Case Competition

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olin-case-comp-photoThe Monsanto-Olin Case Competition (MOCC) was an inter-college graduate case competition organized by Olin and sponsored by Monsanto, a publicly traded agrochemical company. The evening prior to the competition participants were invited to an event at Monsanto’ s headquarters, where they had the opportunity to meet Monsanto employees, engage in presentations, and enjoy a networking happy hour. This case competition was designed for MBA students interested in global supply chain and technology management in the agri-business environment.  Olin faculty and Monsanto executives had put together a live case and were looking for students’ innovative, creative and insightful business solutions.

Over 40 schools were invited to compete in this particular competition, but only five were selected to present their live case.  The final teams included the Penn State Smeal team, Texas Christian University Neeley School of Business, University of Missouri-Columbia Crosby MBA Program, Rollins College Crummer MBA, and the host, Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School MBA.

As students with a concentration in supply chain, the case was highly valuable since we worked on real issues faced by the company. Doing this case was advantageous for us in two other ways as well – 1) we formed relations with the company and 2) we learned and improved our knowledge and skills from exposure to the field.  The case completion helped us in broadening our business approach, connecting different areas that touch upon business, and improving our presentation skills. It also gave us real experience as management students by providing an opportunity to present directly to C-suite level professors (judges). In addition to the aforementioned advantages, the case completion taught us to collaborate. It is very interesting to see how four people of different backgrounds worked together to give an appeal to the project.

Each year Michigan State has invited the top 15 supply chain programs to participate in its Bowersox Supply Chain Competition (GSCC).  GSCC is simulation-based, where teams have about three hours to come up with a strategy and execute 13 rounds.  Each team is then graded on four items: Revenue, Supply Chain Contribution, Demand Fulfillment and Inventory Turnover.
msu-1st-place-2015This year, the simulation was strategizing the location of a new plant, the product mix, and both the labor and warehousing capacity.   This year eight supply chain programs competed, including Penn State’s Smeal.  The Smeal MBA team was made up of two first-year’s, Jordan Crespo and Chad Darlington, and one second-year, Skylar Haws.  The team scored third on Revenue, first on Supply Chain Contribution, fifth on Demand Fulfillment, and second on Inventory Turnover.  Overall, Penn State won the competition, with Wisconsin second and Michigan State winning the tie-breaker over Carnegie Mellon for third.  It was a great competition; so great, and we even made it into Penn State news. Penn State Smeal team wins Bowersox Graduate Supply Chain Challenge.

Case PictureThe Global Supply Chain Management Initiative (GSCMI) Inter-College Graduate Case Competition was held as part of the GSCMI Spring Conference put on by Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. The GSCMI Center puts on a semi-annual conference where topics are discussed with industry leaders about new initiatives affecting the global supply chain. This year, the conference and case competition focused on a new trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Only one team per school was able to participate, so in order to choose a team to represent the Smeal College of Business, the MBA Supply Chain Club held a mini-case competition for all teams that wanted the opportunity to compete. The case was given/held in October, and was about American Airlines and deciding the procurement strategy for a blanket supplier.

After winning this mini-case round, our team registered and competed in the first round of the actual GSCMI competition. The case involved analyzing the effects of the TPP on the pharmaceutical industry and what types of procurement and risk analytic recommendations would not only help a given pharmaceutical industry succeed with the new TPP regulations, but also protect against supply chain disruptions. The directive was to create a 10 slide presentation to submit virtually that would outline our analysis and recommendations. Out of 12 teams that applied for the first round, 6 were selected to move on to the final round, held in person at Purdue. The final round consisted of a 24 hour case that added more information and changes to the first round TPP case. Not only did we have to refine our supply chain strategy from round 1, but we also now had to consider changes in the legal, patent, and data exclusivity laws that were not presented in the first round of the case.  Our team worked at Purdue from 9:00am until 12:00am the next day creating our presentation and refining the recommendation to accommodate for the changes to the case. The next day we attended the GSCMI Center Spring Conference where we heard from industry leaders about how their companies/business were affected by the TPP and how it would benefit them.

At the end of the conference, around 2:00pm, the 6 finalist teams presented their entire analysis and recommendations in front of 8 judges and an audience of about 20 other faculty and conference participants. The 6 finalist teams were from the University of Washington in St. Louis, University of Michigan, University of Illinois – Champagne, Purdue University, the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and us. We presented second to last in the lineup and felt that our recommendation and analysis was strong and exceptional. Having not been able to witness any of the other presentations, we did not have any expectations with regards to how well we performed comparatively. In the end, we were awarded 1st place, with UNC coming in 2nd, and UoW St. Louis coming in 3rd. We want to thank 220 for their support and making it possible for us to travel to Purdue, as well as the Supply Chain club for selecting us to represent the school.

By F. Jordan Crespo

The 2016 Illinois MBA Strategy Case was an invitation only competition hosted by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign MBA program on February 4-6. This year’s competition was sponsored by AT&T and Bosch.  Judges for this event included employees from some of the top corporations within the U.S., Illinois MBA alumni, in particular the aforementioned companies.  Fourteen schools from across the United States will be invited to participate in this exhilarating competition. Participants will have 24 hours to analyze a complex business strategy case and present to a panel of judges. The competition is staged in two rounds: first, three to four teams presented to four different panels.  Each winner from the first round then presented to a larger panel in the second and final round of the competition.

