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Jenkins MBA Alumnus Creates Opportunities for Collaboration

Who is Eaton and what does their partnership mean for the future?

“We make what matters work.”

A partnership between Eaton and the Supply Chain Resource Cooperative (SCRC) has brought in the exchangeable benefits of two teams full of experience, connections and knowledge. Within this new collaboration, students are able to contribute to, and learn from, Eaton’s projects to receive hands-on experience of the real-world complexity that cannot be replicated inside a classroom.

Eaton is a power management company that supplies the electrical, aerospace and automotive sectors. Adam Hardie, an NC State Jenkins MBA alumni and Eaton category manager, explains that “[Eaton tends] to be a step earlier in the supply chain from what the end customer sees. We are not the Ford or Chevrolet brand that you see on the car, but we often provide the transmission and other key equipment. We are not the Boeing or Airbus brand you see on the airplane, but we often supply the motion control systems and other vital components. If you can flip a light switch, drive, or fly, chances are that Eaton products are behind the scenes make sure that the process works efficiently and safely.”

Eaton and the SCRC have been eager to find the right opportunity to work together for several years. After Hardie finished his rotational program with Eaton and was offered a full-time position, he pushed for the connection to take place, knowing that the partnership could produce long-term benefits for both organizations; he previously worked as a graduate research assistant in the SCRC and understands its dedication to raising students as productive and innovative professionals.

“I’ve been involved in both [organizations], and I’d like to see them both succeed,” Hardie says, adding that he wants to tap into the wealth of knowledge the SCRC offers and create an avenue for personal connection with students.

To kick off the partnership, Eaton decided to host a project with the SCRC in the fall of 2020. Hardie, the project manager, and the Eaton team “had the students build a tool that helped [Eaton] identify cost discrepancies arising when suppliers [give] us multiple prices for a single part.”

The project solidified the partnership and produced an “actionable and useful deliverable” for Eaton that Hardie says left the Eaton team impressed.

“Our student team was able to write a macro that we can use going forward to identify when Eaton has been charged different prices for a particular part,” Hardie says.

The project not only helped Eaton turn a fairly cumbersome process into an efficient one, but also allowed the students to engage with real-world problems and build their portfolios with a concrete deliverable.

However, the project represents only the beginning of a fruitful long-term partnership.

“We are looking to take advantage of the things NC State has that Eaton does not…For example, the market intelligence. [Eaton doesn’t] have the Bloomberg Terminal; we don’t have access to the numerous databases that NC State has,” Hardie says.

While the SCRC offers this extensive expertise and professional connections, Eaton in return provides an avenue for students to work directly on the opportunities and challenges that a multinational company regularly faces.

“At Eaton, we try to think differently to drive improvement in everything we do,” Hardie says. “In my view, the best way to think differently is to bring in different people. Let’s bring in people from the MBA program, or undergraduates who have very different work experience, or who have a much fresher perspective—[those] people who haven’t been drinking the metaphorical Kool-Aid that we have been. Getting a fresh perspective [from different people], aside from the diverse skills that [students] bring, is invaluable.”

Ultimately, one of the partnership’s biggest strengths is that it involves people from different backgrounds, educations and perspectives.

Looking forward, Hardie says Eaton intends to shift the projects it works on with the SCRC to focus on market intelligence to further leverage the unique perspectives and diverse experiences of the students, and to take advance of the world class market research resources that NC State can provide.

This post was originally published in Supply Chain Resource Cooperative.