on different things happening within the business, and get their perspective on it.”


Studying SCM in a third-party setting such as a university “opens one’s eyes,” says Steve Scala, executive vice president of Corporate Development at DiCentral, a supply chain management software company in Houston. “We can all be a bit myopic around our environment, maybe not getting best practices or the benefit of other dimensional views, whether that be raw research by having the benefit of having five companies getting together or sharing their best practices or finding out what worked, what didn’t work, etc.”


Before beginning the Rutgers Supply Chain Management Master’s program, Sheri Hinish’s experience in SCM was as a senior supply chain analyst in the wholesale distribution of wine and spirits. Since then, however, she has become a supply chain excellence leader at W.R. Grace, a global oil and energy specialty chemical company. “The curriculum, the peer exposure and the competitiveness push you to better yourself. My learning curve skyrocketed,” she says. “I wanted more knowledge. I wanted to advance my career. Supply-chain management is evolving so quickly that you really want to know the pulse of the supply chain; if it’s in a book that you find in a bookstore, most likely the information is somewhat antiquated.”


“I did my undergrad at a small liberal arts college in Michigan. I graduated with a bachelor’s of Business Administration. I took a job with a steel company and worked in products coordination, which was their version of inside sales. The customers that I handled were automotive customers. It was my first experience with supply chain. I was introduced to how supply chain worked. It opened up the world of, ‘Wow, a lot more goes on behind building a car than just the automakers.’ It was my first realization that it takes an entire army to get everything done to build a vehicle.

“When the opportunity came up for me to go back to school, I knew immediately that I wanted to study supply chain. I wanted to learn more about the whole behind-the-scenes of companies, especially manufacturing. And how products get from raw materials all the way to the end customer. I earned a master’s degree from Florida State with a concentration in Supply Chain Management. Right after graduation, I took a job working in procurement for Harris Corporation.

“Pursuing a higher degree led to the new job. And it has led to different roles and responsibilities in my new job. I was able to get a position that was more strategic, which is what I was looking for. I now understand the impact of what the supply relationship means. One of my roles allows me to take a look at the bigger picture: the total cost of doing business with a supplier, not just the cheapest price. What are they costing us in quality? What are they costing us in missed deliveries? What is our management of that supplier costing us?”


Sean Scott is the director of strategic business at Celadon in Indianapolis. He might just be the poster child for the value of a global MBA.

“There’s been a lot of stuff that I learned in the classroom,” says the current executive MBA student at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “Fortunately, I’m already in a position high enough in my organization to truly apply those in a day-to-day work environment where I can suggest something to my boss, who will then take it up the ladder to their boss until it reaches a level where we could try to implement a process. I can learn something in the classroom on a Tuesday and be at work on a Wednesday morning trying to figure out how we can leverage it to become more effective at what we do.”

Ultimately, that’s the point of an executive going back to school: Take what you learn today and turn it into business improvements on the job tomorrow. And if those lessons can be applied globally as well as domestically, it’s an even smarter bet.

An expert in supply chain management and international business at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, Jay Swaminathan is the GlaxoSmithKline Distinguished Professor of Operations and Associate Dean of the OneMBA and UNC-Tsinghua EMBA Programs. How enmeshed is he in training global MBAs? We had to catch up with him while he was leading a group of executive students in Warsaw, Poland.

“The OneMBA program started in 2002,” he says. “It’s a program based on collaboration with four other schools around the world—one in China, one in Netherlands, one in Brazil, one in Mexico. Five schools, four continents. It is for executives that already have between 10 and 15 years of experience. The audience for the program is executives who have risen up the ranks in their organizations, been successful in their functional roles, and are now either looking to expand their perspective around global or are moving into leadership roles where they need to be focused on the global economy.”

OneMBA students complete residencies around the globe, working with the partner schools as well as regional business executives. “They take classes, go through the curriculum, and do their assignments,” Swaminathan explains. “At the end of each of the three study modules, they have residencies.”

The OneMBA program is all about developing global leaders who can understand different cultures, making it unique in its perspective. Student executives work in teams to double up their multicultural capabilities. They learn from global faculty in a coordinated manner and have immersive experiences to learn on the ground in different countries.

While daytime MBA students who attend classes on campus at UNC/Chapel Hill get a U.S.-centric perspective around business education, OneMBA students see extremely different models. “Poland was part of the Soviet bloc for a long time in Eastern Europe,” Swaminathan notes. “Now it’s trying to come up and adopt some of the Western capitalistic models. And they are having their challenges. In November, our students will go to Brazil, which is going through a rough period of its own right now in terms of the economy.”

