10 Best Schools for a Supply Chain Education

10. Harvard University

In addition to publishing numerous influential supply chain studies in the Harvard Business Review, the Harvard Business School has conducted research in several areas of supply chain management, focusing in particular on the role of SCM in sustainability, climate change, regulatory issues and risk management. A recent study looks at how various social factors can influence the auditing of supply chains in developing countries, and the role of international labor laws and codes of conduct in ensuring that workers are not being exploited.

9. Ohio State University

Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business includes faculty within two departments—Marketing & Logistics and Management Science—who are experienced with logistics management, operations management and supply chain management. Researchers have developed a supply chain framework that has been adopted within industry, including Coca-Cola. The school also hosts the Global Supply Chain Forum, a twice-yearly gathering of practitioners and academics. Current members include 3M, Amazon, Cargill, Dow Chemical, and Limited Brands.

8. University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee Haslam School of Business’s Global Supply Chain Institute is well regarded for its supply chain research projects, such as a study on the effects of the Hours of Service regulations on the trucking industry as well as a recent study on the challenges of integrating purchasing and logistics. UT also hosts twice-yearly Supply Chain Forums that include over 150 senior executives from top corporations, aimed at addressing key supply chain strategies, as well as recruiting UT’s business students. In addition, UT offers auditing capabilities to help companies benchmark their supply chains versus a best-in-class database.

7. Stanford University

The Value Chain Innovation Initiative, part of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, is a collaborative effort that brings together faculty and students from multiple schools, departments, and disciplines within Stanford in partnership with practitioners in the business community. While Stanford may be best known for its studies of the bullwhip effect on supply chains, in recent years the school has conducted research in such areas as healthcare in developing economies, corporate social responsibility, greenhouse gas emissions, and logistics optimization.

6. University of Michigan

The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business offers a Master of Supply Chain Management degree. This one-year program is designed to provide students with deep, functional supply chain management experience with the perspective of a general manager. Looking at supply chain management as a business, rather than tactical, function, the program encompasses marketing, sourcing, manufacturing, logistics, inventory management, IT and customer relations.

5. Georgia Institute of Technology

The Supply Chain and Logistics Institute (SCL) at Georgia Tech, a unit of the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, focuses on supply chain engineering, a discipline the school defines as “the application of scientific principles to optimize the design and integration of supply chain processes, infrastructure, technology and strategy.” In July 2015, Georgia Tech, in collaboration with The National University of Singapore, officially launched the Center for Next Generation Logistics. The Center will serve as an open logistics innovation platform to identify and pursue pre-competitive and industry-focused research inspired by significant promise for economic and social impact and contributions to the body of knowledge. Another goal of the Center is to nurture and develop the next-generation supply chain and logistics workforce, while providing up-to-date business intelligence to better understand today’s competitive landscape.

4. Arizona State University

In the fall of 2014, Arizona State began offering Classes will a Master of Science in Supply Chain Management and Engineering degree, believed to be one of the first such programs in the U.S. The degree program is a joint effort between the W. P. Carey School's Supply Chain Management Department and the Industrial Engineering program in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Course work takes 21 months, culminating in a “capstone” project where students will apply their supply chain skills in a business environment.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In addition to housing the prominent research Center for Transportation and Logistics (CTL) on the Cambridge, Mass., campus, MIT has established an international presence on several continents. The MIT Global SCALE (Supply Chain and Logistics Excellence) Network began about a decade ago with the Zaragoza Logistics Center in Spain, and the SCALE Network has since expanded with centers in South America (Colombia) and Asia (Malaysia). SCALE aims to create local supply chain talent in different regions of the world while opening up new opportunities for innovation. In August 2015 the MIT Forum for Supply Chain Innovation announced the formation with Infosys of the Global Risk Advisory Group to help industry identify, quantify and mitigate operational, financial, supply chain and cyber risks using analytics and data science. The goal of the group is to help industries monitor and mitigate risks using analytics and data science.

2. Pennsylvania State University

The Department of Supply Chain and Information Systems at the Penn State Smeal College of Business offers undergraduate, Masters, PhD and executive education programs in supply chain management. The curriculum looks at the full spectrum of traditional supply chain processes, from procurement to manufacturing to fulfillment to logistics and reverse logistics, while also offering opportunities for students to develop information systems skills. In fall 2014 GE announced its plan to invest up to $10 million to establish a new innovation center focused on driving cutting-edge advancements in the natural gas industry: the Center for Collaborative Research on Intelligent Natural Gas Supply Systems at Penn State (CCRINGSS). The center will seek to advance efficiency and environmental sustainability both through technological innovations and improved supply chain management.

1. Michigan State University

Michigan State’s Eli Broad College of Business recently established a new research institute, located in Midland, Mich., focused on value chain management. The Midland Research Institute for Value Chain Creation (MRIVCC), which was bankrolled by $15.5 million in pledges, focuses on evidence-based tools; quantitative assessment, monitoring and management of integrated supply chain solutions; and food- and water-focused research projects. Institute researchers work with undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral researchers and corporate collaborators. Research areas include water quality and delivery, food safety and sustainability, global manufacturing, and value chain integration. The institute also offers executive education programs in value chain creation. Founding partners include The Dow Chemical Company and Dow Corning Corporation as well as several Midland-based foundations. Katherine Franz, formerly COO at GE Transportation, assumed the role of executive director of the institute as of August 1, 2015.

Finding and retaining talent continues to bedevil U.S. manufacturers, particularly in the search for top supply chain talent. As the nature of supply chains evolves to encompass international trade, so too are companies seeking managers who understand logistics, procurement, transportation, tariffs, production and forecasting. As Kevin O’Marah, chief content officer of SCM World, a supply chain research organization, explains, “For those pursuing careers in supply chain, the greatest thrill is tackling complex problems across the extended network.”

So where do you find such people? Every year, SCM World surveys hundreds of supply chain executives to find out which universities they consider the best at producing graduates with practical, as opposed to philosophical, approaches to supply chain management. The result is a list of the top schools for supply chain talent. If there’s any bias to the list, O’Marah says, it’s biased toward schools that are able to keep pace with industry. “Unlike many disciplines taught in universities, thought leadership [in supply chain] usually comes from the field, not academia. As such, those universities with close ties to industry—and a willingness to swallow their pride in order to learn—fare well in the rankings.”

On the accompanying slides, we offer a look at current activities and research at each of the top 10 U.S. schools. Of the 10 schools, four of them come from the Big Ten Conference, including the number 1 school, giving the conference bragging rights at least until next year's rankings come out.

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