Written by Patrick Gregg
Photos by Wilson
It was a sign of things to come in October 2015, when a West Virginia University team made up of supply chain and industrial engineering students went to the University of Pittsburgh and won the Race to the Case Supply Chain Management Competition.
A team of Mountaineers has won the competition every year since, as students captured WVU’s fourth consecutive Race to the Case crown in Pittsburgh this past September among a field of teams that included the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University and Carnegie Mellon University. Of the five years the competition has been held, WVU has won four times.
The team was made up of two students each from the Chambers College of Business and Economics and the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. The group included global supply chain management students Michala Luck and Cliff Teter, and industrial engineering students Christian Hores and Brandon Slicklein.
“The case focused on a company’s distribution network in Southeast Asia, and we were challenged to optimize their freight forwarding system through quantitative and qualitative analyses,” said Luck, a junior global supply chain management major from Willoughby, Ohio. “Each round introduced new data and situations that built off each other, and the final round was a presentation for the company’s senior executives to explain our problem-solving process and recommend a five-year plan based on the challenges.”
The competition is modeled after the Emmy award-winning TV show “The Amazing Race.” Slicklein, a senior industrial and management systems engineering student from Kings Park, New York, said the team spent time planning.
“Having one hour each for rounds 1 and 2, which included the time to run to the next round’s location, provided difficult decisions for the team on what to prioritize. We decided to leave each location 10 minutes before the end of the round in order to give ourselves time to arrive for the next round,” Slicklein said. “Round 3 consisted of a 30-minute period where the team had to develop a five-year implementation distribution strategy, and a presentation to a board of directors to pitch our solution and strategy plan. Thankfully, we coordinated well and optimized our time to develop a complete plan that told our story in full.”
Hores, a senior industrial engineering student from Wheeling, said WVU’s past performances in the Race to the Case Competition were a motivating factor.
“Applying theories from operations research and material handling classes, we were able to find both the optimal location for a new distribution center and the most cost-effective shipping option from that distribution center to the customer,” Hores said.
“Working together as an effective team to uphold WVU’s tradition of winning at this event is something I’m very proud we were able to accomplish.”
Ednilson Bernardes, global supply chain management program coordinator, professor of global supply chain management at B&E and faculty advisor of the supply chain team, said demand has never been higher to quickly and efficiently make goods and services available where and when they are needed.
“Supply chain systems require superior delivery, speed and quality, and that is how the team approached the competition,” Bernardes said. “The teams were required to solve challenges applying their academic knowledge with quality, but also balancing speed. It was especially exciting to see how each member of the WVU team competently demonstrated their teamwork and multidisciplinary knowledge and skills.
“Winning this competition again really inspires us to continue investing in the transformational things we are doing in our supply chain program. This event is a great experiential learning opportunity for our students and is part of the hands-on approach we have to education. It also helps us forge practical cooperation between the two great areas of business and industrial engineering and it validates the work we are doing.”
Teter, a native of Elkins, and a senior double-majoring in finance and global supply chain management, said the opportunity to learn in real life experiences was invaluable.
“The case competition was an incredible experience to be a part of and gave great insight applicable to real-world situations,” Teter said. “Being a member of WVU’s winning team generates a great sense of accomplishment, and I couldn’t be happier to have brought home the fourth consecutive title for my school."