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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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