Brewing tour teaches supply chain, operations, management lessons

Tour covers 30+ companies in three states

Students tour part of a brewery in North Carolina
Students tour part of a brewery in North Carolina

Tour covers 30+ companies in three states

How would you like to spend your winter vacation? On a beach in Florida? Zonked out on the couch? Visiting beer makers to learn more about the supply chain process? Wait, what?

That’s how a couple of dozen Farmer School students spent their winter term, crisscrossing the country to visit more than 30 breweries, corporate offices, distribution centers, packaging facilities, farming and processing centers, commercial labs, and industry group headquarters, while earning six credit hours in supply chain operations and in management.

“I felt that the brewing industry was a perfect way to understand supply chain and strategic managerial decisions,” senior accounting major Nick DiFilippo explained. “From securing the sourcing of hard to get raw materials to making a small brewery stand out among industry leaders, it was amazing to talk with all of the individuals who were able to do so.”

Despite the fact that every participant has to be of legal drinking age, the trip isn’t a tasting tour. All four of the Miami Plan pillars of engaging with other learners, critical thinking, putting learning into context, and reflecting and acting are part of the class, through 30 hours of intensive small group seminar-style classroom work followed by an 18-day trip to Oregon, Colorado, and North Carolina.

“While I already knew a lot about the composition of the industry, I was able to learn so much about how the industry actually works. I learned all about the strategic decisions firms make within their supply chains, and how many different aspects are important to constructing a viable and strong supply chain,” senior economics major Madison Cain said. “I also learned about the growth of the brewing industry and how craft brewing companies are fighting to grow their business while the big beer companies are trying to maintain their high market share.”

“If I had to pick a favorite aspect of the program, it would have to be having the opportunity to meet and talk with the founders of various breweries face to face and ask them about why they do what they do,” senior supply chain and operations major Cory Huddleston recalled. “The brewing industry is filled with creative individuals, each with their own opinion on what makes the best strategy for a brewery.”

To see more photos of the tour, visit this Facebook page.

To read a 2015 article in Fortune magazine about the program, click here.