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Unique supply chain case simulation brings 13 schools to compete at MSU

Publish Date: Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Supply Chain Management program at Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business hosted the college’s first ever undergraduate supply chain competition, The MSU Undergraduate Supply Chain Challenge, April 2-3, at the James B. Henry Center for Executive Development on MSU’s campus. Rather than a traditional "case", the competition involves a new supply chain simulation – the Supply Chain Operations Decision Environment (SCODE) – developed at the Broad School in cooperation with several major corporations including Chrysler, Dow Chemical, Flextronics, IBM and Motorola.

"I typically dislike the idea of a case competition, because the human element of ‘judging’ can be so subjective," says the John H. McConnell Chaired Professor of Business Administration David Closs. "When I was approached about using our SCODE simulation to 'judge' a competition, I knew right away that it could be a good fit… there will be a clear winner and lots of learning along the way."

Undergraduate teams of three students from around the country participated from the following colleges: Michigan State University, The Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Maryland, Syracuse University, Northeastern University, University of Kentucky, Central Michigan University, Western Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, University of North Florida, University of West Florida, Arkansas State University and Missouri State University.

The competition started April 2, when students were introduced to the SCODE simulation through a simple "training" scenario involving a single manufacturing plant location serving the entire world. Decisions were made concerning which suppliers to use and what modes of transportation to use for inbound raw materials. Production must be scheduled based on a demand forecast, and orders must be filled involving transportation mode selection. This training scenario ensured that everyone understood the basic simulation, what decisions needed to be made, how to input data, what the output looks like, and how output should be analyzed to make the required decisions.

The actual competition on April 3 was similar but a little more complex: one plant location was given but a second plant location was also selected and involved two products, not just one. Then the decisions to be made were essentially the same types of decisions as in the training scenario, just complicated by the fact that there are two plants, two products, and students had to make assignments of markets to each plant. Other things that were considered include capacity requirements and sourcing strategies.

Teams were measured on total revenue, order fulfillment, inventory turns, and a profit figure the Broad School calls "supply chain contribution".

The Broad School would like to thank the following corporate sponsors for making the MSU Undergraduate Supply Chain Challenge possible: General Motors, Chrysler, Shell and Dow Chemical.

For more information about the MSU Undergraduate Supply Chain Challenge, please contact Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management M. Bixby Cooper at (517) 432-6413 or