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“The annual Fusion symposium and the related activities of the CSCI give us a platform to bring these industry experts to Auburn, Alabama, to learn more about our programs, our team, and our students. They quickly learn that we possess world-class research skills, we focus on real-world issues, and we generate real-time solutions.”
The Harbert College is dedicated to partnering with companies and alumni to engage industry and improve business practice.
When dozens of executives from worldwide corporate giants like Google, Nike, DHL and The Hershey Company joined to discuss hot topics in the supply chain industry on August 20, they didn’t meet in New York City, Chicago, or another bustling retail or shipping hub.
They came to Auburn University instead. Why? Fusion 20/20 -- the annual symposium hosted by the Center for Supply Chain Innovation in the Harbert College of Business-- allows industry leaders the opportunity to share ideas, identify potential solutions to challenges, take what they learn back to their respective headquarters and implement ideas that might better serve customers.
“We seek to be a conduit between industry, our faculty, and our students for sharing insights, best practices and opportunities,” said Brian Gibson, Wilson Family Professor in Supply Chain Management and Executive Director for the Center for Supply Chain Innovation (CSCI), who coordinates the annual event held at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort and Spa at Grand National. “Compared to large, national conferences, Fusion provides a more intimate setting for supply chain professionals to gather and discuss their most pressing needs and opportunities.”
The impact of COVID-19 has been felt throughout the supply chain, from toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortages to supplies for healthcare workers. Susan Kirkpatrick, Executive Vice President and CFO at Buddy Moore Trucking, Franklin Littleton, President of North American Consumer Goods and DHL Supply Chain, Susanna Zhu, Vice President for Commercial Planning and Supply Chain Operations at The Hershey Co., and Tony Zuazo, Senior Vice President for Transportation and Inventory at Dollar General, shared valuable insights about industry responses during the pandemic.
In another forum, Kathy Fulton, Executive Director at the American Logistics Aid Network, and Manny Ohonme, Founder, President and CEO at Samaritan’s Feet International, shared ideas about assisting those in need, while Lee Beard (addressing attendees below via Zoom), Senior Director for Global Transportation at Nike, and Regenia Sanders, Principal at EY, forecasted the industry’s next decade of challenges, changes and opportunities.
“The Fusion name is great because we get so many perspectives from colleagues, and things we don’t often discuss in our daily life,” said Littleton, who operates out of DHL’s Atlanta offices, but is a regular guest speaker at Harbert College’s Supply Chain Management student events and classes. “We’re very focused on our business. Coming here, we get to hear a variety of perspectives from several companies, and industries, that we deal with on a daily basis. I know that our team has been able to take some great ideas away from others here. We actually talked with some of the speakers and remain engaged with those that have helped our business.”
Fusion is more than an exchange of ideas among industry leaders. It’s also where industry and academia meet and forge relationships that last beyond the symposium.
“It’s a fantastic co-existence where we have the opportunity to collaborate with those businesses,” said Glenn Richey, Supply Chain Management Department Chair at the Harbert College. “From the outside, people look at the relationship between universities and companies and they think that’s just how you place people and get them jobs. But there’s more going on than that. These are companies that we have long-term relationships with that take students in and train them in internships. These companies also share ideas with us – what we should be teaching in the classrooms, what’s outdated material, and we can adjust things going forward.
“This is one way to be certain that value is provided because the businesses here are actively involved in what we do.”
Gibson (pictured) provided another benefit to industry involvement: research.
“Auburn’s Supply Chain Management faculty is actively engaged with professional associations and industry events,” said Gibson. “By taking a proactive approach to reaching out to the supply chain community, we learn about their needs and expand our network of supply chain professionals who often have research and outreach opportunities for us to pursue. The annual Fusion symposium and the related activities of the CSCI give us a platform to bring these industry experts to Auburn, Alabama, to learn more about our programs, our team, and our students. They quickly learn that we possess world-class research skills, we focus on real-world issues, and we generate real-time solutions.”
About Harbert College's Supply Chain Management Program
The supply chain management major at Auburn’s Harbert College of Business equips students to handle the efficient management of the flow of goods across the global marketplace—a process that grows increasingly complex and time sensitive on an almost daily basis. Our multi-faceted curriculum based in a nationally-ranked program equips students with the conceptual knowledge, analytical skills, and strategic insights needed to manage this complexity across the plan, buy, make, deliver process. Our highly sought-after graduates gain valuable, real world experiences via required internships, case competitions, and analytical projects.
For more information on the Department of Supply Chain Management, visit https://harbert.auburn.edu/academics/departments/department-of-supply-chain-management/index.php