The concept of supply chain management is itself manifest of an ongoing evolution in business. No longer is product development, procurement, production, logistics or transportation operating in a vacuum, but as integrated and fundamentally interconnected processes. For many firms that exhibit successful supply chain management, it provides a competitive advantage, while also maximizing value creation for their customers and supply chain partners. Similar to this development in industry, educators today are providing students with a more holistic curriculum that reflects the needs of the modern business environment. Leaving behind the siloed structures of traditional business school concentrations, universities are adapting their curriculum to reflect the functional and dynamic requirements of a global economy.
Today’s undergraduate and graduate students studying supply chain management will recognize the hallmarks of pragmatism and relevance in their coursework, while industry also has a more active role in the classroom. In their influential 1999 publication on the development of supply chain instruction, Michigan State University researchers David J. Closs and Theodore P. Stank recognized the importance of faculty with “close ties to industry and a fundamental understanding of cross-functional business activities,” as a key to successful development of an integrated supply chain management program. Today, the progression and growth of curriculum towards a total supply chain perspective recognizes that “the definition of ‘end-to-end’ integrated supply chain continues to evolve, and so academic programs also have to keep evolving,” according to Stank, now teaching at the University of Tennessee.
This evolution includes expanding student acumen into all elements of modern business, from product innovation, information technology, finance, and global marketing, to awareness of technological advancements such as automation and IoT. Many university programs today provide exposure to these elements of supply chain management directly through practicum or project-based coursework. Putting student teams up against real-world business challenges, this platform represents a hands-on extension of the case method where actual constraints or the dynamics of business force the students to determine the path forward. Often the outcome of a successful project is not only the development of important skills, but more importantly, an industry-relevant, implementable solution, tool or innovation.
By Dana Magliola, Director, Supply Chain Resource Cooperative at North Carolina State University