Gaming Supply Chain Management Education

In the fall of 2021, the supply chain crisis began to impact consumers and suddenly it became a term everyone was hearing. At the same time, Dr. Craig Calvert, Management and Engineering for Manufacturing (MEM) program co-Director and Assistant Professor-in-Residence for Operations and Information Management (OPIM) with the School of Business, was preparing to launch the first University of Connecticut course on supply chain management. After so much interest that fall, he also decided to offer a spring semester independent study on advanced supply chain management, during which his students are developing a board game to reinforce and teach supply chain concepts.

“Supply chains are dynamic and require constant adjustment and adaptation,” Dr. Calvert said. “When designing the supply chain management course I pulled from my years of professional and industry experience in supply chains along with speaking to other industry experts.”

Supply chain management is the process of managing the movement of goods and services from suppliers, as raw materials, and to end users, as finished goods in the most efficient and effective way. In the global economy, supply chains are becoming more complex and difficult to manage. This complexity has caused many of the supply chain shortages experienced during the COVID pandemic. As a result, supply chain management is a growing field, and more and more MEM graduates are being recruited for these roles each year due to their understanding of both the business and manufacturing aspects of supply chain management.

Introduction to Supply Chain Management Class

While many MEM students thought Intro to Supply Chain Management sounded like an interesting and different business elective to round out their MEM curriculum, it also has proven to have significant value for the students who have taken it, as well as those who continued and took the additional Supply Chain Management Independent Study with Dr. Calvert.

Luca Mastrogiacomo, MEM senior, notes that he took the class because he had really just learned the term supply chain and was interested to learn more. Now, he will be graduating with a job as the Supply Chain Coordinator of a small specialty ice cream company, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, in Brooklyn, NY.

“I didn’t have any experience with supply chain,” said Paige Lombardi, MEM senior. “I thought it would be a fun elective, but the way Dr. Calvert taught this course, I retained more than from any other class. I can already see how it will apply to my future career.”

Liz Downey, MEM senior, agreed, “Intro to Supply Chain Management was such a great class. Even though it was about supply chain, I have been able to apply what I learned to other classes this semester.” She continued, “Learning accounting and finance is obviously important, but supply chain would be a great benefit to everyone, as well.”

While the Intro to Supply Chain Management course offered a general overview of supply chain topics, students say the course was very practical and experiential. “It was not just theory,” Lombardi said. “It was like being in a real life situation, which really made it practical and applicable, and this is probably why I retained so much of what we learned.”

“It was also great working alongside the MIS students, which made up about half of the class,” Mastrogiacomo said. “It was interesting to see the different ways students who were more focused on business thought about things like manufacturing and gave us all a lot of insights into areas we don’t know as much about. It was generally just more representative of a real work environment where you’re working with people from all kinds of educational and experience backgrounds.”

Dr. Calvert explains. “The in-class activities were designed so that the MEM students and MIS students would learn about each other’s discipline. Sometimes I had the different majors work together and other times I had them intentionally intermingle. I had several MIS students who had never taken an MEM course, and this class was their only exposure to how a manufacturing person would approach a problem.”

Independent Study Course and the Game Project Emerges

gaming the future of supply chainThe enthusiasm of the fall 2021 Intro to Supply Chain Management course was strong enough for Professor Calvert to offer an independent study section in the spring on the same topic. Five students enrolled, three of whom were from the MEM program and two from Management and Information Science (MIS) in the School of Business.

“I really enjoyed the first class and that increased my interest in the field so I wanted to take the independent study also.” Mastrogiacomo said. “I liked that there was a lot of opportunity for problem solving and that it is very cross functional. It touches every area of a company and has a huge impact on their success or failure.”

The independent study allowed the students to explore Supply Chain Management more deeply, to apply what they learned already, and to develop new teaching methods to help future students understand how the supply chain works.

Dr. Calvert intentionally designed the course to utilize inquiry-based learning and to let them find and answer what “wonders” students have. Similar to project based learning, this style of teaching focused on exploring answers. “I have five bright students so I wanted to approach this differently and so far the inquiry-based learning model has worked,” Calvert said. “It is exciting to see students get excited about learning and have fun with the process.”

The five students, all seniors, worked together to develop a game that will reinforce supply chain concepts, such as managing risks, rewards, and complicating factors.

The game board, which is loosely based on the game of LIFE, features landing points such as Risk, Rewards, Stop, Pay Day, and Neutrals points, as well as Knowledge Checks. While nothing may happen at the Neutral squares and when landing on Knowledge Checks students will have to answer questions from the Intro to Supply Chain Management course, Risks, Pay Days, and Stop Points are all familiar challenges or rewards that could happen in any supply chain scenario.

Lombardi explains, “Along the game, you have to keep stopping and there are lots of decisions to be made along the way that ultimately affect profit. The goal is to have the biggest profit, and your pay or rewards vary based on decisions you make regarding number of workers, their education levels, contracts you’ve made, etc. There are various risks and you have a chance to reevaluate your decisions at the stop points.”

