Bragging rights: U-M students compete for scholarships, prestige in operations challenge

September 10, 2013
Greta Guest

ANN ARBOR—What’s the difference between a brand-driven and a competency-driven supply chain?

For Masco Cabinetry, it’s a matter of nearly $11 million in annual savings and a 20-percent boost in productivity. That’s the solution three students at the University of Michigan’s Tauber Institute for Global Operations came up with last year as part of their 14-week internship with the company.

The Tauber internships in operations management are highly competitive, with just 20 percent of applicants from graduate programs in business and engineering gaining a spot. The award-winning program, in its 20th year, simultaneously focuses on both the engineering and business side of operations, making it unique nationally.

Last year’s 35 team projects saved the participating companies a projected $375 million over three years.

The fruits of this summer’s projects will be unveiled by students competing for $40,000 in scholarships on Sept. 13 in a day-long event at the Ross School of Business.

The Tauber Institute for Global Operations’ Spotlight! event features the work of 82 students who this year collaborated on 35 projects at major companies. The student teams present their projects that solved operations and manufacturing problems at the companies in two sessions throughout the day with results announced at 3:20 p.m.

The students worked on projects sponsored by companies such as 3M, GM Energy, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Verizon and Chrysler.

“The Tauber Institute attracts top business and engineering talent and these internships have always been successful for us,” said Chris Winans, vice president of operations for Masco Cabinetry.

Diana Crossley, managing director of the Tauber Institute, said the internships also give many students an edge with applying for jobs.

“It’s much easier to envision hiring someone who not only has technical skills, but also understands how to apply them in an organization,” she said.

The Tauber Institute is a joint venture between U-M’s Ross School of Business and the College of Engineering and many industry partners to facilitate cross-disciplinary education in global operations management.

Each student team is assigned two faculty advisors, one from business and one from engineering, a communications coach and a team-dynamics coach. The teams also are cross-disciplinary.

“During the first few weeks at Masco, I felt so fortunate to have my two teammates. They have a business background and really brought me up to speed on all the business principles that I wasn’t as familiar with,” said Sarah Markey, who finished her master’s in mechanical engineering at U-M and had six job offers.

“When we began to implement our plan and got into the technical work, I think that was my opportunity to lend them a hand and show what I can do.”

Early team projects focused on making improvements within the four walls of the plant. Now they focus on improving all the functions and processes under the realm of operations for manufacturing and service companies, including supply chain optimization, sourcing, customer service, logistics, information technology and operations strategy.

Participating companies frequently cite another benefit beyond problem-solving or money-saving that the Tauber interns bring.

“You’ve got the University of Michigan behind it including all the research that they’ve done and all the learning they have,” said Chris Scocos, vice president of operations with Cooper Lighting.


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