Teaching Cases – “Global Sourcing at Nike” and “IKEA Goes Online”
It is always exciting to discover new teaching cases, especially when they are of very high quality. Two cases have just won awards in the 2023 Case Center Awards and Competitions. The first is called Global Sourcing at Nike and takes the perspective of Amanda Tucker, Vice President of Sourcing at Nike (authors: Michael W. Toffel, Nien-hê Hsieh, and Olivia Hull). It “explores the evolution of Nike’s efforts to improve working conditions at its suppliers’ factories”, addressing several key supply chain challenges. The second case is entitled IKEA Goes Online: Implications for its Manufacturing (authors: Jan Olhager and Kasra Ferdows). It focuses on the introduction of an app that allows customers to use their mobile phones to visualize and order products in a virtual room, and a second app that allows customers to shop remotely. Congratulations to all the winners. (See also last year’s winner: Apple Inc: Global Supply Chain Management.)
Ten Keys to Online Teaching
This year feels like being pushed into the “online teaching water” to learn to swim. And for many SCM educators and students, the teaching season is just around the corner. In their recent article (Online Learning Can Still Be Social), Mucharraz y Cano & Venuti (2020) talk about ten keys to building a supportive digital community of learners: (1) plan and establish community norms; (2) provide extra emotional support; (3) allocate a space for informal interaction; (4) employ the right tools to organize team activities; (5) take advantage of gamification and nudges; (6) stimulate the senses; (7) consider the crowd; (8) promote peer learning; (9) use humor to reduce tension; and (10) embrace art as a way of learning. What I like about this list is that it acknowledges that properly supporting teachers and learners during this challenging time involves addressing social aspects, not just the choice between Zoom and Teams.
Writing a Great Case
The term “case” is used in two meanings: as case-based empirical research and as a learning tool. Let us have a look at the latter meaning. In an article published by the Decision Sciences Institute, titled Writing a Great Case, Visich, Roethlein, Gravier & Reyes (2020) discuss important issues that need to be considered when writing such a case, which comprises the case and a teaching note. They cover important aspects, such as the initial case development, the actual writing process, tactics for student engagement, the teaching note, and teaching the case. The authors write: “Though writing a great case can be time consuming, we have found that writing a great case can be a highly rewarding experience. The case is a learning tool that we can bring into our classroom to reinforce student knowledge and through class discussion provide them with a forum to support their analysis of the case. Through our own cases we can create an interesting and interactive learning experience for everyone in our classroom.”
Social Network Analysis in Supply Chain Management
It is time to take a closer look at Borgatti & Li’s (2009) important article: On Social Network Analysis in a Supply Chain Context. The article has become part of the canon of SCM literature since its publication and it is now a mandatory reading in many SCM master programs across the globe. In simple language, the article offers a very good introduction to the subject of social networks and relates social network concepts (e.g., ego network, node centrality, structural hole, structural equivalence) to the supply chain context. Even ten years after its publication, the article has not lost its relevance for our discipline. Last year, it was one of the ten most downloaded articles from the Journal of Supply Chain Management. The authors argue “that the network perspective has the potential to be a unifying force that can bring together many different streams of management research, including SCM, into a coherent management science perspective”. I agree.
Borgatti, S.P. & Li, X. (2009). On Social Network Analysis in a Supply Chain Context. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 45 (2), 5-22. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-493X.2009.03166.x
Personal Predictions for Supply Chain Management in 2019
The 20th century was dominated by an analog, linear and fossil economy, but we are about to shift to an economy that is digital, circular and post-fossil. It seems obvious that our discipline, to remain relevant, needs to drive this transition rather than clutching at obsolete managerial practices and theoretical perspectives. Those who participate in developing new business models will gain a first-mover advantage, while those trying to keep the 20th-century economy alive will soon be forced out of business.
My personal predictions for 2019 relate to these transitions. First, robotic process automation and process mining are increasingly shaping the way of modern business. This will have a tremendous influence on end-to-end business processes. Great chances are within our reach, as learning machines are taking over increasingly complex tasks from white-collar workers. But we should not overlook the danger of a small number of IT giants using their scripts to centrally control the majority of our global supply chain processes.