Case PictureThis year the case revolved around the changing industry dynamics of Intel and its computer processing business.  We were given qualitative and quantitative data surrounding Intel’s six business segments: personal computers, servers, mobile devices, internet of things, and other.  We were tasked with recommending what segments Intel should pursue and how they should continue to grow profits in each area chosen.  We were given the case as 8:00am and asked to submit our final presentation on a flash drive at 8:15am the next day.  We worked until about 2am, considering marketing, operations, financials, and industry trends to determine the best paths for Intel to pursue.  We did not advance from the 1st round of the competition, but value our learnings from the case and our new knowledge about the technology industry.  We want to thank 220 for their support and making it possible for us to travel to the University of Illinois, as well as the Andy and Nancy for selecting us to represent the school.

By Greg Wommer

Case Picture

The Deloitte Supply Chain Challenge final round constituted of providing a response to a Request for Proposal (RFP) for consulting services on how to expand a multinational automaker’s operations and sales streams from India to South Africa. There were 8 teams total competing, which were pre-selected to be separated into two rooms for the first round, of which the top 4 would move on to the final.

Instead of providing a generic case, the final round consisted of a 12 hour period where Deloitte practitioners acted as both internal consulting managers and the customer itself. We had meetings, phone calls, and milestones to complete throughout the 12 hour time period, where we would be able to speak with and glean extra information from the different people and allow that to help us with our response. The first milestone was about 1 ½ hours into the competition, where we had to meet with our project manager to talk about what direction we were focusing on and see if that made sense. We then had a phone call with the customer, where they were able to tell us about their thoughts on some of the key focus areas and what they didn’t like about the expansion. We then had another in person meeting with the Principal of our project where they assisted in identifying one of the key problems our customer was interested in answering.

Overall, from 10:30am to 11:59pm, we worked on evaluating the considerations of the problems presented, and what types of analysis and evaluation we could provide as a consulting firm. After presenting, while we were given positive feedback, we were not moved on to the final round. It was extremely beneficial to learn about the consulting process and what different expectations a consulting firm has for its employees, as well as what is going to sell to the customer and help them make the decision to hire the consulting firm.

By F. Jordan Crespo

The Penn State team of Michael Abendroth, Mark Joanow, Chris Kalmar, Chris Otteni, and Peggy Schwarz was proud to earn an honorable mention at the Rutgers Biopharmaceutical Case Competition on November 14th, beating top schools like Duke, MIT, and Columbia.

Participants received the case seven days prior to the competition. Our team juggled the rigors of Finance, Risk, and Economics midterms with the challenge of the case: pricing a novel drug to enter a competitive market. We leveraged skills from our medical school training, pharmaceutical industry experience, and finance and risk classes. We researched market trends and medical outcome probabilities and costs from business and medical literature. We used this data to construct a decision tree to estimate the minimum cost that an insurer would be willing to pay for the new drug. We then considered the drug’s competitive advantages and other significant factors to reach a final price recommendation. We completed the slides on Thursday evening and then embarked for Newark, NJ. We got to the hotel at 11 PM, practiced the oral presentation, and then got a few hours of much-needed sleep.

When we checked in on Friday morning, we learned that many of the Midwestern teams had been delayed by the weather. The Rutgers crew successfully rearranged the day’s schedule to accommodate each school. We moved to a practice room that Rutgers graciously provided.

We presented our analysis to a panel of judges from Bayer, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, and other pharmaceutical leaders. They asked challenging and insightful questions. Our backgrounds in medicine and business allowed us to answer well.

After all of the teams had presented, we gathered for the awards ceremony. It was here that we discovered which schools our colleagues represented, as this info was previously hidden to prevent judging bias. There were teams from Duke, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, MIT, Michigan State, Georgia, Rutgers, and McGill. The first, second, and third place winners were Rutgers, Wharton, and Kellogg, respectively. We were proud to earn an honorable mention for Penn State. We thoroughly enjoyed this competition and hope to participate again next year.

The GOC case competition is part of the Global Operations Conference, organized by the University of Michigan each year. The cases introduce students to the world of operation management, with content ranging from detailed process flow improvement to high level strategic recommendations. This year, the case was a disguised version of a real life project in one of Alcoa’s divisions. The company, facing increased demand for their products, was building a new factory and needed to make sure it had planned effectively. Specifically, we had to examine process flows, calculate if the planned capacity was sufficient, estimate inventory levels, and create rules for workers so the process would remain optimized and in control. Forty-five teams from US and international universities submitted their solution for the first round. From this group, five finalists were selected, including our team. The final round took place during the conference in Ann Arbor, MI and consisted of a 30 minute presentation to a panel judges from Alcoa. The case was data driven and, without complete knowledge of the industry, took us some time to understand the process. Given that Penn State won this case competition last year, we had the extra pressure to defend the title, and the pressure increased when we realized the Alcoa judges were the same form last year and they recognized one of our team members, raising their expectations. Fortunately, we were able to put the pressure aside and present a compelling presentation. The success we had in this case competition made us realize how good the preparation is that we receive in the MBA program, as the judges (one of them actually worked on the real project) were surprised that we did not receive assistance from any faculty members to arrive at our solution. We are happy we were able to represent the Smeal MBA Program and Penn State in this competition. We want to thanks Carrie Marcinkevage, Erik Orient and Sandy Simler for their support in our participation in this event and to the organizers of the conference, who were very supportive of our team during the competition.

