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Four Auburn College of Business seniors in Supply Chain Management, Anna Grey Byrd, Hope Judd, Anna Lanier and Adrienne West, won first place Friday, April 12, at the Fifth Annual IANA Case Competition in Jacksonville, Fla.
Auburn’s team was a unanimous first-place choice of all seven senior executive judges from a variety of supply chain companies, according to Dr. Cliff Defee, an Associate Professor in Supply Chain Management who accompanied the team as faculty advisor.
“Winning an event like this provides great prestige and notoriety for our program,” Defee said. “It also provides great exposure for us within the business community.”
Held on the campus of the University of North Florida, Auburn’s team beat the likes of Michigan State, Arkansas, North Florida, North Texas, Maryland and Georgia Southern.
West considered the competition to be “an absolute blast.”
“These case studies are very reminiscent of presenting to your boss or to a board of directors so it's excellent preparation for the business world,” she said.
“Preparing for case studies gives us a ton of real world experience,” she said. “Not only, do we learn how to work as a team and learn to value everyone's opinions, but also how beneficial team work. Everyone on the team brought input and contributed, and I think that's why we did well.
“It was so much fun interacting with the different people at the competition, as well as the judges. Everyone had such a diverse background, but all had supply chain experience. It was fascinating to hear about the judges’ day-to-day jobs in supply chain and know what to experience in the real world.”
The teams participating in the competition were asked to come up with the best solution for a fictitious office supply company’s inefficient transportation procurement process — which poor customer service levels, increased costs, and decreased profit margins.
Teams were given a six-page analysis of the problem — much of which involve transportation costs — complete with an extensive transportation history database and other company information, just five days before the competition.
“In most case studies you have a few weeks if not a month or so to go over the data and come up with a solution but in this competition we got the case study about a week before we had to present and the night before the presentation we were given additional questions to answer,” West noted. “We actually stayed up until about 2:30 am finishing those extra questions the night before the case.”
How did the team come up with a solution?
“A lot of data came with the case — origin, destination, mode, and price information were provided for about 50,000 shipments during a four-month period,” Lanier explained. “Some of the case questions required us to analyze different parts of this data, such as average cost per shipment by each mode. When we did that, we discovered that intermodal shipments were more expensive than all others, which is not typical. We concluded that this was because of the transportation rate bidding system that the company had put in place, and that it could be changed by establishing relationships with a core set of carriers.
“We really just tried to look at the problems that we saw in the case and to come up with a logical, somewhat simple solution that could fix those problems.”
West said the team’s plan was three-fold: 1) focus on forecasting processes; 2) re-design the transportation network; and 3) create a core of competent carriers rather than reverse-auctioning transportation needs. “The idea was that once the company completed that process they would have the information needed to purchase transportation services in large amounts so they would have capacity assured and the ability to leverage economies of scale to get better transportation rates,” West added.
“We came to this solution by applying basic principles we've learned in our classes. Auburn's Supply Chain program's core competencies are transportation and logistics, so this case was right up our alley. Also the fact that we all got along on the team was key.”
Teamwork and skills that complemented one another helped too.
“We all had different skill sets from data analysis, to public speaking, to writing, to presenting and different expertise in the Supply Chain field,” West said. “In areas where one of us was weak we could cover each other. The judges commented that we seemed very certain in our plan and how it would be applied and that that was beneficial to our scoring.”