Jose Touzon had worked in operations for a long time when he decided the best way to light a fire under his career was to sign up for the global MBA program at UNC. “It was—I won’t lie—one of the most difficult things that I’ve done in my life, but one of the most rewarding,” he says. Literally and figuratively, it changed his life, first while continuing his career at Menlo, the 3PL arm of Conway, and then giving him the opportunity to take on even bigger challenges at Genco, which recently become a FedEx company.

At Menlo, his global MBA training gave Touzon the wherewithal to successfully take on a huge assignment in guiding company operations in Mexico. That allowed him to grow his professional network from domestic to global as the Mexican assignment took him next to Brazil and on to China, where he led teams that further expanded Menlo’s reach.

“You have to have knowledge of the culture of how the people work, how they think, how they behave, and you have to be able to adapt to that to be able to get the results that we got,” Touzon says. “I attribute a lot of that knowledge to the global MBA. It will give you the confidence to be able to say to your leaders, ‘I want to do this, and here’s why I think I can do this.’ The companies will take notice that you’re pursuing your MBA and everything that entails.”

Four years ago, UNC launched a second global MBA program, this one offering a dual degree program with Tsinghua University in China. Participants earn a master’s in Engineering Management from Tsinghua and an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC.

“It’s specifically geared toward developing future leaders of global supply chains,” according to Swaminathan. “If you think about the global economy today, U.S. and Chinese companies—and the collaborations between them—play a big role in supply chain. Whether it’s electronic or non-electronic, fashion, apparel, industrial—it doesn’t matter because the interaction between Chinese providers and Western providers is critical to the overall success of the supply chain. This program focuses on developing the future leaders of global supply chains.

“In addition to that, we also have residencies in other parts of the world,” Swaminathan continues. “For example, we have residencies in Dubai, Europe, Japan and Korea. Students get to pick and choose which of these residencies they want to attend. We don’t have regular classes, but we do have company visits and industry presentations.”

At the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the business school offers a joint global MBA program in partnership with a school in Cologne, Germany. “It came together through a German grant,” says Paul Ambrose, associate dean, College of Business and Economics, UW-Whitewater. “When they run this class, students do a cross-border project. We put our students and the German students together, and they interact online to solve a problem in a 16-week capstone class. Students get the experience of having to deal with another culture, and another way of doing things. That is for anyone who goes through international business here.”

A global MBA can be rocket fuel for a career, but it’s not easily earned. For the ambitious executive, however, it could be just the thing to take the next step—both personally and for one’s company.

“Critical thinking is something that we focused on,” Scott says. “It is imperative to improving business. Continuous improvement is about always looking for ways to improve. Never rest on your laurels.”


If you want to know what going back to college and taking a degree (or certificate) program in supply-chain management can do for advancing a career, just ask Andre C. Winters, vice president of Business Development with Magno International, a third-party logistics company headquartered in Doral, Florida.

When Winters started out in the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business’ Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management program in August 2014, he was with a different company and hoping to boost his career prospects. He hadn’t even finished the program when Magno approached him about a job. The company’s interest was cinched by learning he was getting his master’s in supply chain.

“I was being recruited through a referral, and my future boss looked at my LinkedIn profile,” Winters says. “One of his first questions was about the USC program. I walked him through it, some of the things I’ve learned, how it changed my perspective. It drove a lot of conversation around what Magno wants to do as a company, how I could be positioned to help transition the business.”

Why did a guy living and working full-time in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area choose a degree program in far-off Los Angeles?

“I was looking for school branding and reputation,” he says. “I was looking at cost, which was a variable because I wanted to make sure I got to the right program. Flexibility, meaning it was an online program with limited on-campus requirements. I also considered the alumni base and its activity, as well as connectivity. The last thing, which was really a key decision maker, was that I’m originally from Northern California. I grew up a USC fan. I said, ‘Hold on there. I get to check the box on one, two, three and four. And I always wanted to be a Trojan!”

Winters says he thinks back often to how impactful his pursuit of higher education was on his future boss during the recruitment process. “In August of 2014, I was probably more of a transportation-driven solutions seller, if you want to call it that, as opposed to now,” he says. “I’ve got a bigger holistic approach to the supply chain. I can talk intelligently now about manufacturing process versus where I was when I started the program.”

Finding examples of supply-chain executives and managers who have seen immediate benefits from going to back to school for degrees or certificates is pretty easy; they’re all around us.

