Supply Chain Strategy Students Work on FedEx Project to Improve Omni-Channel Customer Experience
The capstone project for supply chain management students requires them to use industry-supplied data to work on ways to optimize distribution networks to make sure products get to consumers whenever and wherever they want.
Anníbal Sodero of the Department of Supply Chain Management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas said this is the "holy grail" of omni-channel retailing.
"When a retail supply chain is unable to make products available to satisfy consumers' individual needs according to what they are willing to pay for the products, the consumers will go elsewhere," Sodero said.
The student project, overseen by Sodero, is a collaboration with FedEx Services, Customer Solutions, a leader in providing global logistics solutions.
Sodero said inventory management, transportation management and network design have never been so critical for retail supply chains, "not only from a cost perspective, but especially from a customer service perspective."
FedEx supplied historical data of shipments of a large manufacturer of high-technology products from multiple origins to multiple destinations. These shipments are time-sensitive and today's distribution network is not adapted to the new reality of retailing, which merges the conventional structure of distribution centers and stores with the more recent structure of fulfillment centers and multiple delivery points. Students must assess the performance of the current network and redesign it so that it becomes more efficient and effective.
The project, which is the main component of the capstone course of the supply chain management major, presents students with problems that supply chain managers see every day. These include handling large datasets that may contain inconsistencies and facing multiple scenarios whose complexity cannot be assessed at a glance.
Carolyn Shanks, solutions adviser at FedEx Services, said, "Students value being exposed to real-life issues and using actual data to develop solutions to complex supply chain problems."
"Students obtain valuable experience that can be applied during their careers," she said. "Furthermore, with the impact of e-commerce, there is growing demand for supply chain knowledge and experience that expands into other business disciplines students might enter, such as marketing, strategic planning, business development, technology, etc."
"We could not have a better partner to help us pursue our goals, which are to expose students to experiential learning and to reinforce critical thinking and skills such as presentation techniques and data analysis, which will always be in high demand by the job market," Sodero said.
David Speer, director of communications
Sam M. Walton College of Business
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