Supply chain spotlight: Industry insight and problem solving put to the test

Dr. Sime Curkovic and supply chain students who worked with Fusion Management Partners stand outside in the Haworth College of Business courtyard.An environment where taking calculated risks, making mistakes and building confidence is encouraged is what Dr. Sime Curkovic, professor of supply chain, provides to his students at the Haworth College of Business, with courses that focus on experiential problem solving. “By working with real businesses through consulting projects embedded in courses, students get to see the challenges that supply chain managers face and the complexity of the field firsthand,” he says. “They identify pain points and solutions for the companies we work with, expanding their knowledge of supply chain as well as their skills in developing relationships.” These relationships often lead to employment opportunities for WMU students. 

During spring 2022, Fusion Management Partners (FMP) worked with integrated supply management students to tackle unique industry questions. FMP has three core areas: real estate, transportation and logistics, and manufacturing. By partnering with companies like Clark Logic, a local real estate and logistics company, FMP has been able to offer opportunities for students where they can apply what they have learned in the classroom. “We were impressed with the abilities of WMU students while interacting with them over four semesters in total,” says Greg Diloné, managing partner at FMP.

What impressed Diloné and his colleagues? 

The first semester of the collaboration in 2018 involved a small group of students, with Justin Mielke, B.B.A.’19, as a student team lead. The students were partnered with Clark Logic to perform a deep dive into the logistics and warehousing market. The project involved a competitive analysis that allowed students to document market saturation, availability of real estate and transportation equipment needs, as well as mapping similar companies for competitive advantages, all while using Lean Six Sigma. “You don’t learn this in a classroom,” says Mielke. “The feedback and appreciation I received were great; I had direction but also the freedom to make suggestions and learn.” Mielke is now a junior partner at FMP.

The second semester project saw Jerrod Jones, B.B.A.’21, student team lead, managing 16 students on four teams, with mentors from Clark Logic guiding each team. Working within the different verticals of the business, the students were given semester-long projects to provide direction for improvements in each vertical and a plan to sustain progress. “Seeing the results of the projects I have worked on is eye-opening, says Jones. “My hard work to aid in the growth and expansion of a company really helped solidify my decision to become a supply chain major.” 

The third semester was a continuation of the first semester’s project with Clark Logic, and helped deepen the company’s knowledge of the paper industry, wood manufacturing industry and Greenfield site developments. The insights students prepared had a great impact on the operations and investment direction for Clark Logic, which later formed Industrial Partners USA, a joint venture with Great Lakes Capital of South Bend, Indiana, to bring industrial development to Battle Creek, Michigan. The research that students conducted proved vital to the company’s decision to enter into the venture.  

The pandemic brought a halt to WMU’s and Clark Logic’s collaboration efforts, but the relationship was rekindled in mid-2021 when FMP once again engaged WMU Haworth for student expertise. With the help of Curkovic, 10 students were assembled for the fourth semester of the partnership. “Dr. Curkovic has been critical in providing talented students for these projects. We are thrilled to have this fresh perspective, and to assist in giving students meaningful experiences that are crucial to learning,” says Diloné. 

This year students worked on three projects.

  • Group 1: Students Tommy Casari, Alle Yulyo and Sultan Kresna were challenged with a complex feasibility study. The goal of the study was to determine if the cost savings for a company to switch from trucking to rail could justify the investment in a new rail-served warehouse. The students researched and analyzed costs, considered the SWOT analysis, and proposed the path forward for FMP’s client. 
  • Group 2: Students Lidya Kartika, Ben Nuechterlein, Emmanuel Muzyumba and Josey Paprocki were tasked with vetting seven major cities in terms of geographic or market limitations for a logistics and manufacturing company wishing to expand its business.
  • Group 3: Students Courtney Farrish and Kelly Foster were tasked with understanding the market forces impacting the price of containers, trucks and trailers. The goal was to provide information to FMP’s partner company, Clark Logic, on current market conditions and trends. The students researched the impact of COVID-19 and inflation and delivered a comprehensive plan for the future.

“While working with FMP, our mentor pushed us outside of our comfort zone and showed us different ways of doing research, in order to enhance our problem-solving skills,” says Foster, who was a team member of Group 3. “I became close with my team member Courtney, and we learned our strengths and weakness in business. We were able to develop our skills at our own pace and learn from our mentor who always gave us different perspective on issues we were trying to solve. “

The experience has greatly enhanced Foster’s ability to be an effective analyst. “Having internship or consulting experience is important because you apply what you have learned in a real-world scenario. This is a supply chain class, but I learned a lot more than just Lean Six Sigma strategies; I performed research on financials, government influence, geographic data and how companies successfully adapt to market pressures. I am very grateful that I was able to have this experience at WMU.” 

Since 2018, this strong partnership has allowed students to use their skills and put themselves to the test. More than 30 students have benefited, and businesses like Clark Logic also reap rewards in terms of business insight for better decision making. “Being able to provide projects where supply chain talent can flourish has been an honor and duty I have been happy to fulfill as a graduate of Western,” says Jamie Clark, B.B.A.’83, president of Clark Logic. “The Haworth College of Business students have brought a great deal of knowledge to our organization, and we will continue to provide opportunities for them. These are the future leaders in the supply chain world, and there is no better way to foster that talent.”