In the past decade, particularly as schools have been able to offer programs online, these executive-degree and certificate programs have become very important for colleges and universities because they offer an opportunity for students to expand their horizons without giving up their careers and home lives.

“The companies can use these as retention opportunities,” says Joel Dupuis, executive education key account director for the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “Or they can be a recruitment tool to say, ‘We’re investing in you, we want you in this program, we see you as a future leader. Please be in this program.’”

Dupuis says ASU sees two types of supply chain executives and managers sign up for its programs. “We have those who are newer to a supply chain role,” he says. “Maybe they’ve been out of school for a couple of years, but they now need to start expanding their knowledge. Maybe they have a degree in engineering or finance, but they need to understand the function. What we’ve also seen over the last couple of years are individuals who have been in industry for 10, 15 years and need to refresh their perspective.”

Tom Moyer, 29, has already spent 11 years working for Tyndale USA, a clothing manufacturer based in Pipersville, Pennsylvania. The company makes OSHA-compliant, fire-resistant clothing for electrical utilities, and oil and gas workers. To date, Moyer—Tyndale’s transportation manager—has taken operations-oriented supply chain management certificate sessions at the Penn State University World Campus’ Smeal College of Business, including forecasting and inventory management, fulfillment operations management, transportation and operations, and supply chain analytics.

His pathway has been a little unusual. He was the company’s shipping manager before being promoted to overseeing transportation, which corresponded with the company opening a distribution center far from Pipersville—in Houston. His boss suggested he could go further with a better understanding of operations.

“Both my boss and my boss’ boss went to Penn State,” Moyer says. “They knew there was an executive program there. And since I’m from Pennsylvania and I root for the Nittany Lions, I thought it was a great idea, too.”

It didn’t hurt, he says, that the company paid for his education.

Eric Carlson, who describes himself as “a budding supply chain professional,” realized five years ago that the one thing that most of his jobs always had in common was the supply chain.

“Whether it was advertising, marketing or just driving trucks in college, I really enjoyed supply chain,” says the Greater Boston resident. “I chose the Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business’ program for a couple of reasons. One is that Northeastern has a big push to keep—or to bring in—people from the professional world. It’s not just students who’ve completed their bachelor degree and go on to get a master’s in Supply Chain, or certificate. They see value in having people with a few years under their belts coming into the classroom and being able to offer real world examples as to what the professor is speaking about.”

When he began taking courses, Carlson saw an opportunity to move from the advertising department at Stop & Shop to the sourcing department as an analyst for the supermarket chain’s private label brands. After several years in that position he is now seeking “a true supply chain job—analyst, coordinator or leader,” he says. “I’m finding this certificate is doing a lot to open doors for me that normally would be closed because it shows initiative on my part.”

Carlson says that he worked on a semester-long group project that was focused on Stop & Shop’s own supply chain.

“Not only did I learn more about the grocery supply chain, I learned about my own company,” he says, “and we provided a few suggestions for recruitment to the director.”

Unlike a lot of classes, the ones Carlson took in supply chain at Northeastern were more than practical. “I can remember a time the professor asked, ‘What percentage of safety stock should you maintain in order to protect your business?’ And somebody who was clearly very young raised their hand, ‘Well the book says it’s “X” percent.’ And the older folks, including myself, had a chuckle. The answer is, ‘It’s whatever you need to make sure you’re never out of stock. Because the first time you’re out of stock, you can explain why you are. And the second time, you’re looking for a job.’”

He says that the school has been supportive of him post-certificate as well, making introductions and guiding his current job search. “It’s a good extended community to be a part of,” according to Carlson. 

Fully Covered

It sounds like an opening scene of Miami Vice: A shipment of televisions worth several hundred thousand dollars waits as a call goes out to the carrier for pickup. Forty-five minutes later, a driver appears to haul away the container. Half an hour later, another driver appears. As it becomes clear the second driver is the legitimate one, the realization sets in that the first was an imposter—and the shipment is never recovered. Though you could accurately call it a television crime drama this was a real-life scene, one that illustrates vulnerabilities in the supply chain.

“These happen all the time,” says Mike Brown, executive vice-president for Avalon Risk Management, which provides insurance and surety products for the transportation industry. “It’s pretty common in the U.S., but it’s also becoming quite common in Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe.”

The men and women who earn their livings selling cargo insurance don’t understand why some manufacturers—who secure their personal lives with property insurance, auto insurance, travel insurance and health insurance—don’t alleviate the risks facing their products as they journey around the globe. There are still too many companies rolling the dice on shipments, chancing the risks of theft, damage, pilferage and total loss against the cost of paying a few percent more for insurance.

