Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (better known as MetLife) is a top provider of annuities, employee benefit programs, and various types of insurance. The corporation, which was recently ranked as #48 in Fortune 500 last February, is currently a corporate partner of the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC) at the Poole College of Management.
Under the guidance of Professor Tracy Freeman, three undergraduates, Amanda Meredith, Leyton Shoupe and Josh Roberts, have had the honor of working with MetLife for their supply chain practicum course this semester, working on a project to conduct a spend analysis for the prestigious organization. The trio says they’ve been successful thanks to effectively communicating with each other and project stakeholders, and also drawing on the multitude of lessons they’ve learned in the classroom throughout their time at Poole College.
The scope of the practicum
For the project, the team was tasked with investigating maverick spend for MetLife’s Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. Meredith, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in supply chain, describes maverick spend as that which does not follow the company’s correct procurement policies.
“When someone has a contract with a company, it’s supposed to go through a proper procurement channel to get approved,” she says. “But there’s a lot of spend that can be bypassed if the system isn’t used correctly.”
According to Meredith, there are also some spend categories that are exempt, meaning it is sometimes unnecessary to go through the normal procurement process. However, there is still a process for manually documenting and classifying these transactions, and human error can sometimes result in incorrect classifications.
“We’re examining how that happens,” she says. “Were employees confused? Do they need more training? We’re putting together some recommendations for MetLife, and we’re going to put out a survey to some other companies to see what their policies and procedures are.”
Teamwork and strategies
Shoupe, an ROTC contracted cadet and supply chain student, explains that working on the project as a team has been beneficial because everyone has their own individual strengths and weaknesses. “Being able to leverage that,” he says, “as well as each team members’ unique availability, makes way for a competitive group that can tackle tasks both effectively and efficiently. We collaborate openly and often, and the communication amongst each other makes this possible.”
Meredith explains her team created a project work plan to keep tasks copacetic. “We meet once a week on top of having weekly meetings with Professor Freeman, and we also have weekly meetings with MetLife,” she says. “During these meetings, we delegate what we’re going to do and assess if we’re staying on top of our goals.
In terms of project roles, Meredith explains that Roberts has been serving as the primary email communicator between the student team and MetLife, “because it’s easier for [MetLife] to keep up with emails from one person instead of three different people.”
Meredith’s role is project manager, for which her duties include making sure everything is turned in a timely manner. She also produces status updates every week for the classroom portion of the practicum. And while all three members have been involved with performing data analysis, Meredith says Shoupe has been the one primarily involved in such assessments.
Maintaining strong communication
As one can imagine, working on a practicum project for a company as part of a full course load is quite demanding.
Fortunately, Meredith says she appreciates the opportunity to meet so frequently with MetLife, because she knows of other teams who are unable to meet with their companies on a weekly basis. “MetLife has been really open,” she says. “They tell us things like, ‘If you have any questions, don’t wait’ — to go ahead and email them. So the communication has been helpful.”
“MetLife is a very professional and respectable company with a positive environment,” Shoupe says. “Our clients have been understanding, appreciative, and quick to get back with us anytime we have questions.”
Utilizing knowledge gained from previous classes
To be a productive team player, Meredith explains how she’s been able to apply knowledge she acquired from previous supply chain courses to help her team. “There was a supply chain class we all had to take where one of our projects was a spend analysis,” she says. “It shaped how I’ve thought through this project.”
She also says her accounting classes have played a critical role in her success in terms of understanding financial acronyms and terminology. “I feel I would’ve been lost looking at the financial aspects of our project had I not taken those classes.”
Shoupe agrees and says, “NC State’s supply chain management concentration is phenomenal. I have made use of the tools and ideas from virtually every class I have taken, with emphasis on BUS 475 (Purchasing and Supply Chain Management), because the functional area we are working in [for this project] is procurement. Hypothesis testing from business statistics and operations modeling were also tools we used as a team to find differences in spend.”
Tools for the future
Meredith knows working on this project will benefit her future career since it has allowed her to interact with professionals in the field she aspires to work in (procurement).
“It’s helped me understand the difference between procurement spend and non-procurement spend, and we’ve also learned about a lot of important industry terms … just thinking about how the company tackles goals in general will be helpful. I can bring the knowledge I’ve acquired and apply it when I’m working on a team in the future.”
As for Shoupe, he says that getting to see procurement first-hand and understand what MetLife does will pay dividends in the long run when he leaves the active-duty military and transitions to a graduate program, and later, to a civilian corporate job in quality control.