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Supply-Chain Schooling

Supply chain management executive education Michigan State University

Supply-Chain Schooling

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.

Mastering Supply Chain(left) Whip Mix Corp.’s president James W. Myers chose MSU’s Supply-Chain Management program because it is one of the best in the nation, and it fit his schedule.
Mastering Supply Chain
(left) Whip Mix Corp.’s president James W. Myers chose MSU’s Supply-Chain Management program because it is one of the best in the nation, and it fit his schedule.

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.




When Michael Wood’s career as Boeing’s program manager of 787 Business Operations hit a ceiling, he decided to search for an MBA program that could expand his horizons. “I am at a point in my career where an MBA was only going to open more doors and create more opportunities for me going forward,” he says. After spending most of his early professional life in Detroit’s automotive industry, Wood had moved into aerospace in 2008. Now, says Wood, “I needed to learn how to look at the business from a global perspective.” He found that many traditional MBA programs required full-time commitments, were too inflexible for his schedule or a poor fit for his needs.

Then he found the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business offers a professional MBA (PMBA)—in addition to its traditional MBA program—that runs on a Friday-Saturday schedule for active executives. “It is a large and very successful program,” says Kathleen Dolan, MBA director. “Both MBA programs are very focused on international business and cover advanced operations, finance and other areas,” she says. Students of the PMBA program have options to take two-week trips abroad and meet daily with CEOs. “The program is really aimed at executives who want to push themselves beyond their comfort zones,” Dolan says.

WORLD CLASSROOM South Carolina’s Moore School of Business offers Professional MBA classes with flexible Friday-Saturday schedules for active executives.
WORLD CLASSROOM South Carolina’s Moore School of Business offers Professional MBA classes with flexible Friday-Saturday schedules for active executives.

Wood looked at several universities in the area before selecting the PMBA program at USC-Moore. “My interest is in international business,” he says. “The Moore School is nationally ranked in this specialized area, offers the most flexibility, and I did not want an online program. I wanted a program that offers access to world-class education and an opportunity to collaborate with business leaders and interact with peers who had diverse experiences and backgrounds. The Moore School offered all of this in their PMBA program.”

Wood hoped the program would help him gain a better understanding of business analysis and integration to further develop his business planning and strategy role at Boeing. “There are a lot of data available and enough metrics to make your head spin,” he says. However, this raises questions such as: Is the data reliable? And is it the right data to help assist the leadership team with prioritizing projects and decision-making? “I also wanted to gain the ability to further understand and analyze the external effects of the global business environment, culture and trends that could influence the commercial airplane market,” he says.

The international business classes provided Wood, who graduated in May, with a better understanding of the cultural impacts of organizational behavior. “They have also provided me with the skills to adopt to the challenges that arise in cross-cultural communication and improved interaction with my commercial airline customers,” he says.

A Degree Of Elevation

This Air Force Veteran’s UPS Career Took Off Thanks to a Master’s in Transportation and Logistics Management

When UPS hired Lloyd Knight in 2007, the Air Force veteran with a bachelor’s degree in Transportation and Logistics Management from American Military University (AMU) quickly learned that resting on his scholastic laurels wouldn’t fly. “UPS places a strong emphasis on education,” he says, “and a degree is usually required for a promotion to supervisor or manager.”

Hired on as government tender manager, he was promoted in 2008 to government operations support group manager, again in 2009 to global government operations manager, and yet again in 2012 to director, global government operations. That title—director—carries weight, so it wasn’t without some heavy lifting in the classroom that Knight earned his master’s degree from American Public University (APU) and, by extension, the full faith of the UPS brass.

“I entered the master’s program in early 2010 and finished in 2012,” Knight says. “I had such a good experience at AMU the first time around with the bachelor’s program that I didn’t even look around for another school for the master’s program.”

Based in Charles Town, West Virginia, American Public University System (AMUS) includes AMU and APU. One degree the system offers is a Master of Arts in Transportation and Logistics Management, which Knight attained. “This degree program also offers a concentration in reverse logistics in specific, so students can get both the ‘forward’ and ‘backward’ perspective on logistics,” explains Jennifer S. Batchelor, Ph.D., program director and associate professor, Transportation & Logistics Management. APUS also offers two graduate certificates, in Logistics Management and Leadership in Logistics. “These are the key opportunities and educational offerings that we have for higher level executives,” she adds.

What separates APUS from other universities? “A lot of the programs in other universities focus on supply chain in general, while we dig a little deeper into transportation and logistics,” Batchelor says. “This is really our competitive advantage.”

