APICS is the premier professional association for supply chain management.

Cultivating Complementary Skills

By Elizabeth Rennie | May/June 2014 | 24 | 3

The benefits of education from many perspectives


“Understanding how a manufacturing plant operates isn’t all that easy,” says Maria Dimengo, graduate student at Case Western Reserve University. “The term that businesses like to use is ‘supply chain management’; but, to a bunch of college students, it’s more like figuring out a lot of intricate pieces to a puzzle.”

Not too long ago, Dimengo was the director of marketing at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, also part of Case Western Reserve University. Last April, she decided to quit that full-time job in order to finish her management degree at the school.

While serving as marketing director, Dimengo says she learned a great deal about higher education and how nonprofits work. Once she graduates, she hopes to find a position that enables her to train other nonprofit organizations to “manage lean” and operate as efficiently as for-profit entities. “I truly believe the two worlds collide in countless ways,” she says. “After my graduation, I will be well-rounded in so many industries.”

Back to school

Recently, Dimengo and her fellow students were asked to make every piece of a manufacturing operation fit together better. They were instructed to envision the perfect order. She says the class project was designed in such a way that the company being studied—in this case, Smith Corona—would be forced to look carefully at the reasons behind any lack of order perfection.

“Was there a way to sort through every order, find out what went wrong, and see if they could avoid creating errors down the line? We met with our supervisor and sat in on meetings to map out a plan,” she says. “Nobody was sure what to expect. All we knew was that it sounded like a big project.”

Dimengo says she and her team looked at every order that was taken over the previous two years. They dug out old invoices, matched them to products returned, and then determined what percentage was keyed incorrectly. “If there were items that were mislabeled, we needed to know that, too,” she says. “If the warehouse staff pulled or shipped the wrong product, we needed to know that. We also needed to find the percentage of products that hadn’t been delivered to the right people or that were shipped to the wrong address.”

One student interviewed Smith Corona workers; another evaluated a list of goods that had been damaged and created a report on what he had found. There were five criteria to consider: order entry accuracy, order picking, shipping without damage, on-time shipping, and invoices.

In the end, the students on Dimengo’s team learned that mistakes can easily become compounded and that a perfect order requires every single aspect to be done correctly. “Now that I look back on every piece of it, it is a project we can be proud of,” Dimengo says.

The working world

Dimengo decided get involved with APICS because she wanted more knowledge on topics related to sustainability and social responsibility. “I discovered the recent trends in sustainable supply chain management,” she says. “I think there is a lot of opportunity for companies to gain a competitive edge. They need to retool, retrain, and stay educated on today’s best practices. We can no longer operate like we did in the old days. Consumers are holding their suppliers accountable for problems related to environment and climate change. Education really needs to begin at this level.”

Dimengo says she also appreciates the networking APICS provides, and she anxiously awaits making many new industry connections. Having served in a variety of supply chain distribution roles prior to her work at Case Western Reserve University, she says she hopes these connections help her rekindle the skills she began cultivating many years ago.

“It’s great to have a fresh new perspective with all the new players and technologies,” Dimengo explains. “I look forward to revisiting this industry and seeing where APICS fits in.”

Elizabeth Rennie is managing editor for APICS magazine. She may be contacted at editorial@apics.org.

We encourage you to share your APICS stories. Visit apics.org/membershipmatters.

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  1. Steve Desirey July 14, 2014, 04:34 PM
    I think the one big take away comes from "do business graduates learn the practitioner definition of "business?"  Academic business knowledge is a book of chapters for each discussing a single business function, but the integration of how these fit together is missing.   The puzzle is a terrific analogy and remains un-discussed.  This is not unlike businesses where functions compete and rewarded by beating another function.  Foolishly, this phenomenon is not everywhere, but it is a central tendency to work your full career in either research, finance, manufacturing, sales or marketing.  Few get the opportunity to work in multiple functions.  It is truly a gift when one gets to work in multiple disciplines for the gift of experiencing the definition of a business.
  2. Pravin August 19, 2015, 07:18 AM
    Understanding business is always been a big task for any new comer, even if new comer has studied. Steve rightly mentioned "It is truly a gift when one gets to work in multiple disciplines". I always recommend to the students to approach firms which are small. Small business where the "Segregation Of Duties" is not mandatory. New joinee who is open to learn on different aspects of business gets rich experience But he/she has to compensate on the salary for initial years of career. Once you are confident enough, salary part comes in place. Graduates joining big organization always work in functions which are focused on certain tasks or KPI's, result of which - exposure to other functions is limited. This adds to the ambiguity - where is the right place for a piece in puzzle?     


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