MBLE students tackle storage capacity dilemma at DSW

Some students erroneously believe they must wait for summer internships to apply classroom studies to real world experiences. However, there are several Fisher courses, such as the Field Problems in Logistics, which provide classroom lessons and professional practicum simultaneously.

Offered as an elective for the MBA and the Master in Business Logistics Engineering (MBLE) programs, Field Problems in Logistics is an advanced project course where teams of students work together to solve a logistics-related problem at a company.

Several large companies, both locally and from across the country, enthusiastically welcome the opportunity to have Fisher students address internal business problems. Footwear retailer, DSW, Inc., has provided projects for the logistics class for the last two years. This year, managers at Columbus-based DSW were thrilled to have Fisher logistics students tackle a storage and capacity issue at its main distribution center near the airport.

“It’s free labor,” quipped Jon Szekely, engineering manager for DSW. With a serious tone, he added, the company is committed to supporting the education community and derives substantial benefits from its relationship with Fisher and its students. “We have multiple heads attacking a sore business spot for us, where unfortunately, we don’t have someone that we can dedicate to this project full-time.”

That is where students, Mikaella Polyviou, Paul Santamaria, Robert Wiedmer and Phoenix Zhang, come in. They were given the assignment to analyze capacity within the five-story high and 1,400-foot by 400-foot facility and make recommendations for new storage strategies. The distribution center usually operates at a 98 percent storage capacity during the retailer’s busiest months, March and September.

The team visited the distribution center at least once a week over the nine week course. During the visits and through the data received from DSW they analyzed the layout of the distribution center and the workflow of the various departments. Their efforts focused on finding ways to reduce waste in various activities and increase space utilization. By the end of the project, the team discovered the facility had 28-percent more storage potential.

“I thought they were excellent,” Szekely said of the students and the presentation of their study results at the end of the project.

“This was a good opportunity for us to get reinforcement and some confirmation for some ideas that we had,” said Andy Matt, director of distribution services for DSW.

The only drawback, Matt said, was that DSW would have liked to have the students’ help for longer than nine weeks.

The team, all international students, said the project provided them with an excellent opportunity to interact with industry professionals and work in a real business environment.

Santamaria said this project provided good experience for his career goal, which is to become a consultant. “There aren’t too many universities that offer this type of program.”

“It’s so different from my studies in Germany,” said Weider, who praised the MBLE program for its connections to corporations and bringing industry leaders into the classroom. “This is real business world related. We would never have the opportunity to do such a project in our studies in Germany. I’m really getting an idea of what’s going on out there in the business world.”

Weider and Zhang, from China, both indicated that they chose Fisher because logistics and supply chain programs are highly ranked and have strong reputations internationally.

“I heard a lot of stories about the professors here,” said Zhang, who is pursuing a career in global supply chain. She was further impressed by a meeting in China with MBLE program director, Walter Zinn, a logistics professor.

As an undergraduate, Zhang used logistics professor Doug Lambert’s textbook in global supply chain. “Prof. Lambert is very famous,” Zhang said.

Now in its third year, the MBLE program is offered jointly through Fisher and the College of Engineering. The small, selective program includes courses in logistics and supply chain management, warehouse design, logistics technology, mathematical programming and computer simulation.

“I think the business world and engineering world blend really well together, you can see it in the program,” Polyviou said about MBLE. Polyviou, from Cyprus, plans to pursue a PhD in logistics. “I really made a good choice coming here. I love it.”