Second, we sometimes seem to assume that we can change the laws of nature, just like other laws. This becomes clearer when moving into the anthropocene epoch. But planetary boundaries, including the Earth’s carbon budget, cannot be negotiated or abolished like budgets in business. We simply have to accept that exponential growth and a capped number of planets – and this number is 1 – do not fit well together. One does not need to be good in math to understand that if we cannot change the number of planets, it will have to be our supply chains that will need a radical and ambitious transformation. But how can we achieve degrowth and decarbonization in our supply chains? We could shift from linear supply chains to circular ones, from selling products to selling services (e.g. the right to use instead of owning a phone), from consumer orientation to user orientation. Thus, SCM theory needs to shift away from the “consumer” of things they don’t need towards the “user” of limited resources. This would incentivize producers to keep resources in the loop instead of building products for the scrap yard.
Millennials are not primarily driven by income, but by doing something meaningful. They are scared by the climate crisis. My wish for 2019 is that we all start teaching them that they can be part of an exciting journey that could simultaneously save our planet and create income and wealth. Let us hope the best for 2019 and beyond!
What’s a Smartphone Made Of?
In this TED-Ed video, Kim Preshoff investigates the smartphone production: “As of 2018, there are around 2.5 billion smartphone users in the world. If we broke open all the newest phones and split them into their component parts, that would produce around 85,000 kg of gold, 875,000 of silver, and 40,000,000 of copper.” I really like the video, as it takes a supply chain perspective, and I can imagine to use it in my future SCM courses.
The Supply Chain of a Computer
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. A map of our globe enables us to reflect upon key issues in SCM: Who is actually producing our computers? Where does value creation take place? What are the core competencies of the brand company? Who is governing the computer supply chain? What is the role of contract manufacturers? Why is final assembly being done in China and not in the EU or Canada? Why is packaging being done in Eastern Europe or Mexico and not in China; and why not in Northern Europe or Canada, where the consumers are located? What modes of transport should be used? How long does it take to move a container from Hong Kong to Hamburg? What is the size of a container? What are typical container shipping rates? What can be problematic about sourcing raw materials from the Congo? How would you calculate the CO2 emissions of a computer? How could a linear supply chain become circular? What role will machine learning play? How will the supply chain change in the age of automation? What is the potential role of 3D printing? Is a “supply” chain about “supply” or is “demand” actually the factor that we should be looking? Is a supply “chain” actually a “chain”?
Will “Robo-graders” Soon Take Our Academic Jobs?
All successful business models provide a solution for a problem. Let us identify such a “problem” in academia: As university teachers we all know that grading students’ essays can be a tedious and time-consuming endeavor. If that is the problem, a solution could be to let software grade the essays. Five years ago, my immediate reaction would have been that this could never work. However, now, in the era of artificial intelligence and machine learning, it increasingly does work. If we acknowledge that AI is able to drive cars, predict court decisions better than experts and automatically schedules our meetings, we should also acknowledge that AI will very soon support and soon replace us when it comes to grading students’ essays. Pioneers of so-called “robo-graders” believe that “the time is right and it’s really starting to be used now”. Robo-graders learn what is considered good writing by analyzing essays graded by humans. The automated programs then score essays themselves by scanning for the same features.
Should We “Bulldoze” the Business School?
The Guardian has recently published an interesting article with a provoking title: Why We Should Bulldoze the Business School. The author writes: “[In] the business school, both the explicit and hidden curriculums sing the same song. The things taught and the way that they are taught generally mean that the virtues of capitalist market managerialism are told and sold as if there were no other ways of seeing the world.” The author demands “an entirely new way of thinking about management, business and markets” and argues: “If we want those in power to become more responsible, then we must stop teaching students that heroic transformational leaders are the answer to every problem, or that the purpose of learning about taxation laws is to evade taxation, or that creating new desires is the purpose of marketing. In every case, the business school acts as an apologist, selling ideology as if it were science.” To what extent does that also apply for our SCM courses?