Last week, a team of Penn State Smeal MBA candidates consisting of Tim Pace, Darius Adl, Jose Fanjul, Derek DeGroot, Felicia Li and Joey Ly had the opportunity to travel to Arkansas to compete in the 16th Sam M. Walton College of Business International Graduate Logistics Case Competition.
We were one of 12 teams participating with our competition consisting of BYU, Iowa State, Rutgers, Ohio State, University of Arkansas, University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, University of Texas at Dallas, University of Wisconsin, and two international teams, Chalmers University of Technology from Sweden and Darmstadt University of Technology from Germany.
Penn State was the defending champion, which certainly added pressure on the team. Among other colleges, University of Maryland and BYU were 2nd and 3rd place in the last case competition. Darmstadt University of Technology from Germany has been participating for this event for 11 years, and was considered one of our strongest competitors.
We arrived in Arkansas on Wednesday night and had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Alan Stenger, who was our faculty support. He gave us a lot of tips from his previous experience, which became an important factor of our success at the end. After dinner, we watched an introductory DVD together and knew our case was about bottled water. Tuesday, we had a tour of a Walmart distribution center, Walmart Super Center and Nestle. We didn’t get the case until Friday, so we tried our best to ask questions which we believed would be beneficial for our case analysis. After the dinner, the team had a brainstorming session, talking about all the potential issues and solutions that we thought the case would cover.
The case was distributed at 7:30 am on Friday. The issues we had to tackle included the inefficient supply chain and inaccurate forecasting relating to Walmart’s private label bottled water, as well as sustainability issues. The problems were more complicated than what we had expected. We ended up finishing our presentation slides and initial rehearsal at 2:30 am on Saturday.
On Saturday morning after breakfast, we rehearsed twice and then headed to Sam’s Club where we would present our recommendations in front of 5-6 judges. The 12 teams were divided into three rooms, four for each room. Each winning team from that room would advance into the final round. Our recommendation was out-of-the-box and certainly risky, but we could tell that the judges liked our proposals. In the end, we beat the teams from the University of Arkansas, University of Maryland and Rutgers and advanced to the final round. The final round consisted of three teams, and the two others were the Swedish and German teams. The team had an outstanding performance in the final presentation and we ended up getting 3rd place.
This case competition was very well run and participation in this event was a valuable experience. I would recommend participation by Smeal students again in the future. We truly appreciate for this opportunity and we thank University of Arkansas, Penn State, and all others who supported us. A very special thanks Dr. Alan Stenger for his company and support to the team.
-Felicia Li, Penn State Smeal MBA Class of 2013