-Tatiana Kuzmenko, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15

Case PhotoI never imagined myself in taking part in case competitions. I was fearful in participating for two reasons. Firstly, I had a wrong perception about the judges. I thought they would just grill us in the Q&A section of the case completion. Secondly, I felt I didn’t learn enough to tackle the case competition complex problems. I was wrong in both instances. I took part in two case competitions – National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) and Howard case competition prepared by LMI consulting. Both were the best experiences I have had and I will look for more case competitions in the spring. The judges were kind, but also wanted to understand the logic flow in our recommendation. They also gave us tough questions to make sure the recommendation was solid and understand some things they didn’t understand. Secondly, I am very confident that the first year courses have prepared students to handle most MBA case competitions. Work experience, research experience, library resources and discussion with case teammates would fill the rest of the gap. Here is my final take on why students should take part in case competitions:

You get to apply the core and elective course materials you have learned in first year. It is exciting to apply all these “fragmented” knowledge into a real world complex problem.

You will develop your communication and problem solving skills. You present a solid recommendation to experts in their field and still defend your recommendation.

It is fun and exciting. You get to spend hours analyzing a big problem and conceptually fight with teammates to come up with a solution. The discussions I had in case competitions were the best I had and I learned a lot from my teammates.

It is always exciting to represent Penn State, especially at big stages. It is a huge responsibility, but it has a huge reward as well.

If you aren’t convinced by the non-monetary incentives so far, go for the monetary incentives.

-Nahom Woldemariam – Penn State Smeal MBA ’15


Katz #2On January 25th, Majaz Mohammed, Hiren Patel, Brian Plowman and Sundeep Raja took part in the Katz Invitational Case Competition hosted at the University of Pittsburgh’ Joseph M. Katz School. The team finished second place in the case competition that had sixteen teams competing for the top places. Brian Plowman won the award for best presenter.

The competition was held in partnership with Bank of New York Mellon and Direct Energy. The case focused on the energy industry and challenged the teams to develop innovative business strategies harnessing the disruptive forces at play within the industry. The case was distributed three weeks prior to the event for the teams to come up with innovative and sound business ideas. After deliberating several ideas, the team proposed a micro-grid solution for the Energy retailing company in question. The team presented to a panel of judges who were senior leaders at BNY, HP, Chevron, Direct Energy and Ever power wind holdings. Creativity, in-depth analysis and polish of the presentation helped the team see success at the event.

With an evening reception on the 24th and an all-day event on 25th with two rounds of presentations followed by dinner and awards,  Katz Business School were the perfect hosts with an extremely well organized event.

The team would like to thank Carrie Marcinkevage, Erik Orient and Sandy Simler for supporting our participation in this event.

Please follow the below link for additional details on the event and the sponsors –

– Sundeep Raja, Smeal MBA Class of 2014


It was my first case competition and I was invited to be a part of the team along with a few second year MBA students. I was excited about the new challenge that lay ahead of our team.

Rutgers Business School in Newark, NJ is quite famous for its pharmaceutical MBA program. Not surprisingly, the case given to the teams was a pharmaceutical case which was about the launch of a new breast cancer drug in uncertain market conditions. The case was handed to us about a week before the date of the competition and Tom Impelletri, Jyotinder Singh and I started working on the case from the word ‘go’.

I was initially stunned by the sheer vastness and the depth of the case but Tom and Jyo clarified certain key points and laid down the platform. This was not one of those cases that you study and come to class for the next day to discuss with your colleagues. This was a 27 page technical case that had ‘pharma’ written all over it – pharmaceutical drugs, industry norms and accepted risk levels. The panel of judges consisted of product and division managers from companies like Bayer and Merck.

On the day of the competition, we drove from State College to Newark and we reached the venue at around 8 AM. Our presentation slot was at 9 AM and we were done by 10 AM with our presentation. We spent the rest of the day in the Business School building by attending information sessions and networking sessions with the executives from the different companies. We were confident that we had given our best and waited for the results to be announced at 5 PM in the evening.

The time was 5 PM and I was a little bit disappointed when the results were announced. We did not make it to the podium. It was a good one week of preparation and practice. I was able to use what I had learned from Corporate Finance, Risk and Marketing subjects and was also able to use the famous SDSR and the ‘three point’ speech for our presentation. All in all, a very good learning experience and I will go back to Rutgers again next year with more preparation and with even better prospects of winning the competition.

-Anand Mohan, PSU Smeal MBA ’15


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