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Custom Supply Chain Management Programs

Custom Supply Chain Management Programs

In a conference room on the third floor of Georgia Tech's Scheller College of Business sits Soumen Ghosh, the faculty director of non-degree and corporate executive education custom programs. He’s at a table with James Foster, executive vice president, product supply, Rick McDonald, vice president, international supply chain at Clorox, and a small team of other Clorox leaders and senior Scheller faculty. There's a whiteboard on the wall filled with scribbled dry erase marker highlighting Clorox's quarterly goals and recent hurdles in the area of supply chain management. The group is brainstorming and they've been at it for most of the day. The brainstorming session is a mandatory kick off to the custom executive education program Georgia Tech is holding, in collaboration with Clorox, for a team of Clorox supply chain leaders.

Ghosh is asking questions to get at the root of Clorox’s needs: What are the gaps in your supply chain? What are your strategic objectives? The goal of the session is to create the groundwork for a customized supply chain executive education program to meet the challenges of Clorox’s unique business situation.

Whether it's a three-day workshop, a one-week boot camp, or a three-month program, the direction and goals are determined in this brainstorming session. There is no standard template.

The Scheller executive education team has created custom supply chain management programs for clients including The Coca-Cola Company, The Clorox Company, NCR, Argos, McCain Foods, and others. And the success these programs have seen has netted the clients awards in supply chain management from prestigious industry entities, including Supply Chain Management World and Gartner, Inc.

Gartner, one of the world’s leading information technology research and advisory companies, named Clorox one of two Supply Chainnovators for 2015 for its ability to build a better pipeline of leadership talent. Clorox began working with Scheller in 2013.

At the Supply Chain Management World 2016 Power of the Profession Awards in February, SCM World named The Coca-Cola Company its recipient of the Supply Chain Capability Breakthrough award. Coca-Cola was Scheller’s flagship custom executive supply chain client. The two partnered in 2010 and have been working together every year since. As of March 2016, Coke had sent employees to the Scheller program from 167 of the 212 countries in which the company operates.

Why are Scheller’s custom supply chain programs so successful? It’s because the programs are designed to have immediate individual and organizational impact. It's written into the very DNA of the curriculum.

Here's the scenario supply chain leaders face across the world: Because of the complexities of today’s global supply chain, modern transportation, warehousing, or logistics, effective practitioners become hyper-specialized in their specific area of the supply chain. They are not familiar with the end-to-end view of the supply chain. Siloed efforts are spring-loaded for error and rife with inefficiencies and duplicated efforts. In addition, the talent pipeline for supply chain management is shrinking. Not as many high school students attend college to obtain degrees in supply chain management areas, according to Clorox’s Rick McDonald. Instead, many of these top minds are going for more alluring fields like technology, healthcare, and finance. Large supply chain operations are faced with increasing the efficiency of their operation while simultaneously grooming the next class of supply chain leaders.

These are hurdles that challenge the world’s largest and most advanced companies. And this is where Scheller’s custom executive programs come in. Scheller is creating tailored programs by collaborating with companies in a way that isn’t being done anywhere else in the country.

Anatomy of a Custom Supply Chain Program

The executive education faculty at Scheller began creating custom supply chain management programs after The Coca-Cola Company approached them with a problem in 2008. Coke had determined that in addition to investments in operations, the company needed to invest in talent development as well. Coke recognized a coming shortage in the next class of supply chain leaders.

This is a concern echoed by McDonald at Clorox and in Gartner’s research on the supply chain area. But at the time Coke approached Scheller, the school had never created this kind of program.

Until this point, Scheller had offered commodity type or open enrollment programs, the kind of standard, one-size-fits-all program that’s common at business schools all over the world. Scheller had a good reputation for academic excellence in supply chain management, but it was contained to its traditional undergraduate and MBA programs.

“We had a good reputation but we were not able to promote or publicize that reputation within the practitioner community, within the industrial community,” Ghosh says. “This was our first foray into a really custom program with the Coca-Cola program. It was a big step for us.”

By design, the programs vary by company. But each begins with the previously described brainstorming session between senior leaders from the organization and faculty from Scheller. Together, they create what’s called the game board. Essentially this is the roadmap for the material they intend to cover. Most programs require an in-person residency (i.e., classroom sessions) blended with a virtual learning component. Participants have access to a web portal to track progress, post notes and material, and serve as a discussion and message board.

For the in-person classroom sessions, instructor responsibilities are shared between Scheller faculty and senior leaders at the company. For each program, a 75/25 ratio is the ideal split between universal content and custom content created specifically for the company participating.

Each program is built on four pillars.
1.    Strategic Thinking — explaining how each area of the supply chain is connected and how they work together to provide competitive advantage to the firm
2.    Operational Excellence — instruction on how to plan and how to execute
3.    Leadership Skills — teaching leadership skills like effective communication, managing and leading change, negotiation, and conflict resolution
4.    Applied Knowledge — putting it all into practice

The first three pillars tap into Scheller’s supply chain management philosophy and the fourth pillar is the key to the measureable success companies have seen in the months and years following involvement in the program.

The applied learning aspect is a project designed to have organizational impact. Each class comes into the program with a defined and real supply chain management project to tackle over the course of the sessions. Here is Rick McDonald from Clorox speaking on the importance of selecting the appropriate project:

“I canvas executive leadership from each area of the supply chain function and we select projects. These are always real projects the company actually needs help with, things we need capable people thinking about. And we’ve used a lot of the work done in the program to help us move forward faster in some of these areas.”

