Wayne State business students get global perspective on automotive supply chain

Summering in Europe took on a much broader meaning for two groups of students at Wayne State University’s School of Business Administration. The 10-day, study abroad programs took the first group to Italy and the second to both Hungary and Poland. Each provided the school’s business students an opportunity to enhance their resumes with international travel.

Combining commerce with culture, each group focused on learning about the crucial role global supply chain plays in international automobile production, as well as developing a deeper cultural understanding of the region and how culture can affect business practices.

"Given our priorities in southeast Michigan, we’ve built these particular programs around the auto industry in other countries," said John Taylor, chair of the school’s Department of Marketing and Global Supply Chain Management. "With a great deal of corporate support both here in the states and overseas, our students exponentially expanded their knowledge about business on a global level, meeting with senior auto professionals and observing, first-hand, the multi-layered supply chain of international auto production."

Fiat Chrysler, GM, Electrolux, Lincoln Electric and Panalpina, plus numerous other domestic and international suppliers, including Delphi, Lear, Crusar Logistics, and Mopar, hosted students. In each program, students met with company representatives in board rooms, on assembly plant floors and in research and development labs learning about supply chain business from a European perspective.

Italy – Turin, Florence and Naples

Upon landing in Italy, the group of 16, headed by Taylor, was immediately whisked off to a presentation at Fiat Chrysler headquarters in Torino, focusing on understanding the differences between European and North American markets. Stops in Torino also included the Chrysler Mopar parts distribution center, the Oerlikon, transmission plant, and concluded with an exciting tour of the Maserati assembly plant.

"The highlight of the program for me was having access to assembly plants like Maserati and Fiat Panda," said Kate Plegue, a senior honors student majoring in global supply chain management and president of WSU’s Global Supply Chain Management Association. "We also visited several other automotive suppliers and got a great view of the supply chain."

Then it was off to Florence, spending the weekend visiting various museums and cultural sites in Central Italy. The group then departed by rail for Naples to begin the second week of their program in southern Italy.

In Naples, students visited Fiat’s Panda plant, one of the most modern auto assembly facilities in the world. Other stops included Lear Corporation, and the Cornaglia Group, developers of technological solutions for European auto manufacturers. The program wrapped up with sightseeing trips to Pompeii and the Isle of Capri.

"After visiting all of the companies on our trip, we have a better understanding of global business and culture that is much different than learning from a book or in class," said Plegue. "Being able to ask questions, directly to owners and managers in real time as work is being done is an amazing way to learn!"

Click here to see photos form the 2014 trip to Italy.

Central Europe – Budapest, Krakow and Wroclaw

Students travelling to Hungary and Poland started their program with a day and a half of visits to breathtaking cultural landmarks in Budapest, Hungary. Highlights included stops at the Buda Castle on the shores of the Danube River. From there, students toured Budapest’s famous Széchenyi Medicinal Bath.

"Hungary is known for the healing qualities of their thermal springs, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries," said Timothy Butler, associate professor of supply chain management and program leader.

Students also got an up-close look at how capitalism is faring in the one-time communist nation.

"I believe in Poland, they really appreciate the newness of capitalism. They embrace being able to work with a greater level of freedom and enjoy a higher standard of living," Butler said. "It was evident as we travelled from Hungary, through Slovakia and into Poland by bus. It gave us all a heightened insight about economic choices and the subsequent standard of living."

Once in Poland, the group enjoyed the sponsorship of the International University of Transport and Logistics in Wroclaw. "We’re currently working on a formal agreement for a student and faculty exchange program with the university," said Butler.

Visits included Delphi’s technical center in Krakow; a Lear Corporation facility in Tychy; GM in Gliwice; and Electrolux, Lincoln Electric and Panalpina in Wroclaw. At GM, students observed assembly lines at Opel and Vauxal, immediately noticing one major difference from what they are used to.

"There’s so much more robotics in the U.S. than in Poland," said Butler, noting that this is due, in large part, to an agreement between automakers and the Polish government to hire people for many of the assembly jobs.

Students also spent time learning about history and culture, visiting important sites like the World War II concentration camp at Auschwitz.

"For me, the highlight of the program was that I learned significantly more than I ever thought possible," said James Kupras, an M.B.A. student with concentrations in international business and information systems management. "From supply chain and manufacturing processes to cultural and historical facts, I was constantly challenged to learn the entire trip."

Click here to see photos from the 2014 trip to Central Europe.

New for 2015 – China

This coming year, the WSU School of Business Administration Study Abroad Program includes a trip to China. Unique to this program, scheduled for May 2015, is the option for students to extend their stay to take a compressed two-week, three-credit purchasing course (GSC 5650) taught by Tingting Yan, assistant professor of supply chain management.

The China itinerary also includes meetings and tours with GM, a number of U.S. based "Tier 1" suppliers and Chinese manufacturers.

Return trips to Italy and Poland also will be offered.

Credit toward your business degree

Taken as a directed study, each of these trips will count as a three-credit elective for supply chain management, marketing or management undergraduate majors, and as a three-credit concentration elective in supply chain management, international business, management or marketing, for M.B.A. students.

WSU students who take a total of 24 credit hours for fall 2014/winter 2015 and have a 2.5 GPA can receive a 30 percent discount on summer 2015 course tuition, greatly reducing the cost of participating in a student abroad program.

Students are encouraged to contact WSU’s Office of Study Abroad and Global Programs at www.studyabroad.wayne.edu.for complete information, or to submit an application.

For specific information on School of Business Administration study abroad, please contact Professor John Taylor at taylor.john@wayne.edu or 313-577-4525 or visit http://business.wayne.edu/supplychain/index.php.