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New Student Projects Suggest Greater Focus on Analytics

Every fall, Betty Minton and Bill Collins (my trusted and capable student project advisors) and I play a game of musical chairs.  The challenge involves matching a group of bright, eager, and hungry young MBA and engineering students to a group of projects identified by a group of companies, through the now well-established Supply Chain Resource Cooperative in the Poole College of Management.  This is much less of a science than an art, and is a rather delicate balancing act.  On the one hand, we ask students to rank the projects based on their preference, but we also must consider the unique skills, knowledge, and capabilities that each students brings with them to the project team.  We also have to work around their schedules, to ensure that they can meet every week with the practicum advisors!  These preferences and skills must then be matched with a partner company project.  This year was no exception, and we have a cadre of bright MBA, industrial engineering, and manufacturing system engineering students lined up to work on the following projects:

American Red Cross – Procurement Card Analysis – Reviewing spend analytics  through p-card buying channels, and identifying key trends and consolidation opportunities.

Center for Environmental Farming Systems (1)   – Dairy Farming Project – Helping to create a transition plan to Austin Family Dairy Farm, a 75-Jersey cow conventional dairy farm located in Yancey County, North Carolina.  The team will assist the Austin’s with a transition plan and identify metrics (and record keeping needed for these metrics) so that the Austin’s and other transitioning dairies have a heightened chance of success as they move from suppliers of raw milk, to small businesses producing finished dairy products for sale.

Center for Environmental Farming Systems (2) – Meat Production – Gather information on the type and volume of meat by-products from cooperating niche meat processors in NC, identify metrics around market channels for these products, and make recommendations to individual processors and to the group of processors as a whole (should they wish to aggregate their by-products for sale or for disposal) based on analysis of the most cost-effective methods of sale and/or disposal.

John Deere (1)   – Product Value Analysis – This team will seek ways to increase the global competitiveness of the Stand On Mower product line by focusing on product specifications, features, performance, costs and assessing the strengths and weakness of each product line and build recommendations for cost improvement.

John Deere (2) – Life Cycle Cost Benchmarking – The team will benchmark industry leaders to document and define best practices for measuring direct material cost over the lifecycle of a product. The team will work with benchmark participants to understand how cost reduction is achieved during product development as well as in production.

John Deere (3) – Total Cost of Acquisition – The team will work on building a new total acquisition cost metric for purchased components. The team will benchmark industry leaders to document and define best practices for measuring total acquisition cost.     

Lenovo – Fraud Analytics – The team will work on building an estimate of the magnitude of service parts fraud which will include designing a process with  prescribed data preparation, analytical models, and an alerting system that can be leveraged by a business analyst.

Met Life – Procurement Market Intelligence – The team will study how our current market intelligence and analytics offerings align to the needs of our Procurement teams, and study how other providers or additional services through existing providers that could fill these gaps.

First Citizens – Spend Analytics – The team will conduct a full spend analysis of First Citizen’s supply base based on currently available data and provide recommendations for supply base consolidation.

What do all of these projects have in common?  You guessed it – ANALYTICS!  All of the teams will focus on deriving and consolidating metrics that make sense, from structured or unstructured data.  The teams are getting kicked off this week, and will soon begin developing their scoping documents to understand how to best wrap their arms around these problems.

It is no surprise that the upcoming theme of the SCRC meeting in December is also going to be analytics…more on that soon!