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The Shareholder Online The alumni magazine of Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business

Case competition impresses FedEx judges

Cliff Defee, right, and FedEx representatives Dave Smith, left, and Dave Pollard, judged a Supply Chain case competition in Defee's class on Oct. 4.

Global transportation giant FedEx recently sponsored a supply chain management case competition for Raymond J. Harbert College of Business students. Company executives developed the case based on real-world experiences with a client similar to the one outlined in the case.

Fifteen teams from Cliff Defee’s SCMN 4800 Supply Chain Strategy course analyzed the case with five passing through to the final judging in front of two FedEx executives on Friday, Oct. 4.

The team and Will Doster, far left, Joe Swinson, second from right, and Ben Truesdale, far right, took first place. FedEx judges were Dave Pollard, second from left, and Dave Smith.

The team and Will Doster, far left, Joe Swinson, second from right, and Ben Truesdale, far right, took first place. FedEx judges were Dave Pollard, second from left, and Dave Smith.

Teams were challenged to:

  • Optimize transportation networks
  • Examine the current network of distribution centers and explore consolidation possibilities
  • Create an online presence with e-commerce sales channels
  • Expand into a European market and show how customers could be supported there without a local presence.

The result: FedEx representatives left the Harbert College of Business very impressed and students Will Doster, Joe Swinson and Ben Truesdale claimed the top prize of $2,500 offered by the company.

“The thing that I was most impressed with was the fact that they have already learned through their curriculum that you can’t just look at transportation as a single component,” said Dave Pollard, Managing Director of FedEx Customer Solutions in the Memphis, Tenn., office, and a 1985 Harbert College graduate.

“You have to look at it both in how transportation itself is managed and more importantly how to directly impact all of the other components of the supply chain and how it can influence business. For example, they grasped the fact that if you get the product to market faster then it’s going to drive additional revenue.”

Antwong Hall (left), Jake Hedrick (second from left), and Thalita Rovina Martins (right), took second place.

Antwong Hall (left), Jake Hedrick (second from left), and Thalita Rovina Martins (right), took second place.

Dave Smith, Senior Strategic Solutions Manager for FedEx, said, “All of them did a great job of taking time to understand the problem from a business perspective, impacting the overall cost, including profit margin and inventory.”

Defee said the team of Doster, Swinson and Truesdale had an analysis that, “Overall, was the closest to the solution we were looking for. They had an innovative approach to the analysis which allowed them to effectively get their points across.

“Each team brought uniqueness to solutions and really had command of certain aspects of the case,” said Defee. “The teams were put in a complex situation with four challenges that covered a lot of ground and included a tremendous amount of data.

Third place went to John Babinton (left), Kathryn Broussard (second from left), and Austin Davis (right).

Third place went to John Babinton (left), Kathryn Broussard (second from left), and Austin Davis (right).

“Because there was so much complexity, the teams came up with different solutions. Team A’s solution was better on the first challenge. Team B’s solution was better on the second, and so forth. That made the judging challenging, but also a lot of fun.”

The teams were given the challenges roughly three weeks before their respective presentations, and were allowed 15 minutes each to present their solutions to the judges.

Taking second place at $1,000 were Antwong Hall, Jake Hedrick and Thalitha Rovina Martins; while the team of John Babington, Kathryn Broussard and Austin Davis took third, winning $500.

Anna Saunders, Austin Whitt (second from right) and Ellis Colthorpe (far right) were finalists.

Anna Saunders, Austin Whitt (second from right) and Ellis Colthorpe (far right) were finalists.

“We saw a lot of really out of the box thinking that we had not thought of when we put this together,” Pollard added. “I thought that they all did a very good job. They were very well informed and understood how you could use supply chain to better your company. You can leverage supply chain to optimize your business.”

Defee said this was the college’s first case competition associated with FedEx – and he hopes to do it again.

The team of Jeff Aaron (left), Matthew LePere (second from left), and Reid McFarland (far right) were finalists.

The team of Jeff Aaron (left), Matthew LePere (second from left), and Reid McFarland (far right) were finalists.

“This is an example of the type of thing that we are trying to include – use of sponsor-funded case competitions as part of supply chain course work across our curriculum,” he said. “That differentiates us from other supply chain programs across the country and other disciplines at Auburn. We have real-life problems judged by executives who work the decisions with funded payout at the end of the competition.”

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