Dr. Sime Curkovic, professor of management, knows that being immersed in a real-world supply chain experience can teach students important lessons that extend far beyond the classroom. To that end, he challenged the integrated supply management students of his Applied Six Sigma Problem Solving course to offer solutions to real organizations using collaboration, problem solving and creativity. Curkovic separated his students into three groups, each providing consultancy to a separate client. Each group worked together to systematically and creatively develop improvements for their respective organization’s supply management process. They used project management tools to develop the improvements and were tasked with identifying and analyzing the cost drivers of the process. The final project’s results and recommendations were presented to the clients at the end of July.
Curkovic’s goal is to improve processes, inspire innovation and create a competitive advantage for the clients his class works with. But most importantly, his students are developing their professional skills for managing people, processes and resources. With WMU’s ISM program ranked in the top 10 nationally, it’s safe to say that the program and its students are well on their way to sustained success.
One of Curkovic’s teams was assigned to Prevention Works, a local nonprofit focused on developing and implementing programs that address substance abuse use prevention, violence prevention, and parenting and adolescent health, among other initiatives. Prevention Works provides outreach to the community through 16 different programs, including Strengthening Families, PeerPOWER Violence, Project ALERT and Youth Connection. The organization's staff collects the program materials and packs them in mobile bags before deploying the lessons to the community. The student team’s goal was to create a system and process flow to enable the bags to be packed efficiently and accurately by employees. In addition, the company had recently relocated to a new location and a lean system was needed to fit and manage their existing supplies.
The student group created a bag packing process that empowers the part-time staff to pack their own bags and mapped out a floor plan to optimize the limited space, allowing for greater efficiency. The materials were reorganized as a library, making it easy to locate and separate individual lesson materials within each program. “The new system will allow us to shift work priorities and delegate tasks to part-time staff, freeing time and energy for the program coordinators to focus more on program implementation fidelity and staff development and training,” explains Lola Amos, director of programs with Prevention Works. “This will allow us to expand our reach and offer more mobile prevention programs to youth in grades K-12 throughout Kalamazoo County.”
Senior Richard Yusa says, “The pre-packing of materials was the most significant improvement because the materials are stored in an organized manner and the time eliminated for packing the bags is immense. To track materials, we also implemented a check-in and check-out log. These standardized practices will aid Prevention Works in their continued, rapid growth and success.”
Curkovic’s class has collaborated with local businesses on more than 200 projects since 2008. Their recommended processes have been sustainable and valuable to both businesses and students. “The ISM program sets a high standard for our students. We offer a challenging curriculum and require real-world experience because we are invested in our students having strong career prospects after graduation,” explains Curkovic. “At the end of the day, a project like this offers our students excellent experience and sets them up for future success while also benefiting businesses in West Michigan.”