Knight says he was looking for general information on commercial logistics. “I didn’t have anything specific that I wanted to learn,” he admits. “However, at the time, I didn’t realize just how much the education was going to do for me and how much I was going to use it.”

When he graduated in January 2012 as a member of APU’s Dean’s List with a GPA of 3.89, among his completed courses were Global Logistics Management, Strategic Intermodal Transportation, Research Methods in Transportation and Logistics Management, Transportation Policy and Planning, Transportation Economics, History of Transportation, and courses on security for both ports and airports—not a class selection available at the local J.C. “If you want a really dry read,” he says, “[check out] my thesis,” which happens to be on cargo security in the U.S.

We’ll take his word for it.

NOTHING TO TURN YOUR NOSE UP AT: The standard 747-400 Freighter, like this UPS-owned craft, can carry 124 tons of cargo up to 4,450 nautical miles, according to Boeing.
NOTHING TO TURN YOUR NOSE UP AT: The standard 747-400 Freighter, like this UPS-owned craft, can carry 124 tons of cargo up to 4,450 nautical miles, according to Boeing.

Dry as it may be, Knight’s thesis—and the focus of so many of his courses—was uniquely relevant to his everyday duties. “I manage thousands of sensitive shipments each year for the Department of Defense and defense contractors,” he says. “Shipments such as medical supplies, military unit equipment, military retail and military supplies can have an effect on readiness and troop morale and welfare.”

Knight is responsible for developing operational strategies to meet government business requirements, and ensuring that UPS remains compliant with government regulations and directives. “I was an expert in Department of Defense transportation regulations prior to this degree, but I knew very little about National Transportation Policy,” he says.

Through the APU program, Knight also studied the Certified Cargo Screening Program in great detail—an important knowledge base considering he works for a freight-forwarder that sends a large portion of its cargo by passenger aircraft. Though he had a strong grasp of the air transportation industry as he began his master’s degree coursework, he was able to gain knowledge of other transportation modes of great importance to adapting along with governmental needs. “Over the last several years the military has made great efforts to reduce its dependency on air freight and shifted to ocean, ground and multi-modal modes,” he says.

The program also helped him improve his management abilities. “I manage about $200 million worth of business a year with 22 people in five different teams that handle multiple government contracts, so management skills are important,” he says. His ability to do so was no doubt improved by APU’s Leadership course.

As Knight looks back, he says the biggest challenge of being in the program was the time commitment. “I was putting in 10 to 14 hours a day at UPS, plus spending one to five hours a day on school work. At the time, I didn’t realize just how much the education was going to do for me and how much I was going to use it.”

Knight says one personal benefit he took away from APU and draws on every day is his enhanced written communication ability. “My military education had given me a good background in verbal communication and giving speeches. However, an online program is more about writing than interacting verbally and giving speeches, so I was definitely able to improve my writing skills.”

There was one last benefit Knight hadn’t foreseen would result from his higher education:

“I deal with many senior ranking officers in the military, and with a master’s degree, I’m now on equal footing education-wise.”

One if by Air, Two if by Sea

CEOs Discuss When to Ship the Same Product by Air and Sea

When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his famous line, “One if by land, and two if by sea,” in Paul Revere’s Ride, air travel had not been invented. These days, when exporters are considering shipping options overseas, land, of course, is not an option, but air and sea are. And this can lead to an important question: When does it make sense to ship by air, and when does it make sense to ship by sea?

According to Catherine Petersen, president of C.J. Petersen & Associates in St. Paul, Minnesota, if an exporter has a long-term relationship with a foreign company, such as a distributor, it will probably make arrangements to ship most products by sea, except in emergency situations, in which case it may need to ship its freight by air.

However, such a decision isn’t always in the hands of the exporter, Petersen notes. In some cases, especially for small to medium-sized exporters, the customer will choose the routing by identifying the forwarder, which will then make arrangements for the transportation. “As a result, some exporters will have no idea how their products are going to move until after the fact,” she states.

In some situations, though, they may know in advance, based on the size of the shipment. For example, if it is a less-than-container load (LTL) shipment, the exporter can assume it will probably go into an air freight consolidation. “If it is a full container load shipment, though, the exporter can assume it will probably go by sea, and they can then package, load and secure it accordingly,” Petersen says.

For exporters that do have the opportunity to make the decision, shipping the same product by air in some instances and by sea in other instances is very common, according to Sheila Hewitt vice president of international for Frisco, Texas-based Transplace. “However, it can be quite the dilemma, depending on the product line and the sensitivity,” she says. “The first thing we do is try to understand the objectives of the customer, the timeline and the type of product.”

