University of Nebraska–Lincoln business students won first place in the inaugural supply chain competition hosted at the Specialty Tool and Fastener Distributor Association (STAFDA) conference in San Diego. Seven students from the College of Business and Supply Chain Club attended the conference, which included the four winning team members Malik Al Waail, Vy Bui, Isaac Ruzicka and Hannah Walker.
“Each fall, STAFDA’s Annual Convention & Trade Show brings members together for educational workshops, a world-class trade show and networking opportunities, inviting a select number of students to attend. The supply chain competition is an efficient venue for demonstrating students’ skill set to cope with relevant and challenging supply chain problems STAFDA members face daily,” said Erkut Sönmez, associate professor of supply chain management and analytics, who accompanied the students with Scott Swenseth, faculty director of Business Graduate Programs and associate professor of supply chain management and analytics, as faculty sponsors. “This competition also provides an excellent opportunity to start and improve industry and university collaboration via the discussion of real world supply chain challenges.”
Student teams from universities across the nation simulated the management of a company, with the goal of turning it profitable through supply chain based strategy and decision-making. Prior to the conference, teams had the opportunity to review information about the organization and potential decision scenarios they might encounter during the competition.
Each student held a key position in purchasing, supply chain, sales or operations. As the head of purchasing on the team, Walker experienced realistic concerns of a supply chain professional.
“Within my role, I was able to negotiate with suppliers, control how to source our products, and choose different supplier options such as product quality, delivery windows, order size, lot size and safety stock,” Walker said.
Concepts and practices from supply chain courses, such as Supply Chain Planning and Control Systems (SCMA 432), helped give students an edge in the competition.
“The simulation was essentially running a business from a supply chain standpoint, which I would have struggled with if I did not have prior knowledge to lean back on. Understanding lead times, inventory fluctuations, outsourcing pros and cons, and product flow were key in being able to interpret our outcomes,” Walker said.
Bui also credited strong communication between the team members leading to their success.
“We listened to each other in the competition, working as a team and individually, making sure everyone’s role made sense. I don’t think we would have won without our great teamwork,” she said.
The competition gave the students real-world insight into what future careers in supply chain could look like and how to prepare for it.
“I realized the importance of adapting to new ideas and view change as a business asset instead of a liability. This simulation had many outcomes in that you had no control over, which stressed the importance of controlling what you can and leaving the rest to trusting your team in the process,” Walker said.
Outside of the competition, students attended educational workshops and a trade show. They also had the chance to observe supplier-buyer trade transactions, deals and negotiations while networking with professionals.
“I had opportunities to talk with many companies, along with engineers who created a product shown in the trade show. They told me about the history and process of the product and even asked me to apply to their company,” said Bui.
Sönmez explained how attending conferences and participating in competitions benefit students.
“This competition is a great experience for our students where they can work as a team in a real-life setting to improve a company's operations via the supply chain decisions they study during their coursework at the College of Business. In addition, it is a great opportunity for our students to network with their peers at other institutions and supply chain experts from several companies across the nation,” he said.
As president of the Supply Chain Club at Nebraska, Walker stated the conference serves as one of the many benefits of the recognized student organization.
“Since joining the club my freshman year, I have gained so many amazing connections with businesses in the community as well as a deeper look at how supply chains are integrated differently from business to business. Not only has this club helped me acquire the logistics position I have now, but it has also given me real-world experience at a young age,” she said.
Students that attended the conference include:
Published: December 7, 2022
- Malik Al Waail, senior supply chain management major from Sohar, Oman
- Vy Bui, junior supply chain management major from Bien Hoa, Vietnam
- Ashlyn Dierks, junior management major from Papillion, Nebraska
- Vy Nguyen, supply chain management major from Lincoln, Nebraska
- Isaac Ruzicka, senior business administration major from Grand Island, Nebraska
- Hannah Walker, junior supply chain management major from Parkville, Missouri
- Whitney Wullenwaber, junior accounting major from Bennington, Nebraska