Supply chain management students take second place at national case competition

Wayne State University’s School of Business Administration took second place at the 32nd annual Operation Stimulus Conference and Case Competition, hosted by the Denver Transportation Club. Operation Stimulus gives students the chance to put their supply chain management skills to the test in mock scenarios those in the field might encounter. This year’s case focused on distributing medical supplies to an international medical organization.

This is Wayne State’s third year participating in the competition. The team was comprised of Tyler Haksluoto, Lovejeet Sidhu, Caitlin Himes and Melissa Zack. Lori Sisk, adjunct faculty of supply chain management, coached the team. This was the first time these senior business students participated in the Operation Stimulus competition.

Michigan State University placed first at the competition.

“As much as we would have loved to come in first place, we made a big statement of our potential and talent,” Himes said.

This competition is giving Wayne State national exposure as a major competitor in the supply chain management field. WSU previously competed in 2011 and 2012, but did not make it to the finals.

“In the end, I felt we all had a strong sense of accomplishment, knowing that we had represented Wayne State to the best of our ability and placed in the top three,” Sidhu said.

“As a team we spent approximately 100 hours preparing for the case, so it was very rewarding to receive second place for all of the hard work we did,” Zack said. “It was also really exciting to bring an award back to Wayne State and continue to promote our amazing supply chain program.”

The students were given the packets for the competition three weeks in advance. The team was only to consult each other regarding the case. Participants were allowed to review online literature, course notes and use their own knowledge. Seeking outside help from professors, professionals and other students would result in disqualification from the competition.

A total of 17 universities participated in the competition. The three day event, Jan. 31-Feb. 2, taught the case competition members many lessons they can apply to their future careers.

“The biggest lesson I took away from the competition was being flexible in any situation and working in a team,” Sidhu said.

“This competition taught me to look at the bigger picture when analyzing a case; it also taught me how to sell an idea,” Zack said. “We were not given a list of items the judges would be looking for so we had to give them as much information as we could and sell them our overall process.”

This was Sisk’s first time coaching this case competition, although she was also the advisor for the WSU/General Motors case competition last year in Detroit.

“It was an incredible experience. I had great students; they exceeded my expectations. Students learned if they dedicate the time and know their facts that they can succeed,” Sisk said.

Sisk believes the students took away many lessons from the competition including the importance of presentation, style and mannerism. She said those factors play a very big role in the decision making process.

Sisk added the case competitions are not only benefiting the students’ growth in the field, but also benefiting the companies involved.

“Companies have been able to use solutions students come up with,” she said.

“A lot of our faculty are industry professionals and bring real-world examples into the classroom and relate them to textbook concepts, which I feel really puts things in perspective,” Sidhu said.

“Every professor I have had has been able to bring industry situations and stories regarding the topics we are learning,” Zack said.

WSU’s School of Business Administration prides itself on its ability to provide students with opportunities for skill development, experiential learning and extracurricular activities to enhance their educational experience.

“Competitions like this are a core part of supply chain programs,” said John Taylor, chair of the marketing and supply chain management department, director of supply chain programs and associate professor of supply chain management.

“I have to give a great deal of credit to John Taylor and his faculty for preparing me and the team,” Haksluoto said. “In addition, our entire team had a wide variety of real-world experiences.”

Students are highly recommended to have an internship as part of their program. Haksluoto will intern with GM in the summer and has volunteered at the WSU/GM case competitions.

Sidhu said being adaptable is a crucial trait for those in the supply chain field.

“The most difficult part of the competition was being creative with our answers so that we would stand out,” Haksluoto said.

“I learned the importance of having a contingency plan for any and all processes you put in place, and to make sure you have a backup plan for every important point in the case solution,” Himes said.

“I felt very prepared at the competition, but the majority of that confidence came from having a great team,” Himes said. “The four of us had great communication, ideas and brought strong traits to this project.”

Each team member brought something unique to the team that was beneficial to the end goal of figuring out the best way to address their client’s challenge.

Haksluoto mentioned how the group’s personalities all worked together for the success of the competition. He complimented Himes’ work ethic and presentation skills, Lovejeet’s international experience and Zack’s researching skills.

“Because of the knowledge I have gained, I feel that I am ready and able to obtain a position in the supply chain field,” Zack said.

“WSU has definitely trained me to be to competitive in the supply chain field,” Sidhu said.