But the moment something goes wrong, they usually come around for the future.

What could possibly go wrong? It’s not always a made-for-TV theft—seawater could intrude into containers; containers could be (and often are) dropped during loading and unloading, especially on the trucking legs; refrigeration unit settings could get confused mid-shipment (“Was that Fahrenheit? Or Celsius?”); and, of course, there is always the risk of theft by deception schemes such as dishonest pick-ups.

Cargo at rest is cargo at risk. In other words, whenever cargo stops or sits is when it’s most in danger. As a result of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, many East Coast ports were shut down, causing not only a backlog of cargo out at sea that couldn’t be received, but also of cargo on its way in by truck or rail that couldn’t enter the ports, either. Where did that cargo go? It sat en route, creating an opportunity for theft.

“The goods are out of the manufacturer’s control,” says William Markham, second vice-president at Travelers, Cargo Product Line. “They’ve been put in the transit stream; they don’t have any direct control over them any longer. That’s something to be concerned about. They need to insure it so they feel comfortable and safe about the product getting delivered in sound condition.”

In other words, hope is not a plan.

Scott Cornell, second vice-president at Travelers, Inland Marine Crime and Theft, says the top six states for cargo theft are California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and Illinois. What do they have in common? Ports. And while the ports have done a much better job securing access in the last decade—full load cargo thefts are unusual, according to Cornell—they can’t control what happens away from the ports where many trucking companies perform staging operations.

“Drivers,” Cornell says, “in order to enter a port, are required to have a Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC), which shows they passed a federal background check. But not every driver has a card, whether it’s because they just haven’t gotten through the background check or the company doesn’t want to spend the cost associated and time. So they’ll have a certain number of drivers who do have that access to the port. And those drivers will, on a daily basis, go in and out of the port to get the loads and bring them out. They’ll stage those loads in areas just outside the port, so that the drivers who aren’t working with port access can pick up loads and move that cargo to the final destination. That creates opportunity, a smorgasbord of cargo for the bad guys.”

What kind of cargo gets stolen? It will surprise some people to know that the No. 1 stolen commodity in the United States is food and beverage, according to Cornell. Most people think it’s laptops or TVs and high-end electronics. But in recent years, Cornell says, food and beverage has surpassed electronics. It’s a commodity that’s less traceable; frozen chicken doesn’t have a serial number.

Companies that specialize in cargo shipping insurance want to help their customers with security precautions and transportation best practices. Travelers, for example, offers a dedicated cargo theft unit of experienced investigators and experts.

“We work closely with our insureds,” Cornell says. “If there is a loss, we’ll do an investigation to recover the cargo that was stolen and bring it back to our insured. But what we really want do is work with them on the prevention side. We’ll learn their business, how their company works. Then we’ll make recommendations for right processes and procedures or technology or security devices to prevent cargo theft from happening to them.”

Normal cargo insurance policies are two inches thick, full of ancient mariner clauses and language.

“It’s my job to interpret those clauses, to perfect the coverage to the client’s needs, to make sure there are no gaps in coverage,” says Leslie Wells, cargo insurance product developer at Schenker of Canada Limited.

“Nobody reads their policy. Nobody. That’s why a broker has to be clear. You know who reads contracts? Insurance brokers. Some clients will ask for certain situations, which will give me a guideline as to how to answer them. ‘If my container is stolen from a yard where it’s awaiting pick up, am I covered?’ And depending on the coverage that they purchase, yes. With all risks.”

Carriers and freight forwarders are not responsible for many common causes of loss that occur in transit, according to Wells.

“Acts of God. Floods. Earthquake. I’m not too sure about a blowing up volcano, but I bet that’s not covered, either,” she says. “At the end of the day, if the shipper can successfully prove the carrier is negligent, they would recoup pennies on the dollar. That’s all they’re ever going to get (without insurance).”

Companies invest a lot of money trying to make a product and have everything taken care of, “but they forget about the insurance aspect of it,” says Claudia Belcourt, national claims coordinator for Schenker of Canada. “It’s an investment that needs to be protected at all costs. Don’t look at insurance as an expense, but an investment.”

The experts advise choosing only insurance companies with AAA credit ratings.

