On 14 January 2010, the University of Groningen team of PhD students won the National Supply Chain Management for the second time running. The University of Groningen team claimed a solid victory at the finals in Amersfoort, beating 220 teams from 80 prominent companies and 18 academic institutions, including Philips, Mexx, Canon, Unilever, Nijenrode and TU Delft.
In the competition, entitled ‘The Fresh Connection’ (www.thefreshconnection.nl), the teams must turn a struggling fruit juice producer into a market leader. This year the aim was to not only help the company make a short-term profit, but also to establish sustainable growth through socially responsible policy.
This addition to the competition has brought it closer to real-life situations and made it even more realistic. The University of Groningen team’s victory clearly shows the value of academic thinking when tackling practical problems.
Following the competition’s kick-off in November, the teams spent the first seven rounds attempting to pull their company out of debt by adjusting purchasing, production and sales to an unruly supply and demand market. The teams with the 22 best average scores in these first rounds were chosen for the final, headed by the University of Groningen's team.The finals brought new challenges. Simply improving one’s own company while passively reacting to the market was no longer good enough. The first round of finals introduced the possibility of collaborating with opposing teams in order to establish more favourable contracts with suppliers. Teams were also able to collaborate with other teams on R&D in order to improve the shelf life of their product.
The teams that were not afraid to work together with other teams and were able to convince others to work with them had considerably better results. The University of Groningen's team found suitable partners and was able to build on its position. In fact, the University of Groningen’s lead was so pronounced after the first round of finals that Chairman Steef van de Velde (Erasmus University Rotterdam) even considered for a moment whether a second round was necessary.However, the organizers had a big surprise waiting in the final round. The six best teams were allowed to invest in socially responsible projects (such as the Fair Trade label) and thereby win over consumers (who were represented by the audience). The teams were also allowed to establish a project plan (possibly together with another team) and present it to the audience. While Refresco and Hillebrands chose not to work with another team, Philips and Altrex as well as the University of Groningen and Ewals decided to join forces.
During the presentations the tension ran high, but Joost de Bruijne (Manager of Healthy People, a producer of responsible fruit juices) quickly came to the conclusion that the University of Groningen/Ewals team had the most effective campaign and that ‘they deserve[d] to win’. Once the market was divided among the six remaining finalists (according to a ratio established by the audience), the teams began the final round, during which the University of Groningen emerged as the undisputed winner.The key to the Groningen team’s success turned out to be the cooperative attitude shown towards their rivals. Arnout Pool, Vice President of Purchasing in the Groningen team, emphasizes that cooperation was a high priority when establishing the right strategy: ‘We were able to find the right balance between making a profit and being aware of the needs of others’.
The University of Groningen team consisted of the following PhD students from the Faculty of Economics and Business (in alphabetical order):Arnout Pool – Vice President PurchasingBart Dogger – Vice President OperationsBoyana Petkova – Vice President Supply Chain ManagementTim van Kampen – Vice President Sales
The Department of Operations provides top logistical training at Bachelor, Master and PhD levels and collaborates with businesses to solve problems relating to logistics and supply chains.
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