CEVA Logistics of Houston, Texas, is another company that helps exporters assess options. “Our clients think of it in terms of ‘total landed cost,’” states Kim Wertheimer, senior vice president, industrial sector. “Freight cost is a key component. However, there may also be inventory costs, and cost of lost sales if you don’t have what your customers need when they need it.”

So when does it make sense to ship by air instead of by sea? It depends on the situation. In some instances, air freight is virtually required (reactive shipping). In others, it is optional, part of a strategic initiative (proactive shipping).

When It May be Necessary

Reactive Shipping

One common reason for air shipping is if a customer is in a critical situation, where expediting is necessary. “For example, there may be a component that is an important part of a production line, and the production line would have to be shut down if the component doesn’t arrive in time,” points out Transplace’s Hewitt. In such a situation, air is more costly than sea. However, it actually ends up being less expensive than the cost of shutting down the production line due to delayed delivery.

A second common reason is that a company may be behind in product production, and would thus be late in a delivery to a customer. “If it is a case where they want to make an investment in that customer relationship, build trust and build a reputation of reliability, they may be willing to bear the extra cost of air freight, even if it is a low-value product,” observes Hewitt. In some cases, the cost of the air freight may be more than the value of the product itself, but it is still worth the cost in the long term.

One company willing to commit to air freight to meet customer needs is Huhtamaki North America of De Soto, Kansas, a manufacturer of consumer goods packaging, tableware, cups, folding cartons, containers, carriers, trays and service ware for the food-service industry and retail markets. The company’s portfolio includes Chinet, the leading brand of premium disposable tableware. “What we normally ship overseas are paper food containers, molded fiber and plastic food containers,” says Dave Batt, logistics coordinator. “There are instances where we ship by air in an expedited situation, where ocean transportation would take too long.”

A third commohn reason relates to an unexpected surge in demand for product. “An event may occur that spikes demand for a product which has normally been shipped by ocean,” says CEVA’s Wertheimer. “However, in order to capture that market, you may need to expedite the product by air.”

Finally, unexpected events, such as weather, can determine shipping options. “For example, after a volcano eruption in Europe last year, a lot of airports were shut down, so even expedited air freight shipments ended up being late,” says Transplace’s Hewitt.

When it May be Optional

Proactive Shipping

One common strategic—rather than reactive—reason for shipping by air rather than sea is when an exporter is shipping higher-value products where time is critical, and the value of the product is ultimately the value of the inventory, which could be offset by the air freight premium. “For example, with technology products, there is usually a higher price for a product at introduction,” notes Wertheimer. Over time, the price is reduced as newer technology is introduced. As a result, a company may ship a product by air early in its life cycle, and then by sea later on.

A second, and related, reason may be when the exporter takes total landed cost of high-value products, such as electronics, into account. “Here, it usually makes sense to choose air,” states Transplace’s Hewitt.

An exporter may also ship by air may be if it has products that are sensitive to theft or damage, which, of course, can include electronics. Air may also be preferable during product launches, where you want to get products on the shelf quickly and tie in some type of marketing or promotion activity. “The replenishment can then be by sea,” adds Wertheimer.

“We normally ship by sea,” reports Huhtamaki’s Batt. “One reason that we might ship by air, though, is if we have a new product roll-out situation where we want to get prototypes and samples in front of our customers to make sure that everything is correct. Then, once they approve them, we will make regular container-load shipments by sea.”

A final consideration for shipping by air may relate to the amount of product being shipped. “For example, it is less expensive and faster to ship a full-container shipment of product by ocean than a less-than-container shipment,” Wertheimer points out. “Not only are less-than-container shipments slower, but in some cases, the fixed costs or minimum costs on a less-than-container shipment may be more than the cost of shipping it by air.”

World Class

Businesses are Gaining the Advantage Through Global Executive Education Programs

Richard Castagna, assistant vice president of operations for the southern region of Union Pacific Railroad (Spring, Texas), has a commitment to life-long education. After Castagna received his bachelor’s degree and was working for the railroad, he returned to school to get a master’s degree. “I realized that getting the master’s really opened up a lot of opportunities for me in the railroad,” he states. He then recently decided to return to school once more, this time to get his Ph.D. “I don’t believe the Ph.D. will open up that many more opportunities for me or lead to significantly more compensation,” he admits. “However, I wanted to pursue the degree for two reasons.” One is that he might want to do something with it when he retires, such as teach or consult. “More important and more immediate, though, is to directly help the railroad,” he states. Castagna currently has 402 managers reporting to him.

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