And understand where a shipping company’s limited liability ends and general average begins. General average is an internationally accepted principle where certain types of accidents occur in a vessel, and all parties share the loss equally. “Every time there is a general average,” says Belcourt, “the customers are required by the ocean carriers to post a cash deposit in order to obtain a release of the cargo. It is possible that the cargo is not damaged, but they are still responsible to contribute to the loss. In those cases, where the exporter has purchased an insurance policy, the insurance company will step in and facilitate everything for the customer.”

That becomes important because adjustors can take as long as five years to settle these cases.

“If the customer is not insured,” Belcourt says, “and if they have any money coming back to them, it will take years to see those monies back to the companies, if they get it back. When the cargo is insured, the insurance company pays everything.”

Even manufacturers that routinely buy policies may not insure every shipment. “In Schenker, we have an insurance program to provide to our clients,” Belcourt says. “There are some customers that do not wish to insure, dwelling on the cost. We respect the decision of the customer. However, we encourage the customer to insure. Sometimes they are sorry they did not insure, because things do happen.”

Not that any exporter should be surprised if a cargo situation goes south and they can’t recoup their loss. Companies such as Schenker require their clients to sign off on declining coverage. “The coverage from carriers is limited; manufacturers cannot expect to be compensated for everything,” Belcourt says. “With insurance, they are covered.”

“Think about your profit margin,” advises Avalon’s Mike Brown.

“Consider how much business you need to do for free to make up for a lost shipment. You say, okay, I’ve got a shipment that’s valued at $100,000. And if that shipment is destroyed in transit, you’ve got to replace it with another $100,000 shipment. But if your profit margin in your business is 10 percent, what that really means is to make up for the lost profit, you’ve got to do 10 times that amount. You’ve got to do $1 million in business to make up for the one lost shipment. If your profit margin is 5 percent, you’ve got to do fundamentally 20 shipments for free to make up for that lost shipment.”

That would be painful for most manufacturers.

“When people really understand,” Brown says, “when they think about it that way and they understand the limitations—the liability limitations that the carriers have—they’re more inclined to insure their shipments. And more sophisticated shippers do tend to insure their shipments.”

Class Action

Kyani Alford always imagined herself as an industrial engineer. She even landed an internship at Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville in that discipline. But the University of Arkansas junior discovered that dreaming of being an engineer and actually being one were quite different.

But she also discovered the field of supply chain analysis at Wal-Mart and that she greatly enjoyed the opportunity to be customer-oriented. In the year since then, Alford switched fields, joined the Sam M. Walton College of Business and did a second internship—this time with Wal-Mart vendor Nestlé-Purina—which led to a job offer once she graduates in May.

“Since I switched to the Walton College for supply chain,” says Alford, “I’ve learned that when you enjoy something more, you put more effort and time into it. It makes you want to be involved even more.” She is now focused on transportation logistics and became president of the University of Arkansas campus chapter of Women Impacting Supply Excellence (WISE).

However you find that supply chain management school is where you belong, finding the right school for you is another matter. There are many aspects to consider before choosing, starting with whether you will attend on campus or online. After that, what other factors should enter into the equation?

Global Trade talked to officials at two very different programs—Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas and Tennessee State University’s College of Business—looking for advice. Here are five key points to consider when finding a good match for you.

Does the college have a stand-alone supply chain management department?
Many times, supply chain management is lumped in under other departments, says Loray D. Mosher of Sam M. Walton College of Business. “They don’t get the resources they need to be effective. It takes much time, effort and petitioning in order to create an effective supply chain department. Success in this area allows for support focused on the supply chain agenda such as academic expertise and experiential learning opportunities.”

Is the supply chain management department linked to an outreach center?
This is important because it indicates that area corporations are likely involved in the program and its students. Ask for a list of the school’s active companies; do they have a business board of directors? “You can see what industry is there and how they’re participating in the supply chain programs, because then you’re going to know to what you will have access,” Mosher says.

“One of the things Wal-Mart really gets is supply chain,” Mosher adds. “It offers our students the tricks of the trade, which means we can collaboratively shape curriculum to really understand not only theory and research but also true industry application. They’ve put some resources to back that, partnering with curriculum development, providing classroom speakers. And their suppliers and vendors are very involved, too, with the Walton College.”

So while Wal-Mart is the big name on the University of Arkansas marquee, the company’s policy of requiring its business partners to maintain a physical presence in Bentonville brings students into contact with a Who’s Who of supply chain movers and shakers, including J.B. Hunt, FedEx Freight, BNSF Logistics, Arkansas Best Freight, Cargill, Nestle, Tyson, P&G, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson and General Mills.

