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Wayne State University and General Motors spark students interest in manufacturing

Students from sixteen universities gathered in Detroit in late September to explore issues pertaining to buying advanced technology components for electric vehicles, as well as to examine topics such as component and logistics costs, global procurement, sustainability and recycling.
October 12, 2011

Students from sixteen universities spanning the U.S.— from Penn State to Florida State to Colorado State—gathered in Detroit in late September to explore issues pertaining to buying advanced technology components for electric vehicles.

The General Motors/Wayne State University Supply Chain Case Competition challenged students with sourcing components for the Chevrolet Volt, an extended-range electric vehicle that is being rolled out for national sale this year.

The students, working in teams, examined topics such as component and logistics costs, global procurement, sustainability and recycling. They developed recommendations from their investigations of the supply chain enterprise and presented their findings to a panel of supply chain professionals who judged the competition.

Bill Hurles, executive director for global purchasing and supply chain at General Motors, noted in his address to the students how important it is to demonstrate their ability to work in teams, and that technical skills are not enough to succeed in the industry.

Colorado State University, Texas Christian University, Western Michigan University, and Wayne State University were the regional winners, with Colorado State winning the final round and taking home the top prize.

Andre Alves, Kyle Fritch, Katherine Hartwig, and Luke Leins made up the Colorado State team. Leins reflected on his experience, which he said was “phenomenal.”

“Downtown Detroit was beautiful, and we had a great time in the city,” he said. “All of the events were top-notch. The guest speakers were all great and the networking opportunities were second to none.”

Hartwig described her experience as “so impactful.”

“Detroit has so much to offer,” she said. “I would love to visit the city again in the near future. Detroit has the potential to make a comeback from the reputation it had previously.”

Timothy Butler, associate professor of supply chain management at WSU’s School of Business Administration who helped plan the event, said it was “one of the most fantastic projects I’ve worked on since I’ve been at Wayne State.”

Wayne State’s team featured Rebecca Findlay, Sara Mahmood, Cecil Saintpierre, and Darren Clark. Clark said “the events in and around Detroit showed many newcomers that our city has a lot to offer.”

Participants toured the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant where the Chevrolet Volt is manufactured, visited the Henry Ford Museum and attended a Detroit Tigers game.

“The GM Volt plant blew everyone away,” Clark said. “It was an amazing opportunity to see what the future of car manufacturing looks like.  I talked to many students from around the country who said that they ‘have a newfound respect for Detroit’ and that ‘much of the negative press it got in the past is overblown’.”

Butler was very pleased with the outcome of the event and looks forward to working on it again next year.

“All of the sponsors were extremely happy with the event’s outcome,” he said. “Friendships and professional relationships were made that will last a lifetime.”

John Taylor, associate professor and director of supply chain programs at WSU’s business school, said he is grateful for the supporters that made it possible for Wayne State to “show young, talented supply chain professionals the many positive opportunities that Detroit and the automotive industry have to offer.”

In addition to title sponsor General Motors, this program was supported by Delphi, Ryder and the Detroit Regional Chamber.

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