Downey, Lombardi and Mastrogiacomo all agree that supply chain management is an important course for MEM students to take and that Dr. Calvert made this a unique and engaging course that will benefit them in any career.

“People hear the word and don’t really know what is involved,” Mastrogiacomo said. “It is a little different than what most people think MEM graduates end up doing, but it really touches on a lot of the areas that they do and the concepts are important to know about.”

MEM and OPIM Partner on Supply Chain Case Competition

Supply Chain Competition UConn

Last month, Management and Engineering for Manufacturing and Operations and Information Management partnered with Unilever to bring students a Supply Chain Case Competition. Eleven teams of three students each competed to develop a plan to resolve a mock supply chain issue for Unilever’s brand Lipton and their green tea product.

Students were given a challenge with some background information, and two weeks to develop a comprehensive plan to solve the problem. In this case, the problem was procuring an organic green tea from a new supplier in Vietnam as the first organic green tea in the Lipton product range, and operating in line with the company’s guiding principles of safety, quality and operating efficiency. Students were also given Unilever company values of improving health and well-being, reducing environmental impact, and enhancing livelihoods, as well as references to the company’s sustainable living goals. The plans they suggested had to factor in these sometimes competing goals as they prepared and presented their strategy. Data on supply chain and sourcing, green tea facts, as well as product consumption and demand were also given to the teams to take into consideration.

Teams made their presentations in front of a panel of judges including faculty from the School of Business, the School of Engineering, and Unilever supply chain representatives. After their presentations, the judges were able to ask them questions to further clarify and challenge the students’ ideas.

Luca Mastrogiacomo, junior and a Management Engineering for Manufacturing major, says he really appreciated the opportunity to see how supply chain problems look in real world settings. “It showed why supply chain is important because of how interconnected it is with all areas of a business and how a supplier relationship is so much more than just transactional,” he said. “It was very fulfilling to me to be able to actually apply what I’ve been learning in class to a real business problem.”

The case competition served as part of the Supply Chain Management course taught by Dr. Craig Calvert. Students in the supply chain course were required to participate and provide a report following it for the class, while additional students joined from other engineering and business school majors because they were eager to showcase their critical business skills and win coveted scholarships associated with the first, second and third place winning teams.

The breadth of majors found among team members was also beneficial. Students said they found extra value in working with other students on a team beyond their own major. “It was fun because I was able to do it with some of my friends from the supply chain class,” said Paige Lombardi, Management and Engineering for Manufacturing senior, “…since Chloe is an MIS major and Liz and I are MEM majors, we were able to see how the two different majors interpreted the case differently. The case study was beneficial to me because it allowed me to use the knowledge from my internship experience as well as what I have learned in my supply chain class with Professor Calvert this semester and apply it to a real-world case study.”

Top Three Teams

  • First place was awarded to Team Blue, a team consisting of Cara Tran, Biomedical Engineering senior; Prabhas KC, Economics senior; and Alexander Kim, Finance senior.
  • Second place was award to team Supply Chain Reign including Elizabeth Downey, MEM senior; Paige Lombardi, MEM senior; and Chloe Sainsbury, MIS senior.
  • Third place was awarded to Andrew Warshavsky, MIS senior; Luca Mastrogiacomo, MEM senior; and Jacob Patterson, MEM senior.


Supply Chain Management Course Offered for Fall 2021

For the last several years, in the Management and Engineering for Manufacturing program, more and more of our graduates are finding jobs related to supply chain management. With the evolving nature of manufacturing and industry in the United States, it’s really no wonder.

Supply chain management is defined as the process of managing the movement of goods and services from suppliers, as raw materials, and to end users, as finished goods, in an efficient and effective way. Careers in supply chain management can take the role of sourcing, negotiating, contracting, purchasing, logistics, product design and development, inventory control, distribution and more.

The world is getting smaller, but that doesn’t mean that managing the supply chain for manufacturers is getting any easier. In fact, while the world has become more and more accessible with parts of the supply chain traveling around the world in record time, we know it is necessary to produce graduates ready to enter manufacturing in this field, and to bring with them the skills and the creativity needed to expedite the segments of production and access to supplies.

That is why, Dr. Calvert, professor in the School of Business and the co-director of MEM, is developing a course for students interested in supply chain management as a career.

“This course will examine the supply chain from a practical perspective.” Calvert said. “Class time will focus on active discussions and case analysis over the lecture format.”

The topics, including sales, materials management, logistics, and transportation, and will include real-world examples from the professor’s own professional experience.

In addition, external experts such as former MEM and School of Business students, now employed at Unilever, will discuss how supply chain management is performed at their company. Other guest lecturers in the field will include an independent consultant with more than 30-years of experience in the field.

Supply Chain Management, OPIM 4895, will be offered Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 to 12:15 pm.

Supply chain management is an exciting business and engineering field, perfect for MEM students, as well as other engineering and business students as they consider the future of manufacturing leadership in the United States.

Flyer promoting Supply Chain Management Course OPIM 4895 (Fall 2021)