Likewise, Tennessee State’s Supply Chain Management Governing Board includes Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing, Dell and Wal-Mart that are not only paying attention to its program but are heavily engaged in guiding its curriculum.

“They make sure that scholarship monies are available to our students,” says Tennessee State’s Tracy Pleasants. “They make sure that our students have internships and, upon graduation, we do the networking to ensure that we have students who will work for some of these companies. If I [were] looking to go into a supply chain management program, that would be something that would appeal to me.”

Is the supply chain management program academically credible?
Investigate the faculty’s professional output; in what type of journals and on what topics are they being published? How frequently are they publishing? “You don’t have to get real deep into it,” Mosher says, “but look at the Journal of Business Logistics or the Journal of Supply Chain Management. Where are its contributors teaching?”

Does the program have at least one executive-in-residence on its teaching roster?
The University of Arkansas has Wesley B. Kemp, who was the CEO for Arkansas Best Freight (ABF) for 40 years. “When he was getting ready to retire, he maintained a connection with the university, and now he teaches courses on capitalism and the business environment,” Mosher says. “He has the type of experience that you just can’t get in any other way. That presence brings an experiential dynamic that you’re never going to get with just theory-based procedure alone.”

Pleasants says that besides opening doors for students, executives on campus offer administrators credible, competitive input from a non-academic perspective.

“Think about them saying, ‘I looked at your curriculum, these are things I see that are missing.’ And they can help us adjust to whatever is going on in the marketplace at that time to ensure that our students are capable and ready to be hired once they graduate, based on the shift in the marketplace.”

Is the business school accredited?
Normal accreditation is earned through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). According to the association’s website, there are 739 business schools in 48 countries and territories that have earned AACSB accreditation. But some schools just aren’t, and so you may not gain real, transferable skill sets unless that’s in place.

Balancing Act

At 39, Brad Liddie’s interest in going back to school and expanding his advancement opportunities at Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Kenco neatly aligned with his employer’s new training partnership with the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK).

“It had been a number of years that I’d been out of school,” says Liddie, who has been with Kenco since 2001 and is currently VP of Operations, “and I recently went through APICS certification for supply chain leadership. I think I may have been at the right place at the right time and I got a ton of support from my company to be able to do that.”

In addition to his job, Liddie—a Marine Corps veteran—balanced going back to school against the demands of home, his wife and two children.

“I felt like I had a really good support system on both sides,” he says. “My mentor at work encouraged me to invest in myself. And the same goes for my wife and kids. My wife made a number of sacrifices so that I could focus on study or travel that was required for school. Without her support, it wouldn’t have been possible.”

Liddie, Kenco and UTK are part of the evolution of modern executive MBA and certification programs that use combinations of night, end-of-the-week, and/or online classes to provide access to enhanced skills and knowledge to more men and women already ensconced in corporate America.

Many employees in logistics and manufacturing can be sent back to school, concurrently with their career, to master a given skill set. Education leaders at UTK, Florida State University in Tallahassee and Arizona State University spoke to Global Trade about how they work with executive students and employers to make the return to school as fluid, cost- and time-effective as possible for all parties.

Some CEOs don’t realize what’s available to them, or perhaps they know about the programs but have hesitations. In most cases, these situations are really a win-win: The student can advance his or her education and career (often with financial support provided by the employer), and the employer can gain great value from the employee. In some cases, through student projects and such, the employees will take on a challenge with the help of instructors and bring an immediate dollar value back to the company.

At UTK, Liddie’s course of study required two weeks on-site every quarter—sometimes in Knoxville, once in Europe, once in Asia. The rest of his study experience was online, giving him great flexibility in balancing the demands of work, home and school.

Larry Giunipero is the Tom Petrillo Term Professor of Supply Chain Management and director of the Global Supply Chain Management Center at Florida State University.

Classes in FSU’s online executive masters program focus on upstream and downstream supply chain management and include: Global Strategy; Purchasing and Supply Chain; Operations Management; Logistics and Supply Chain; and Business-to-Business Marketing.

“The online MBAs are mostly employed, doing the balancing act,” Giunipero says. “The full-timers, of course, have to take a sabbatical from work or they just withdraw from their current employer. Perhaps they go back, or perhaps find other opportunities.”
Which, obviously, is a reason some employers blanched at funding the traditional executive MBA model. Why should a company pay for a top executive or mid-level manager to take a year off and go back to school with no guarantee of a return on investment?

That’s exactly the issue that modern executive MBA and certificate programs have been reconfigured to combat.

