In only 24 hours, Kelley School of Business students Grace Liu, Austin Rocha, Kate Maki, and Nicolas Loenen created a solution to solve a real-world supply chain problem. For their recommendation and its presentation, they earned 3rd place in the 2019 National Undergraduate Supply Chain Case Competition, hosted by the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. For the third year in a row, Kelley students finished in the competition’s top 3. But how did they do it?
When the team received the case, they had to be cohesive and quick. Austin said, “Structured thinking helped us distill the case down to a set of questions we were able to answer and work[ed] from there to develop a solution.” They split the workload based on individual skills – some used data analysis to determine warehouse locations, others researched how emerging technology could be applied to the problem. By the time their 24 hours were up, Austin was a firm believer in how much quality work can be produced in a short time frame with the right team.
However, disaster struck as they set up their presentation: a cord for the presentation computer wasn’t functioning. The team handled the problem smoothly; two students worked on the issue while two students talked with the judges. According to Kate, the judges asked great questions while they were waiting. She thinks “this obstacle allowed the judges to see our personalities and team chemistry.” Once the issue was fixed, the team gave their presentation as planned. Afterwards, they immediately went to revise their presentation based on the judges’ suggestions in case they were chosen to present in the final round. Luckily, they got their chance and had no technical difficulties to overcome that time.
As other teams presented, Kate couldn’t help but notice the differences between Kelley’s team and the competitors. Most teams were comprised entirely of male supply chain students, whereas the Kelley team was split on gender and majors. Teams had also competed with each other previously; the Kelley team had never worked together before preparing for this competition. Kate argues that their diversity and inherent group cohesion contributed to their overall finish.
Both Kate and Austin are set to graduate in 2020 and are very grateful to have worked together and with their faculty coach, Assistant Professor George Ball, with such success. They look forward to being able to use the lessons from this experience as they finish their senior year and maneuver their career path.