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Purchasing & Supply Management: What We Should Teach (Guest Post by Lydia Bals)

Today’s guest post comes from Lydia Bals, who presents project PERFECT’s recent insights on competences in purchasing & supply management.

Project Perfect Logo

Professional purchasing & supply management (PSM) forms the link between a complex network of internal and external stakeholders with increasing international dependencies and performance requirements. As part of the PERFECT project (Purchasing Education and Research for European Competence Transfer) a group of researchers conducted case study research to identify individual buyer competences, knowledge and skills that are required to cope with such current requirements and prepare for future trends. In total, 46 interviews were conducted with representatives from 16 companies, standing for various industries in the European Union, and differing in their sizes and business models. The practitioners emphasized that PSM employees should possess both operational and basic PSM knowledge as well as competences related to communication and relationship management. In terms of specific future competences, “sustainability” and “digitization” stood out. Digitization is expected to particularly impact PSM operational tasks with regards to automation: Sub functions, especially taking care of the purchase-to-pay process, are expected to disappear. As a result, companies are advised to qualify personnel accordingly to facilitate their transfer to other, more strategic roles. Regarding the strategic PSM tasks, looking at the source-to-contract process, the critical question for the future is how technology will enable different ways of working, e.g. by application of big data analytics. As these are newer competence areas, the practitioners indicated that a breakdown of knowledge and competences for “sustainability” and “digitization” is needed to prepare employees as well as students adequately for such future developments. For more information, see the full Project PERFECT Intellectual Output 2 White Paper.

Lydia Bals is Professor of Supply Chain & Operations Management at the University of Applied Sciences Mainz and affiliated with the Department of Strategic Management & Globalization, Copenhagen Business School. She was the project lead for the PERFECT case study data collection and analysis.

Teaching Case – Zara: The World’s Largest Fashion Retailer

The Case Centre has recently selected the winners of their 2017 Awards and Competitions. This year’s winning case in the Production and Operations Management category is closely related to supply chain management: Zara: The World’s Largest Fashion Retailer, written by Kasra Ferdows, Jose A.D. Machuca & Michael Lewis. This case is an updated version of the 15th in the ranking of top 40 overall best selling Zara case. The new case “presents a detailed and updated description of Zara’s unique operating model and many of its best practices: its retailing, design, order administration, production, and distribution systems” and “also includes new sections about Zara’s on-line business and Inditex’ increased attention to ethical and sustainability issues in its extended supply chain”. The learning objectives cover several important aspects of global supply chain management, including the design and operations of global supply networks, making this teaching case particularly relevant for courses related to our discipline.

The Pen Is Mightier than the Keyboard

My students tend to use their laptops in classes. I have forwarded this very interesting article by Mueller & Oppenheimer (2014) to them. It was published in one of the most influential journals in psychology and contains good arguments to stop this practice. First, the authors summarize existing research that finds that laptops serve as distractions. Students typically self-report a belief that laptops in class are beneficial. Even when they admit that laptops distract them, they believe the benefits outweigh the costs. Research finds that students using laptops are not on task, show lower academic performance, and are less satisfied with their education than students who do not use laptops. Second, the authors’ own results suggest that “even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing”. They found that “students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand”.

Mueller, P., & Oppenheimer, D. (2014). The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard. Psychological Science, 25 (6), 1159-1168 DOI: 10.1177/0956797614524581

How to Avoid Accidental Plagiarism

Today’s post is not about SCM research in specific, but about ethics and academic writing in general. We all know that, in the academic world, plagiarism is evil. I have used the following video to explain to my students what they can do to avoid accidental plagiarism in their theses.

A Massive Shift in Search for Supply Chain Talent

Supply chain management is currently undergoing a very interesting transformation. Supply chain management used to be a collection of logistics and procurement processes but it has become far more strategic in recent years. In more and more companies chief supply chain managers report directly to the CEO – or supply chain experts even become CEO, as in the case of Apple’s Tim Cook! But how do future supply chain managers need to be like? An article by Chao (2015) argues that “an understanding of technology and an ability to work in a global environment are increasingly important in the supply chain”. Technological and analytical skills are needed that enable companies to cope with the wealth of data. Another skill that is needed is the ability to construct complex and global supply chains. Companies expect supply chain managers to think strategically and solve problems. That also means that universities worldwide need to adapt their curricula to this changing demand.

SCM Case Study with Adidas

Adidas

Today, John McNamara, SVP Sourcing, Adidas Group, visited me and my SCM students at Copenhagen Business School. He presented a case study about the supply chain processes for t-shirts. It was very insightful and also a lot of fun for my students (and me). Thanks, John, for a great case study and an insightful discussion!

Design for Postponement

Today, I would like to draw your attention to one of my favorite articles in the field of supply chain management: Design for Postponement by Swaminathan & Lee (2003). The article identifies three key postponement enablers: First, process standardization, where the initial steps of a process are standardized across a product line and distinct personalities are added at a later stage (e.g., localized manuals or power supply modules of a printer). Second, process resequencing, where more common components are added at the beginning of a process (e.g., cut of clothes), whereas components that create product differentiation are added later (e.g., color of clothes). Finally, component standardization, where key components are standardized to postpone decisions. The article also explains interesting concepts like “vanilla boxes” and “partial postponement”. I believe that postponement should be a key element of a supply chain management curriculum and that this classic article is really helpful to teach it.

Swaminathan, J.M., & Lee, H.L. (2003). Design for Postponement. Handbooks in Operations Research and Management Science, 11 (Supply Chain Management: Design, Coordination and Operation), 199-226 DOI: 10.1016/S0927-0507(03)11005-5

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