“One of the benefits of online is you don’t have to show up at 8 a.m. for a class because you’ve got the flexibility to take it within the parameters that the instructor sets for the course,” Giuinpero says.
Some universities and colleges offer hybrid programs wherein students come to campus for a week or a weekend to complete certain assignments or attend special lectures. How long it takes to complete an executive degree or certificate program largely rests with the student, who might take one class per semester or as many as two or three.

Arizona State University recently absorbed the Thunderbird School of Global Management. As a result, in development for Fall 2016 at ASU is an online global trade and commerce certificate program with a substantial logistics segment.

“It will have a separate course on the politics of alliances, how you do a trade alliance, whether you should be in NAFTA, Trans-Pacific, all those kinds of things,” says Arnold Maltz, associate professor of Supply Chain Management and director of the Master of Science in Global Logistics program at ASU. “It will have my class, which is strictly on emerging markets and how you actually do business and trade in emerging markets, especially emphasizing the physical distribution side of it. It will also have electives that could be anything from overseas assignments and overseas projects, which Thunderbird has done for many, many years, to cultural awareness.”

There are executive MBA candidates who represent high potential or key talent to their employers. They have deep experience in a particular area of business—maybe as a plant manager, director of procurement, distribution or transportation operations. Or maybe they’ve been in project management and strategy, but they haven’t necessarily had the experience or the breadth across the organization to be able to put things together in how a supply chain can deliver value to the business.

“That’s the type of student that we’ve targeted for our supply chain management program,” according to Shay D. Scott, managing director of the Global Supply Chain Institute at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. “We designed our program from the ground up with that in mind. It’s an 11-month program; starts in January, ends in December. We tinkered with different program lengths and zeroed in on the one-year timeframe as deep enough that you can get a transformative experience, but not so long that you keel over and are in a ditch before you graduate.”

Scott notes that while supply chain management is male-dominated, UTK’s 2016 incoming class is 55 percent female, “because the companies are selecting key female talent to diversify their leadership ranks. It’s a great thing for the supply chain.”

Donna Deason earned a bachelors degree in chemical engineering and hadn’t been in a classroom in more than two decades when she committed herself to earning an executive MBA from UTK in 2015.

“It’s going well for me,” says the global business director for Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Tennessee. “I took the time upfront to make sure that, one, I was committed and I was going to be positive about the experience; and, two, that I would find a program that really fit my needs, because not all MBA or Executive MBA programs are the same.”

Deason says Eastman Chemical sees the benefit in continuing education. “They’re very happy to look for corporate funding for these types of things so you don’t also have the emotional stress of paying for it out of your own pocket, as many of my peers in this program have done,” she says. “I was blessed to have corporate funding and the backing that said, ‘You don’t have to take vacation when you’re away on these courses and class time. Work it into your business role. Get your business job done.’ They were very supportive.”

Mary Curran is a costumer/buyer in Creative Costuming at the Walt Disney Co. in Orlando, Florida, a management-level position that includes elements of global undertaking because many of the costumes that her department makes go out to Disney parks around the world. She is currently in the fourth of seven semesters in FSU’s online executive masters program.

“About five years into my career here, I had become a full-time manager,” she says. “I’d had some really great opportunities to travel worldwide for the company. It’s a company where turnover in upper-level management jobs is very low. People love them and hold onto them as much as they can. Toward my fifth year, a lot of people I worked with were getting ready to retire. So I figured that I would go back to school.”

Fortunately for her, Disney offers an extremely generous tuition reimbursement program, one that took a great deal of stress out of the decision to keep working while expanding her global knowledge.

“My role at Disney involves some supply chain aspects,” Curran explains. “As a buyer, we do purchase ordering, vendor selection and vendor score cards. Learning the supply chain material has been beneficial for me because it explains why we do a lot of the things we do.”

Is it possible to quantify the value of a company investing in an executive MBA for a single employee?
UTK’s Scott says yes.

“On average,” he says, “our students return $6.5 million in savings or incremental revenue growth back to their company on a three-year basis. That’s actually, for some of the students, a tiny number. We had a student that accomplished a project that was valued at over $100 million. And we’ve had some that are smaller. It’s not always necessarily about the direct dollar savings, but it’s a win-win.”

Keep Control

Crazy Mountain Brewing Co. is crazy like a fox in understanding that, when it comes to exporting its fast-growing craft beer brands overseas, its expertise begins and ends at its shipping dock.

