Operations management students compete in regional competition

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
March 1, 2012

The growth of an Indiana State University student organization was on display when several teams of ISU students competed with top business students from across the Midwest during a regional competition in Chicago.

The 17th annual Great Lakes District Student Case Competition for Advancing Productivity, Innovation and Competitive Success presented undergraduate students with networking opportunities, seminars and real-life business problems.

"I am incredibly proud of both of our teams." said Brittany Jones, president of the APICS chapter at ISU. "We realized that we are capable of going above and beyond to tackle difficult tasks in an extremely short period of time."

During the competition, students offered creative solutions to a posed business dilemma.

"It could be something like ‘We're having a problem shipping to our customers on time. Here are our statistics, here is our process, find a solution,'" said Jason Swartzell, a senior operations management and analysis major and vice president of the APICS chapter at ISU.

The catch is that the teams had just five minutes to present the ideas they had been working on over the course of the weekend.

"No pressure," joked Swartzell, "and no sleep."

The busy weekend also offered students the opportunity to meet other members of APICS, a national organization for professionals in the supply chain and operations management industry, according to its website, apics.org.

"Our organization-and our major in general-is about doing things in the most efficient, cost-effective ways and improving current processes to be more productive," said Jones.

She said one of the benefits of the major is that it can lead to careers in a variety of fields.

"You can go into manufacturing, healthcare, finance, even sports," she said.

ISU's APICS chapter has an active membership three times larger than last year, said advisor Ken Jones, a senior lecturer for operations management and analysis at ISU. He noted that enrollments in the department are increasing at an accelerated rate.

"These are great indicators of potential growth for the major," the instructor said.

To prepare for Saturday's regional event, ISU's APICS chapter hosted a practice competition in Terre Haute against the University of Indianapolis, a team comprised of members that actually won the regional competition two years ago.

"If ISU were to compete against any team in a pre-competition, they were the team," said instructor Jones. "They saw some of the best competition in the Midwest."

He said the event offered students a chance to work on a case that is "fairly typical" of what teams see at the regional competition. Students presented their solutions to local industry leaders, including professionals from Clabber Girl, Terre Haute Regional Hospital and Sony.

"The ISU teams now possess a better understanding of how to attack a business case," he said.

In addition to being better prepared, presentations often function as an opportunity to impress potential employers, said Derek Heinz, a senior operations management and supply major from Vincennes.

"The people that are judging, or these employers, it's kind of like your first interview, potential interview for a lot of these companies," he said.

While the students prepare for their futures during the regional competition, they also hope to make a difference now by educating young adults in the community.

APICS plans to host an informational event at local high schools to let students know early on about potential careers in the field of operations management and analysis.

"I had no clue what I wanted to do in high school, obviously a lot of us don't, but I never even knew anything like this existed," said Brittany Jones, who started out as a nursing major before switching to operations management and analysis.

"A lot of people just don't know about our major, or misunderstand it," she said.

After reaching out to other students and majors and getting them involved in APICS, the organization is seeing tremendous growth.

"We've tried to get other majors more involved, which has increased how many people we've had interested in it," said Brittany Jones.

While last year, APICS could not field a team to compete in the regional competition, this year, they sent two.

"Very few universities participating could send two teams," said Ken Jones, adding that the experience proved beneficial for the future business leaders.

"They learned how to work together more efficiently and effectively, and most importantly, when to have a little fun," he said. "In business, one must always work hard, but know when to play a little bit, too."

"It was an experience that none of us will ever forget," said Swartzell. "Good networking, good people, good times.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-64KhPGd/0/L/i-64KhPGd-L.jpg (ISU/Tony Campbell)
Indiana State University students Jason Swartzell (far left) and Brittany Jones (far right) discuss an operations management project with Clabber Girl as their instructor, Ken Jones (second from right) and Clabber Girl employees look on. Swartzell and Brittany Jones are members of a student organization dedicated to supply chain and operations management.

Contact: Ken Jones, senior lecturer, operations and supply management, Indiana State University, 812.237.2116

Writer: Bethany Donat, media relations assistant, Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812.237.3773