Interests and opportunities link up for a supply chain management student
When you’re sitting at home on your couch, have you ever stopped to consider how the couch got there? Sure, you may have moved it to its place in your living room, but after you initially purchased it, how did it arrive at your residence?
- Before it got to your house, how did it get shipped to the place you bought it from?
- Did you purchase it from a store or an online retailer, and what persuaded you to choose it?
- What is it made of, and where did the materials it’s composed of – springs, a frame, cushions and fabric – get assembled and by who?
- Who wove the fabric that’s on your couch, and who grew the cotton to make the fabric?
At the end of the day, a multitude of decisions about materials, manufacturing, marketing, transportation and retail distribution were all made about the couch in your living room. If it all seems like a game of connect the dots, it’s because in a way it is.
Welcome to supply chain management.
“Supply chain is kind of like a puzzle, and you’re trying to put pieces together,” said Edward Nyirongo who is pursuing a Master of Science in Integrated Supply Chain Management from City University of Seattle. “It brings in surprises every time. In our area, it’s solving problems, and that never gets old.”
Edward, who earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Nebraska – Omaha, became interested in supply chain management when he realized that marketing is just one aspect of a much larger system. When he decided to shift his focus, he found there weren’t many institutions that were offering degrees in supply chain management.
“The concept has been around a long time, but it’s a fairly new discipline and most institutions hadn’t put it together into a program,” Edward said.
As he has worked through the degree program at CityU, his interest in the field has only grown.
“Every quarter has been new; every class drives curiosity,” Edward said. “I look forward to each quarter to find out what I will learn.”
He explained how the more he learned about supply chain, the more the field opened up.
“Supply chain can be looked at in parts, where one part directly feeds into the other,” Edward said. “There are challenges at each level of the supply chain: from the source to the customer. The challenges and the finding of solutions to successfully overcome them is what I find exciting in supply chain management.”
The multiple roles that people play in systems is of particular interest to him.
“One thing I’ve learned in every class is that every employee in an organization is important regardless of the position they hold,” Edward said. “Not just the top management; employees working on production lines serve the customer too. When employees go on strike, quit or are sick, the effects impact the companies. Employees need to understand that they make up a significant part of the supply chain as well.”
However getting people to understand their roles in a complex system is challenging, especially when the concept of supply chains is foreign to many.
“When I tell people what I study, the first thing they say is ‘you must be doing something very, very complicated,’” Edward said. “It may sound complicated, however supply chain works in parts that can be broken down. No one does supply chain from the beginning to the end all by themselves, it’s multiple parts working together.”
Given his interest in all levels of supply chain management, it’s not surprising that he sees a lot of opportunities for the future. Yet for now, he’s just looking forward to continuing learning.
“I’m an open student,” Edward said. “I’m ready to get into anything I can get my hands on.”