Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
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Educating the Next Generation

Top academics and business leaders explore global supply chain innovation

In today’s global economy, effectively managing the supply chain can mean the difference between profit or loss, expanding or contracting consumer markets and supplier networks, and, ultimately, business success or failure.

More than 90 thought leaders from academia and the private sector convened at UNC in April to examine how the global supply chain is transforming the business and economic landscape today and how innovation in its management can propel business competitiveness and growth in the future.

The conference, “Innovating the Global Supply Chain,” was the first of three planned annual conferences for “next-generation” business leaders and scholars focused on innovations in global business practices. Developed by the Kenan Institute and Center for International Business Education and Research, the three-year program aims to inspire and develop a new generation of scholars to pursue research on leading issues of global competiveness.

“We have high expectations for this initiative,” Kenan Institute Director John D. Kasarda said. “Our goal is to push the boundaries of knowledge and innovation by bringing together the best minds in academia, government, and the private sector to focus on critical issues of global business practice.”

Academics and professionals learn and connect

The two-day conference examined global supply chain management from outsourcing and off-shoring to information technology in manufacturing and retailing.

Featured keynote speaker Martin Richenhagen, CEO of AGCO Corp., described the processes by which the global agricultural equipment giant transformed its global supply chain. The key has been recognizing the value of people, investing in the regions from which it sources, and aligning internal processes to support its supply chain strategy.

“Globalization improves the development process because solutions can be found anywhere,” Richenhagen said. “And when you invest in a region and its people, they will see your commitment and become invested in the success of the company.”

Participants praised the conference for providing the latest research on supply chain innovation in a forum relevant to both academics and practitioners.

“The North Carolina Department of Commerce has eight offices overseas, and our job is to help North Carolina companies sell their products and services overseas,” said Jean Davis, director of the department’s international trade division. “We might have a small company in rural North Carolina that has some interest in India and wants to figure out how to get connected. By being part of this event and talking with people, we can really reach out across the state and bring more attention and interest to exporting and global business.”

Anthony Selley, director of global purchasing development for Volvo in Greensboro, found the discussion relevant to outsourcing challenges that Volvo faces.

“Volvo is a global corporation with facilities worldwide,” Selley said, “so these discussions are particularly relevant.”

UNC Kenan-Flagler Ph.D. student Vidya Mani said, “The interaction with people from industry and fellow academics was invaluable in developing collaborations for projects to address the key challenges in this field.”

Next-generation scholars share ideas

An invitation-only roundtable followed the conference on Saturday for 30 junior academics from UNC and universities around the world who conduct research in areas related to global supply chain management.

The roundtable offered these “next-generation” scholars the chance to present and share research findings and ideas and discuss challenges and opportunities they face in pursuing their research.

Bradley Staats, assistant professor in operations, technology, and innovation management at UNC Kenan-Flagler, said the gathering “was a rare opportunity for personal interaction, which I found extremely valuable.”

Karan Girotra, assistant professor at INSEAD business school in Paris, praised the cutting-edge focus of the topics discussed at both conference and roundtable.

“The agenda is current,” Girotra said. “It is what companies want to know more about. I analyze business models around a product and what I’m hearing today is that a company can redesign the way it does things and not just redesign a product.”

For more information, contact:

Julia Kruse, Ph.D.
Executive Director,
Center for International Business Education and Research
UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
Campus Box 3440, Kenan Center
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3440