Integrated supply management students show that hard work pays off

Four ISM students standing outside the ISM centerFour students in a Western Michigan University integrated supply management (ISM) class used their semester to gain knowledge and skills, with the unexpected bonus of earning funds for the University. Tasked with working on multiple projects for industry partner Foundry Brands, the excellent work of the students impressed the company so much that they made a gift of $6,000 to the ISM scholarship fund.

Dr. Sime Curkovic, professor of supply chain, created the course in a way that focused on experiential learning. “By working with existing businesses through real-life problem-solving projects, students get to see the challenges that supply chain managers face and the complexity of the field. They identify solutions for the companies we work with, expanding their knowledge of supply chain as well as their skills in developing relationships.” The relationship building piece of the class is invaluable as it often leads to employment opportunities for WMU students.

As part of the Applied Six Sigma Problem-Solving course, students Andrew Bonifer, Katelyn Flahive, Kevin Normoyle and Dylan Sing partnered with Foundry Brands to tackle unique industry questions. Foundry invests in brands that they believe can grow for the next decade and beyond, using their industry expertise and technology platforms to acquire, build and grow enduring brands. The four students worked on multiple sprint projects led by Clay Copeland and Noah Buntman of Foundry Brands.

One of the projects assigned to the students was a cost savings analysis. Students were tasked with auditing the dimensions and weight measurements from Amazon to look for discrepancies, as well as potential cost savings opportunities. Bonifer reviewed the information and noticed several discrepancies in weight and product classifications, providing valuable data for Foundry. Buntman, head of supply chain at Foundry, says, “In his first pass through the data, Andrew pinpointed two products which will result in savings of 18% and 31% when implemented. This will translate substantial annual savings, which will have a tremendous impact as we scale.”

The students also worked on new product development issues, with Foundry asking them to review products from other retailers and find potential suppliers for a Foundry Brands partner. Sing worked on identifying possible suppliers, as well as arranging sampling, testing, production, validation and delivery of product internationally. This project gave him experience in analyzing data and working with management to recommend new procedures. He says, “I will be able to take what I learned from this class and apply it to my professional career. My supervisor, Clay Copeland, was phenomenal to work with. He spent time with me outside of weekly meetings and helped me grow as the semester progressed.”

All of these projects help to accomplish the goals that Curkovic established for the class. “We try to develop strategic skill sets combined with softer skills, such as problem solving, leadership and negotiation. Partnering with Foundry helps us train students in the skills needed by future supply chain managers, giving them experience with essential tasks such as organizing information, developing solutions and making recommendations to management.”

Relationships with industry partners are a key component of the ISM program and not only benefit the students, but the company they are working with as well. “The contribution the students delivered to Foundry was meaningful in both its immediate impact and its ability to scale well beyond the students’ time with Foundry,” says Buntman. “We are incredibly grateful for the support, dedication and hard work of these students.”

Learn more about the supply chain program at WMU