Voice of Supply Chain Excellence

For leading companies like 3M, Coca-Cola and Imation, the key to successful Supply Chain Management (SCM) excels at managing customer and supplier relationships.

Sounds simple, but in fact it requires a cross-functional effort across the business. Faculty within Fisher's Department of Marketing and Logistics developed an innovative SCM framework that focuses on these critical relationships. It includes input from the Global Supply Chain Forum, a joint research collaborative between Fisher and leading corporate practitioners.

"We define eight supply chain processes and work with companies to implement those processes in their business. The framework represents the collective wisdom of all the companies," says associate professor Keely Croxton, PhD, one of the department's more passionate voices on supply-chain and logistics excellence. According to Croxton, integration is critical: "Rather than silos working in isolation, you have cross-functional teams that are guiding the work. Also, it is critical to work outside the firm with customers and suppliers to make sure there is alignment of goals and incentives and efficiencies," she explains.

Croxton recently began a research project with Dow Chemical Company in the area of supply chain resiliency that examines how to design a supply chain that can respond to interruptions. "Things go wrong in the world - everything from 9/11, to port strikes, to suppliers going out of business, to drastic changes to demand, to hurricanes hitting part of your network. So how do you develop a supply chain that can bounce back from those events with limited disruption to the business?"

A self-professed math geek, Croxton relishes the opportunity to work with both graduate and undergraduate students at Fisher. In fact, the Dow project began with a PhD student who graduated this year. She has spent the past decade advising The Logistics Association (TLA), Fisher's undergraduate logistics student organization and, according to Croxton, one of the most active organizations on Ohio State's campus.

In early 2009, her students captured first place in a national logistics case competition in Colorado. The case focused on rolling out an iPhone-type product to Europe and Asia following its U.S. introduction. The judges applauded Fisher students for their presentation skills and poise, says Croxton. This latest honor builds on an impressive track record of both hosting and winning logistics case competitions. In the last three years, Ohio State hosted an annual case competition on Fisher's campus, coming in second the first year and first the last two years.

"We did so well performing in the case competitions that we gave up hosting rights this year," Croxton says. "The thing that's neat to me is that the competitions we have hosted have been student run. The TLA officers invite teams from around the country and organize all the details. It's great leadership training for the students. Then I work with a company to write the case so it's a real business problem that the students get to work on."

She is a big advocate of internships as a way for Fisher logistics students to get one-on-one mentoring and apply what they learn in the classroom.

"They come back to the classroom looking at the problem differently. It's the move from the classroom to the business world and back to the classroom that really enriches the students' experiences," she says.

Leading consumer-goods manufacturers and retailers such as Unilever, General Mills, Energizer, Shell Oil Company, Dow Chemical Company and Limited Brands all have hired Fisher interns.

While the recession has slowed demand for products, the "logistics engine is still moving," says Croxton, as evident by the nation's grocery store shelves and other retail destinations still being stocked with goods.

In today's environment, one thing is becoming clear to Croxton: "We need people who are forward thinking; who aren't making short-term decisions (and are) able to think long term. It's easy to get into a short-term mindset in an economy like this, but the strong companies are realizing that they need to think long-term and they need individuals managing the business that are able to think long term," she says.

In Their Own Words

Keely Croxton
Listen to Associate Professor of Logistics Keely Croxton discuss Supply Chain Management research and teaching at Fisher.

Fisher Faculty