The Vail, Colorado-based company, which will register $2 million in sales this year, sends 20 percent of its total production of labels such as “Old Soul Strong Belgian Ale” and “Lawyers, Guns and Money” to Asia and Europe. The brewery recognized early on that it needed third-party logistics companies (3PLs) to help safely and wisely move its precious cargo across long distances of land and sea.

“We’ve pretty much gone through third-party logistics companies from day one,” says Crazy Mountain CEO and brewmaster Kevin Selvy. “We want to focus on producing beer. And we don’t want to kind of spend our time worrying about logistics or anything like that. We’re dealing with importers that are fairly well versed and familiar with how to get beer from A to B, so we kind of followed their lead of picking up the beer from our door and making sure it gets where it’s going safe and is treated the right way. If we were trying to go direct to retail or direct to wholesalers, it probably would have been a different story.”

Even with 3PLs in charge, shipping isn’t worry-free.

“We’ve seen about all of it,” Selvy says. “We’ve had to deal with all the joys of containers falling off a boat. And during the port shutdown in Oakland, we had a container of beer that sat there waiting for (the strike) to get resolved. It was a refrigerated container, but the power to it went off. The beer sat there in a 100-degree yard for a month. The beer was ruined. And we didn’t find out that the beer was ruined until (it arrived a month later). It’s not like we can shuffle to replace the beer there the next day. We’ve dealt with a number of challenges and we’ve learned the hard way how to do it and how not to do it.”

Crazy Mountain, which ships to eight European importers and two in Asia, works with three different 3PLs and generally accepts the logistics firm chosen by its importers—but not always.

“We have certain standards that need to be followed in terms of cold transport and everything being handled the right way,” says Selvy. “There have been a couple of times we’ve said we won’t load a container for this company or that company. Our importers understand our sensitivities in terms of the way our products need to be treated and they communicate that fairly diligently to their shipping partners.”

Every situation is different, so when does it make sense to use a 3PL rather than leave shipping to your foreign partner?

“I enjoy working with the smaller exporters because there can be a lot of trepidation in all of a sudden looking to go outside of the U.S. for marketing products,” says Transplace director of International Logistics, Mollie Bailey. “It’s always exciting and satisfying to be able to work with new exporters and help guide them through the myriad of compliance and regulatory issues. It can be super stressful; it can be confusing. There are lots of experts out there, and it’s hard for somebody that’s new to know that they’re getting good guidance from their providers.”

What’s to know? For starters, regulatory components such as the export filing. You have to arrange for U.S. inland freight to get it to the airport or port. You have to arrange the ocean freight, and then there’s the overseas customs.

“Unless the overseas buyer is taking up some of the seller’s slack, it’s rare that a U.S. exporter is going to be able to do everything on their own,” Bailey says. “For the most part, they’re going to want to work with a third party to hold their hand through all these different processes and requirements. If you’re shipping small parcels via FedEx, UPS or DHL, that’s one thing. But if you’re shipping pallets that are worth $2,500 or more, you’re going to have to be responsible for submitting data for an export declaration from the U.S. Shippers that do that themselves are usually big companies that know what they’re doing and have a really well-defined process. For the most part, a small- or medium-sized shipper won’t have the resources or knowledge.”

Cindi Bartlett, vice president of Global Business at Mallory Alexander International Logistics, says her goal with every small- to medium-size manufacturer moving into exporting is to make sure they understand how their entire supply chain will work from domestic to overseas—even though the idea of a 3PL is to give them less to worry about.

“It makes their transportation move smoothly,” Bartlett says. “We discuss their business as a whole: the beginning of the supply chain to the delivery point, what kind of customer they’re selling to overseas—or what kind of customer they’re buying from—and all aspects of the business. We can make sure that they’re sending their cargo with the right documentation, that they’re making the right choices when it comes to doing their contracts negotiation and that their product is going into the right port or airport. An educated customer is the best customer. And we need to understand their business and philosophy of doing business. Are they selling to a military base? What type of customer is their end user? There’s a lot involved. If we just say, ‘I’m going to pick it up and handle it,’ and we don’t know many of the details, that’s not a smart way to handle freight and international logistics or 3PL.”

That might be good for the folks at Crazy Mountain to know. For its next act, the brewery is putting together an importing company of its own in the UK because its sales volume there has grown big enough to where it makes more sense for the company to be its own importer.

“We will work with a 3PL manager to take the beer from our door here to our door over there,” Selvy says. “Whereas now we have an importer managing, we’ll start managing that ourselves.”