Four University of Nebraska–Lincoln business students claimed a national supply chain competition championship for the second year in a row.
Majid Al Harthy, Aaron Ebrahim, Aidan Linder and Phuong Hanh Nguyen competed using an interactive web-based business simulation game at the Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA) Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The theme of this year's challenge was Working Capital Management, and Inchainge, a global organization based in the Netherlands, provided the simulation game.
A 47-year-old educational trade association, STAFDA includes distributors, manufacturers, agents and trade press serving the construction and industrial market from around the globe. Companies range in size from family-owned businesses to multi-national conglomerates. Each fall, STAFDA’s Annual Convention & Trade Show brings members together for educational workshops, a trade show and networking opportunities and invites a select number of students to attend.
"Having a supply chain competition at STAFDA’s convention is a great tool to boost student engagement and industry-university collaboration. It is an efficient venue for demonstrating student skill sets to cope with relevant and challenging supply chain problems STAFDA members are facing on a daily basis. It also provides an excellent opportunity to start and improve industry and university collaboration via the discussion of real-world supply chain challenges," said Erkut Sönmez, associate professor of supply chain management and analytics, who served as the team's faculty advisor and attended training to learn the simulation game.
Called The Cool Connection, the game requires competitors to make strategic decisions in managing a manufacturing company of personal care products. Working in teams of four, each student represented a functional role in sales, purchasing, supply chain management or finance.
"The Cool Connection is a data-driven tool for us to visualize the complex relationships between different roles within the manufacturing industry and foster strategic decisions to overcome real-life dilemmas. It allows us to analyze from the different perspectives of each role and how they best align, ultimately implementing an effective supply chain flow," said Nguyen, a senior supply chain management major from Hai Phong, Vietnam.
The simulation game provides three core learning solutions: working capital management, integrated business planning and supply chain finance.
"I was in the finance role and estimated how well our company would do financially. I had to take out loans and adjust our current ratio accordingly," said Linder, a senior supply chain management major from Omaha, Nebraska. "Through the simulation, we learned about the strategic decisions needed to run a production facility and distribute product."
The competition included four rounds with the last two taking place in San Antonio at the convention.
"As crucial as the other roles are, my role was sales, and I was able to develop sales strategies and negotiate prices with different types of customers. It was challenging for our team to meet the service level we offer while making profits for the company. However, I learned that while ensuring that products meet customer expectations, we must also consider taking calculated risks associated with production intervals or having to sell products for cheaper prices," said Nguyen.
The students credited their success to what they gained in their supply chain courses at Nebraska.
"Specifically, Operations and Supply Chain Management (SCMA 331) with Dr. Sönmez and Supply Chain Planning and Control Systems (SCMA 432) with Dr. Swenseth have played a major role in developing my supply chain knowledge. Everything from the formulas we learn in class to using real-life experiences to connect them with the industry has helped me gain the logic behind supply chain operations. This transitioned to competency in being able to analyze the data in order to make successful strategic decisions for the simulation," said Al Harthy, a junior supply chain major from Muscat, Oman.
Sonmez shared how the wide array of supply chain management courses covers various aspects of supply chain management decisions.
"Following their coursework at the College of Business, our students can take a holistic approach in their decision-making process, considering the impact of supply chain management decisions on different business functions. The simulation games require a comprehensive understanding of relations between those business functions, which is the key to success in practice for companies. Our students learn the 'systems thinking' concept, which helps them create the best solutions considering various business dimensions," Sönmez said.
Published: November 17, 2023