Winter Advisory Board Meeting: SCM Program Growth, Digitalization and the Economy, and Supply Chain Planning

February 16, 2023

The first Global Supply Chain Institute Advisory Board meeting of 2023 recently took place at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. 

The GSCI Advisory Board, composed of senior leaders from Supply Chain Forum partners representing public and private companies of all sizes, provides guidance and direction for the institute. The twice-annual meetings are an opportunity for partners to network and learn from UT supply chain management faculty and industry experts. 

UT SCM’s Growth Trajectory

The recent meeting coincided with Andrea Sordi, academic director for the Executive MBA for Global Supply Chain, stepping into the role of GSCI managing director. Sordi’s transition comes as the institute and UT’s supply chain management programs experience notable growth. From 2020–2022, undergraduate majors have increased by 19% from 1,218 students in the fall of 2020 to 1,450 at the beginning of the current academic year. During the same period, enrollment in the Master of Science in Supply Chain Management Online has grown by 76% from 147 to 259. The MS SCM Online degree program was recently recognized as the No. 4 overall (2nd among public institutions and for veterans) online business master’s program in the country by the U.S. News and World Report.

Approximately 1,750 students are currently pursuing an academic degree in supply chain management at UT Knoxville. 

“This is a testament  to the growing interest new generations have for supply chain as a strategic asset for organizations,” Sordi said. “And it is a tangible recognition of the high quality work we do at UT to prepare future leaders in the field.”

Partner participation in courses and talent development programs is also growing. Of the 49 graduates of the previous three classes of the EMBA-GSC program, 26 came from forum partner companies (34 current MS SCM Online students work for partnering organizations). More than 90% of participants in the SCM Leadership Academy, which launched in 2021 as a fully online, 14-week program to further develop the leadership capabilities of current industry professionals, come from partner companies. A customized version of the academy was also recently developed for Walmart supervisors and managers, with 200 students in the fall of 2022 and another 400 participating in 2023.

New Opportunities and Recruiting

GSCI’s plan for continued growth has led to the development of the SCM Finance Academy, expected to launch in late 2023. The first-of-its-kind program, which takes place online over 8 weeks, will provide managers, directors, and high-potential employees with the financial foundation to interpret results and make decisions that have an impact across the supply chain.

Besides the growth in programs for individual employees, GSCI co-faculty director Ted Stank provided an update about the Advanced Supply Chain Collaborative, a coalition of business practitioners and scholars focused on understanding how firms can leverage advanced innovations in supply chain management. Currently, 10 companies are participating in ASCC projects with Haslam College of Business faculty. They include projects on labor agility, supply chain network design, digitalization, reverse logistics, female representation in the supply chain workforce, and procurement. 

With upcoming recruiting events at the SCM Career Expo on February 20 and the Spring Supply Chain Forum from April 25–27, Sordi also noted that forum partners made up seven of the top 10 recruiters of UT SCM students in 2022. In the past three years, at least 42 partner companies have hired interns from the university.

GSCI is also working with the Department of Supply Chain Management and Haslam’s Office of Diversity and Community Relations to launch the first SCM Summer Camp, a six-day program held July 9–14 for rising high school juniors and seniors from across Tennessee. Participating students will travel to Knoxville to learn more about the major and visit nearby forum partner organizations to see supply chain management in practice. 

Digitalization, the Economy, and Supply Chain Planning

At the meeting, advisory board member Kevin O’Marah, founder of Zero100, presented on the digitalization of supply chains and increasing digital demand pressure. In the discussion afterward, attendees touched on other key items business leaders currently seek to understand and develop, including traceability, new technologies, machine learning, sustainability, ally-shoring and nearshoring, and talent development and leadership.

Marianne Wanamaker, a GSCI Fellow, Haslam professor of economics and dean-elect of the Howard H. Baker Jr. School of Public Policy and Public Affairs, provided an update on the state of the economy and labor participation, including a discussion with attendees about inflation, interest rates, and population growth in Tennessee and throughout the Southeast as the population of working adults decreases overall.

The meeting concluded with a supply chain planning exercise from co-faculty director Tom Goldsby. The group discussed the success and failures of planning before, during, and after COVID-19 and what improvements must be made with new capabilities, talents, and technologies emerging in the market. In 2018, the GSCI published a blog post and white paper focusing on best practices in supply chain planning, with revisions made as the role continues its evolution. Goldsby recently co-authored a working paper with UT supply chain management professor Chad Autry about visibility, transparency, and traceability that also touches on improving supply chain planning.

“The Global Supply Chain Institute provides the most comprehensive supply chain academic partnership opportunity to today’s executives and their leadership teams,” said Bill Hutchinson, SVP of enterprise logistics for WestRock. “The advisory board ensures that UT’s academic offerings maintains their edge and relevance to global supply chain professionals in every industry. The institute’s success can be seen in both the quality of students who join our company from the supply chain management program and the industry rankings and accolades that the program receives.”

The next Advisory Board meeting is scheduled to take place in Knoxville on August 10.

Learn more about the latest concepts and trends in supply chain management by listening to GSCI’s monthly Tennessee on Supply Chain Management podcast