Kady Watts was a sophomore majoring in international business when she realized that most of her strengths fell into the category of “intangible” soft skills. Those are valuable, but Watts, then a student at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, realized she needed more quantitative skills to stand out in an increasingly competitive job market for undergraduate business students. Her academic adviser recommended she check out Moore’s Global Supply Chain and Operations Management Program to see if it might be a good fit.
After a quick chat with the program’s managing director, Jack Jensen, Watts was sold. Jensen’s best selling point? As a supply chain major, Watts would get a chance to work on the program’s semester-long Capstone consulting project, in which a student team of seniors works closely with a company on a real-world supply chain problem, guided by a faculty member who serves as a lead consultant.
“There was nothing else like it on campus. I’d get some actual project experience and gain the ability to create value in business and quantify it,” says Watts, who added the supply chain major onto her course load. “Business students can say they can do all kinds of things, but if you can’t quantify it with a dollar amount, businesses just aren’t interested.”
MORE THAN $175 MILLION IN SAVINGS ACROSS 150 PROJECTS
The Moore School’s Capstone program is one of the more unique applied learning courses in the undergraduate business school world, giving students a chance to dig deep over the course of a semester into complex supply chain problems faced by companies like Continental Tire, Siemens, and Coca-Cola Bottling Co. In the last eight years, undergraduate business students participating in Capstone have identified aggregate cost savings of more than $175 million across 150 projects for companies that are members of the Moore School’s Global Supply Chain and Process Management Center (GSCOM).
GSCOM allows students to mine complex data sets provided by companies, conduct site visits at their offices, and work closely with a corporate team. At the end of a project, they present their set of recommendations to the company’s CEO and other top executives. It’s a valuable training ground for students, Jack Jensen says, giving them the hands-on experience they need to prepare for the Lean Six-Sigma Green Belt exam, viewed by many in the industry as the gold standard for process thinking and operations improvement. Since Moore’s program was founded in 2006, 400 undergraduate students have received the certification.
What’s more, companies enjoy working with students who are proficient in the analytical toolkit used to make business operations more efficient, Jensen says, and many end up hiring them as a result.
“Most business problems don’t fall neatly into one category, so having students and faculty that can solve problems using a multiplicity of tools is really efficient,” Jensen says. “These students are so good, many are coming into the projects already having secured a job, and their salaries are some of the highest at the entire university.”
CAPSTONE: PRESTIGIOUS, EXCLUSIVE
The Moore School’s program has been recognized nationally for its strong analytical offerings, including the Capstone consulting project, and Moore was recently put at No. 7 in Gartner’s ranking of undergraduate supply chain programs.
Moore landed in the top 10 because the school offers a strong academic grounding through a series of courses ranging from service operations management to supply chain planning and control. Faculty expose students to analytical modeling and process improvement tools such as Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma, Jensen says, which they then use on class projects with companies and nonprofits. Their coursework culminates with the prestigious Capstone project, the competitive course that accepts only about 60 percent of supply chain majors.