reWorking Michigan: Supply Chain Management at MSU tops national ranking


U.S. News and World Report recently named Michigan State University's Department of Supply Chain Management the top school of its kind in the country. Always highly ranked, MSU moved past MIT to the top spot for the first time.| SKIP down to article

Supply chain management boils down to this: how can you get things where they need to be as efficiently as possible? Like the TV ads say, it's all about logistics.


There's more than just "we're number one" chest-thumping going on these days at the MSU Department of Supply Chain Management. People here think they deserve the top ranking, and they're looking for ways to capitalize on it.

"Coming in #1 over MIT, I think it just reflects the fact that businesses are looking for a supply chain program that is broad and integrative, and I think that's really where we come in," says Dave Closs, who chairs the department.

Along with training the future leaders of the supply chain world, Closs says the department conducts important research into best practices that can lead to improvements not only for corporate America, but local, state and federal officials, too.

Closs says the department worked with the administration of former Governor Jennifer Granholm to create the Michigan Supply Chain Development Commission. Think along the lines of well-known hubs like those of UPS in Louisville and Federal Express in Memphis. Closs says the Rick Snyder administration is following up on that.

"They're actively working with the university and Detroit Regional Chamber," Closs says, "and Prima Civitas is another organization, as a way that we can collaborate and bring the entities, the public sector, the private sector and the academics, together in a way that we can create that hub and make it work."


Professor Stanley Griffis concurs. A retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, he had 20 years of logistics experience before turning to academia. He thinks with bottlenecks appearing in hubs like Chicago, Michigan has a lot to offer in terms of open land, warehousing, and a rich logistical infrastructure in the form of rail service and interstate highways. Facilities like the Capital Region International Airport's Port Lansing, where international shipments have begun, are also part of that infrastructure.

Griffis says Michigan's border crossings with Canada make the state attractive for importing to the U.S. from Asia and Europe.

"We're hoping that one of the things that happens as Michigan starts to rally back," Griffis says, "is that one of the centerpieces that they can use for that is the logistics potential that is residing here in the state."


There's more to supply chain management at MSU than training people how to help the business community.

Last year, professor Tobias Schoenherr had students apply what they were learning in the classroom to real-world situations for non-profits. Along with helping them improve efficiency, they located new vendors. As a result, Schoenherr estimates that his students saved the groups a total of half a million dollars.

"Purchasing might not be their top priority on their to-do list," Schoenherr says. "That's not really what most not-for-profits are there for, they are there to help our community, to help individuals in need. So, purchasing might be neglected because they have to focus on other things."

The non-profits included the Greater Lansing Food Bank, the MSU Student Food Bank, and governmental entities like Delta Township. Schoenherr is continuing the program this year with organizations like Peckham Industries.


For students like senior Manzur Moidunny of Roseville, graduating from the top ranked school in the nation could help when it comes time to look for a job. He calls it a "big confidence booster."

"Just choosing a major," Moidunny says, "I honestly did not feel like a college degree in any area would really help me for a real-life job, but I've taken some great classes in supply chain from amazing professors who were COO's of companies, and they just knew what they were talking about and gave me real-life examples, and made me feel like I was prepared to go on and work in the supply chain industry."

While getting a job might be most important to supply chain graduates, the big picture for the people of Michigan might be a future where some of those graduates help turn the state into a supply chain magnet.

reWorking Michigan
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