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.)
Teaching Case – Apple Inc: Global Supply Chain Management
Once again this year, an SCM-related teaching case received an award at the Case Center Awards and Competitions: It is entitled Apple Inc: Global Supply Chain Management and written by P. Fraser Johnson. In this case, students are placed in the role of Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, who has to make a strategic decision about the company’s complex supply chain. “Set in early 2020, it provides a detailed description of the company’s supply chain network and capabilities. Data in the case allows students to develop an understanding of Apple’s source of competitiveness and to gain insights into the management of a large, complex global supply chain network that focused on the intersection of services, hardware and software. Students will obtain an understanding of the supply chain challenges faced by Apple, in the context of supporting its corporate strategy and growth objectives.” I am sure that this case can be integrated very well into many undergraduate and postgraduate courses. This case nicely complements the 2020 award winner Apple and Conflict Materials: Ethical Sourcing for Sustainability. See also the 2017 and 2018 SCM-related winners.
The Most Popular Supply Chain Class Readings
Have you ever wondered what supply chain literature is most commonly used in the classroom? Open Syllabus, a non-profit research organization, currently has a corpus of nine million English-language syllabi from 140 countries and data on class readings is available for a large proportion of these syllabi. I checked which readings with the term “supply chain” in the title are used the most in the “Business” category. Here are the top 15 readings (from highest to lowest appearance count; only first authors/editors): Chopra (1,380 appearances), Christopher (1,361), Jacobs (1,246), Simchi-Levi (1,148), Chopra (608), Bowersox (595), Lysons (503), Lalwani (484), Cousins (463), Russell (447), Coyle (387), van Weele (372), Monczka (365), and Krajewski (359), Cachon (329). These books are great, otherwise they wouldn’t be so popular. It is noteworthy though that Western and male perspectives on supply chains clearly dominate, despite calls for more diverse perspectives. I could also have imagined at least a few more critical and sustainability-focused books in the list. Of course, my simple approach has limitations due to the search for only one term and, therefore, some books may have been overlooked. Also, I have not cleaned the data, which may be why Chopra appears twice.
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.
Thinking Critically about SCM Practices
The Guardian has just published an interesting opinion piece by van der Kolk, titled Business Education Helps Create a Culture where the Profit Justifies the Means. Herein, the author, who is a university teacher of accounting, writes: “We need to see a much stronger integration of ethical considerations into business education. This is how managers make real-life business decisions. This could be achieved through a discussion on the technics and ethics of transfer pricing in one and the same accounting class, using a case that highlights both aspects. Business education should also challenge its own underlying assumptions about human behaviour, and bring in other disciplines such as the humanities to help students think critically about business practices that are taken for granted.” The author makes an excellent case for accounting, but his arguments certainly also apply for other business disciplines, including supply chain and operations management. If that is the case, how should we change our ways of teaching?
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?
The Evolution of Trust
Trust plays an important role in supplier–buyer relationships. One way to approach this important concept is game theory. If you have ever wondered how game theory could be taught in a supply chain management course, I can recommend Nick Case’s The Evolution of Trust – an interactive guide to the game theory of why and how we trust each other. The guide starts by explaining the game of trust (= the prisoner’s dilemma). Then it illustrates what happens if multiple games and multiple tournaments are played with different players. We can learn from this guide that “the game defines the players” but also that “the players define the game”. We can learn that, in order for trust to evolve, we need the knowledge of possible future repeat interactions, we need a win–win situation, and we need a low level of miscommunication. I will definitely use The Evolution of Trust in my future supply chain management courses.
Fisher’s Supply Chain–Product Match/Mismatch Framework
I have been using Fisher’s (1997) supply chain–product match/mismatch framework (What Is the Right Supply Chain for Your Product?) in my teaching for years! Herein, the author argues that functional products require a physically efficient supply chain strategy, whereas innovative products require a market-responsive supply chain strategy. Fisher’s framework finds empirical support: Wagner et al. (2012) demonstrate that “the higher the supply chain fit, the higher the Return on Assets (ROA) of the firm”. Interestingly, a majority of the firms from their sample achieve a negative misfit, i.e. they target high responsiveness for their supply chain although their products are functional. Extensions of the framework exist, for example by Lee (2002), who adds a “supply” dimension, and more recently Gligor (2017), who argues that “benefits generated by perfect supply chain fit might be offset by the resources deployed to achieve that fit”. Research presented by Perez-Franco et al. (2016) helps to “capture, evaluate and re-formulate the supply chain strategy of a business unit”.
Fisher, M.L. (1997). What Is the Right Supply Chain for Your Product? Harvard Business Review, 75 (2), 105-116.
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.
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.