Farmer School Team Wows Detroit

October 2012

A team of four Farmer School supply chain management students won the 2012 General Motors/Wayne State University School of Business Administration Supply Chain Case Competition held September 20-22 in Detroit, winning respect from a number of high ranking business executives in the process.

"The team was absolutely great and very professional," said team advisor and assistant professor of management, Peter Salzarulo. "I think they really turned a lot of heads. They brought a lot of recognition of Miami and made the Farmer School and the supply chain management program look good. It really validated a lot of the things we do in the program."

The 2012 GM/Wayne State Case competition was sponsored by General Motors, Ryder, Delphi, Bridgestone, Detroit Regional Chamber, AIAG, and LEAR Corporation. It brought together teams from sixteen top supply chain management programs. Miami's team, consisting of supply chain management senior Dan Ruffley and juniors Christine Buehler, "Ken" Xianwu Lin, and Caleb Harshbarger, advanced out of the regional level beating Texas Christian, IUPUI, and Florida State. In the final, intensive round, the FSB team competed against the Michigan State, Penn State and Howard University teams.

The competition's central case involved the Chevrolet Malibu Eco. Teams had to present how they would handle a decision to accelerate the rollout of this production model. "The case itself was very rigorous," said Buehler. "There were many costs, calculations, and outcomes to consider with each decision possibility. We spent countless hours on Excel reviewing formulas and making sure we had accounted for every aspect of the decision."

Salzarulo appreciated the realistic and complex case and how it dovetailed perfectly with the interests of the companies in attendance. "They were changing the model year and something happened whereby they could do it earlier. The problem is all their suppliers would have to move up their ready dates, so the case involved not only GM, but representatives from all the other sponsoring companies."

The Miami team proved it had the stamina and the skills to thrive despite the complexity of the cases and the pressure of the competition. "The team was awesome because everyone had different strengths to contribute," said Buehler. "Dan Ruffley, was our veteran senior and Excel wizard. Ken Xianwu is a human computer with numbers."

Harshbarger said the team's flexibility was attractive to the judges: "An executive from Lear mentioned that what stood out to him about our team is that, as a panel, they could direct any question to any one members of our team and each one could effectively execute it without error."

The team's competition performance led to unparalleled networking opportunities. "We got to interact with executive management throughout the entire weekend from companies like GM, Ryder, and Bridgestone," said Buehler.

"Every member was presented with great networks and potential job offers," said Harshbarger. "I was able to meet with the Vice President of Lear Corporation, the Executive Director of Global Supply Chain of GM, and General Motors Director of Human Resource for Supply Chain."

Read more:AIAG