To make a difference in the real world, you need to be prepared for the real world. This semester, Bryant Global Supply Chain Management students worked as consultants on semester-long projects for Rentschler Biopharma, Electric Supply Center (ESC), and Tiffany & Co., through the program’s capstone practicum. Working together, they developed supply chain solutions for actual clients and delivered impressive results.
The practicum, says Professor of Operations Management and Practicum Director Chris Roethlein, proves what Bryant students, and a Bryant education, are capable of. “Our goal is to make sure that every student in the program is ready to go to work,” he states. “We want them to be able to start adding value on day one and we want them to have the confidence and the skills to be successful in their careers.”
The practicum’s success, he adds, speaks for itself. “The average team saves a company about $2 million in projected annual savings a year — and we've been tracking that metric for several years,” says Roethlein.
Skills to succeed
To provide solutions to complex real-world problems, the students must be able to understand the minute details of industry functions while still seeing the big picture. That requires a grasp of fundamental concepts, industry-specific details, and management strategies. “What's unique about our program is that our teams don’t just solve fluff problems or theoretical problems; we solve actual, current problems,” Roethlein says. “Every student team I've ever worked with through the practicum has solved a complex problem for a company, and most often their solutions get implemented within months.”
The practicum, required for all Global Supply Chain Management majors, allows students to test out their skills to see what works. "What makes this project different is the real results you generate, and how it gives you a better understanding of how to do the work you need to actually get there,” says Robert Fraser ’23, who took part in this semester’s practicum. “In other projects and simulations, you have a limited number of choices. The practicum allows you to be creative and make your own choices, which is really valuable."
"Every year, the projects are more far reaching, involve more technical expertise and the impact is greater. The beautiful thing is that, every year, our students rise to the occasion, solve the problems asked of them and provide meaningful solutions."
It’s also a perfect opportunity to see how their education plays out in the real world, says Drew Arnold ’23, “It was a great experience for me as a global supply chain student because it allowed for me to utilize so many of the concepts I’ve learned here at Bryant."
Three projects, three success stories
With their track record of success, Bryant's student consultants are in high demand. “Our corporate clients keep asking more of our students with these projects," notes Roethlein. "Every year, the projects are more far reaching, involve more technical expertise and the impact is greater. The beautiful thing is that, every year, our students rise to the occasion, solve the problems asked of them and provide meaningful solutions. That kind of benefit for both industry and students is the greatest feeling.”
This semester, Fraser and Arnold were part of a practicum team that worked with Rentschler Biopharma, a leading global biopharmaceutical company. Rentschler was recently awarded the contract to supply a COVID-19 vaccine to Europe; to meet this need, their manufacturing facility in Milford, Mass., needs to increase their manufacturing output 10-fold.
“Hands down, a good portion of my preparedness for this project came from the stories that my professors had shared in class regarding their industry experience."
The Bryant team worked with Rentschler to study the ramifications of that expansion, predict potential bottlenecks, and develop mitigation strategies, generating a model that offered suggestions for future decisions.
“We enjoyed working with the entire Bryant team. We will be using the model to proactively determine and solve our material flow bottlenecks as our business grows substantially,” John Spencer, Supply Chain Director at Rentschler Biopharma, confirms to the team.
A second Bryant team worked with Electric Supply Center (ESC), a leading wholesale electric supply distributor, which asked their consulting team to dive deep into their data and processes and find inefficiencies while they focused on expanding and supporting their customers.
The Bryant students’ final proposal included vendor analysis and suggesting a warehouse management system that would generate extensive inventory savings and aid in plans for expected growth. ESC Process Improvement Manager Steve Vaccaro ’20 praised their efforts. “They were a pleasure to work with and have provided ESC with some great insights as we head into the new year,” he notes. “The future is looking promising for the supply chain!”
“My experience with the practicum is helping me to get into an industry I really want to be a part of, because that industry helps people. And by aiding the company with getting the materials they need, you’re helping people too.”
This semester’s final student team worked with Tiffany & Co., a global jeweler and specialty retailer, to expand their third party-approved goods supplier base as the company prepares for extensive growth. The students worked to analyze and identify suppliers that meet the company’s meticulous standards and provide a framework that would assist them in future vetting.
The company liaison for the Tiffany & Co. team was Brianna LaGuardia '19, Senior Analyst of Strategic Sourcing and a graduate of Bryant’s Global Supply Chain Program herself. “This was a fantastic experience that benefitted both parties,” says LaGuardia. “We got a great deal out of this collaboration, and I know the students learned a great deal, as well. Their results were very impressive and we’re very, very pleased it worked out so well.”
Adding real value
In addition to Roethlein, Global Supply Chain Management faculty, including Professor of Operations Management and Director of the Global Supply Chain program John Visich; Associate Professor of Marketing Teresa McCarthy; and Professor of Marketing Michael Gravier, served as advisors on the projects, bringing with them a wealth of industry experience in areas ranging from fashion to aerospace. “Our faculty is one of the great strengths of the Global Supply Chain Management program,” notes Roethlein. “We all have different skill sets and they all complement each other.”
“Hands down, a good portion of my preparedness for this project came from the stories that my professors had shared in class regarding their industry experience,” says Arnold. “They told us about the inconveniences and obstacles they’d faced while working in a corporate setting, as well as their solution too. I made sure to mentally reference many of these stories while working on this capstone project and utilize the solution skills that they highlighted.”
The benefits of the practicum extend far beyond the classroom, notes Fraser of his work with Rentschler Biopharma. “My experience with the practicum is helping me to get into an industry I really want to be a part of, because that industry helps people. And by aiding the company with getting the materials they need, you’re helping people too.”