In order to receive certificates of program completion, participants must show completion of the project. By following these four pillars, enrolled companies have seen a dramatic return on their investment of time and money.

The time commitment is real, but manageable. The target for most virtual weeks of the custom programs is about two hours a week for participants. As the primary representative from Clorox, McDonald estimates he spends between 10 and 15 percent of his time each week (assuming a 50 hour work week) working on the program. This changes for in-residence days where participants are expected to devote the entire day on campus to learning, collaborating, team building, and networking.

The Results

The Coca-Cola program began in 2010 after the company’s Global Supply Chain Council established goals for the development of a talent pipeline. Coke’s GSCC represents the organization’s top bottlers and is the entity that creates strategy, shares learning, discusses mutual challenges, and addresses issues key to the sustainability of the business across the globe. To respond to Coke’s needs, Scheller built a two-tier program to address the specific needs of the company’s most influential supply chain employees. The Supply Chain Leader Excellence (SCLX) program is for supply chain directors and their successors, including key leaders that complement or collaborate with the supply chain. The Supply Chain Manager Excellence (SCMX) program is for supply chain managers and their direct reports.

The content taught in each section is tailored to its audience. For example, there is a stronger concentration on strategic thinking in SCLX, while SCMX favors operations and execution.

In the five years Coca-Cola has participated in the program, the total cost savings as a direct result of the projects delivered is more than $175 million. Other improvements, including better agility, market responsiveness, and resilience, have also been achieved but are harder to assign a dollar value.

It was for these accomplishments that Coca-Cola was awarded the Power of the Profession Award at SCM World.

Clorox, which has been participating in Scheller custom supply chain management programs since 2013, won the 2015 Gartner Supply Chainnovator Award. The company worked together with Scheller to create the Supply Chain Strategy & Leadership Forum (SLF), an internal supply chain academy for the development of future supply chain leaders.

Since the program began, succession planning has vastly improved.

“The SLF program has been a critical element of our overall talent development program,” says Mark Hersh, director of supply chain strategy for Clorox. “We now have our strongest succession plan ever. Our succession plan has two ready now candidates to fill all key product supply positions.”

The first class was made up of 40 associates, but now an additional 120 global associates from eight different countries have matriculated through SLF. For Clorox, the program pays for itself, with a return of 70 percent on projects executed within the forum and $550,000 saved compared to the previous supply chain training budget.

“SLF helps us create leaders who think and act like supply chain general managers, which means having a strong understanding of key industry trends, understanding the marketplace and competition, and applying this external view into their daily work and thought processes,” Hersh says.

After the success of SLF, Clorox and Scheller created the Global Operations Leadership Forum (GOLF) for the next level of supply chain managers. By 2020, the goal is to have 800 managers graduate from these two leadership programs, making up more than 85 percent of Clorox’s salaried supply chain workforce.

A Rising Tide Lifts All

Custom executive programs are intended to benefit participating companies in two ways: the individual and the organization. The individual benefits by understanding new concepts, supply chain training, and leadership skills training; and the organization by company-wide improvements, most dramatically felt as the result of program-related projects. However, the company is not the only one to benefit. The Scheller College of Business is an indirect benefactor.

“Faculty who teach in our custom programs interact with senior leaders and executive leaders of these companies and gain direct insight into the current challenges that are affecting them,” says Georgia Tech’s Soumen Ghosh. “They can take that knowledge into the classroom for our degree programs. For example, we were talking to Coke and they were dealing with this issue in this way. It’s a tremendous benefit to everything we do.”

And this is one of the reasons why you see Georgia Tech continue its tradition of academic excellence in the supply chain area. Last summer, Supply Chain Management World ranked Georgia Tech the number five best supply chain university in the world. Earlier this year, a group of MBA students took home the top prize at Deloitte’s third annual Supply Chain Case Competition, winning a $7,000 prize, and beating out teams from Penn State, Rutgers, Michigan State, Arizona State, and Brigham Young, among others. Georgia Tech has become a hub for progressive thinking in supply chain management.

Always Learning, Always Getting Better

The relationship doesn’t end when certificates of completion are sent out. The custom program faculty at Scheller are always evaluating feedback and revamping their programs. For repeat companies, there’s always a new planning session on the horizon, a new curriculum with new content and new modules designed to tackle new problems.

“We call it refreshing,” Ghosh says. “We sit down with all the feedback within a month of the end of the program, once we get the evaluations processed. Let’s see how things worked out. Then we also think about how things are changing in the future within the organization. It’s a constant process.”

This year it might be the talent pipeline, next year it might be something completely new.

“With Coca-Cola’s Leader Excellence program, which is run in May, if you look at the game board versus the one from the previous year, it’s significantly different,” says Brian Jennings, associate dean of executive education. “Different faculty, different content, it truly reflects the evolving needs of Coca-Cola.”

The programs are ever evolving, and this is why they’ve been successful. This is why participating companies have been recognized globally by Gartner and SCM World. This is how Coke has saved more than $170 million over five years, and this is how Clorox has created a program that pays for itself each year and then some.

It all starts in that conference room with Soumen Ghosh, a few faculty, a few senior leaders, and whiteboard full of hurdles, challenges, and opportunities.

Please contact Linda Read at 404.385.0553 or  for information on custom executive education programs.

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Susan Ambrosetti
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