When whip Mix Corp. was going through its “lean journey” to find waste within its operation, company president James W. Myers says the search was totally internally focused. The Louisville, Kentucky-based business, which manufactures and sells dental occlusion products and related equipment to a worldwide market, didn’t find all it was looking for. “Then, we started looking beyond our company,” says Myers. Whip Mix had a distribution office in Germany, as well as suppliers in other countries, and was considering manufacturing facilities in Asia. “We realized that we needed to be looking at the whole movement of goods from our supply base to our manufacturing center here in Louisville and to our international customers,” he explains.
As a way to learn more about these issues and opportunities, Myers didn’t want to just attend a seminar on supply chain. “I wanted an intensive, formal study of what all of that entailed, so I started looking around at some degree programs,” he says. At first, he looked locally. However, he eventually ended up seeing an ad in a logistics magazine for the program at Michigan State University. “I studied the curriculum and realized it was exactly what I needed to study. I also learned that it was one of the top-ranking programs in the nation, and it also fit my schedule.”
The Broad College of Business at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing offers a number of advanced degree programs. One is a two-year MBA program, which accepts about 90 students a year, about half of whom tend to be supply-chain people. “These are often people who are moving from one industry to another and need the depth and breadth of learning that our program offers,” explains David Closs, Ph.D., John H. McConnell Chaired Professor in Business Administration in the college’s Department of Supply Chain Management.
MSU also offers a master’s in science degree program in supply chain, which is tailored to the needs of working executives. Over the course of two years, the executives come to campus four times for 12-day stays. The program has 36 total credits—24 in supply chain, seven in other areas such as communication and data analysis, and five toward a project that most executives apply to their company. “We have about 20 people a year in this program,” states Closs. “They graduate in 19 to 36 months, depending on how they schedule their courses.”
The school also offers non-degree executive education programs lasting anywhere from three days to a week, focusing on supply chain management or functional areas of logistics, procurement, technology, etc. “We also have a non-degree online supply-chain program, but we are moving toward the idea of allowing people to take some of their degree courses online,” he continues. This is in eight-week modules.
The department’s overall focus in supply-chain education is to emphasize a broad and balanced approach. “We see supply chain as integrated all the way from raw materials to delivery to the customer,” Closs explains.
Myers is definitely satisfied with his experience. “It not only met my expectations, but actually exceeded my expectations,” he reports. “While I started with the interest of learning how to make the right decisions in terms of the movement of goods, I ended up learning a lot more. For example, I began to learn about the whole concept of total cost.” As noted earlier, at the time, the company was seriously looking at China as a place for its manufacturing. “However, after learning more about total cost, we decided to keep some of our manufacturing in the U.S.,” he says.
In addition, since being in the program, Myers has shared a lot of what he learned with his staff, such as how to remove waste from the supply chain and continue to streamline it. “As a result, we are now able to use our business model and our supply chain as a competitive advantage,” he points out.
In the future, Myers hopes to get more of the company’s people into the MSU program.