Whirlpool Corporation puts student solutions into place

It’s one thing to learn a lesson from a classroom case study that you can apply in your daily job; it’s another thing to consult with a multinational company to solve an actual challenge within its operations.

This is what 15 students in the Evening MBA Program at the IU Kelley School of Business Indianapolis accomplished in the Global Supply Chain and Innovation Enterprise, or gSCIE. Students work on addressing real-world supply chain, manufacturing, and logistics issues at global companies.

“gSCIE is a capstone experience that allows our students the opportunity to leverage all the learnings they had in the Evening MBA Program into a real-life project where they are interacting on a regular basis with large corporations,” said Amrou Awaysheh, assistant professor of operations management and faculty director for gSCIE. "Typically, when large corporations come in to business schools and ask for big, out-of-the-box solutions, it’s unlikely they’ll implement the students’ ideas."

Our gSCIE MBAs are providing input the company would otherwise obtain from a paid consultant, and these companies are putting our students’ solutions into place.

Amrou Awaysheh, assistant professor of operations management

A team of five Kelley Evening MBAs worked with home appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corporation to tackle an abstract concept called “Shipper of Choice” with qualitative and quantitative metrics.

“Whirlpool understands that being known as a top ‘Shipper of Choice’ provides great value, which would allow us to partner with carriers that offer the best service at the best cost,” explained Kara Hegg, MBA’15, of Whirlpool Global Supply Chain. “By creating a methodology to measure Whirlpool performance, we can understand what factors are most important to our carriers and in which areas we need to improve in order to become the top ‘Shipper of Choice’ for all of our carriers.”

The students spent four months analyzing the current performance levels of Whirlpool Distribution Centers and their trade partners such as Lowes and Home Depot. 

Drawing upon all their Kelley MBA courses, the students worked to create a viable solution for Whirlpool.

“We were able to apply Six Sigma process improvement learnings to the 2015 performance data provided to us by Whirlpool,” explains Evening MBA student Di Lu. “Through our analysis, we were able to distinguish distribution centers and trade partners that have significantly below-average performance and offer suggestions for improvement.”

The students examined all of Whirlpool’s sites and developed a survey aimed at Whirlpool’s carrier base.

The survey strategy development was eye-opening to me. 

Krista Berry, Kelley Evening MBA student

“We’d started putting together a survey around our research, analyses, and interviews, but we didn't have a strategy of how to organize and analyze them. Once we were presented with the construct ideas of how to organize and strategize the questions, we could create a factor analysis with our responses,” added Krista Berry. 

At Whirlpool Headquarters in Michigan, the Kelley Evening MBA team delivered a baseline measurement of the company’s performance as “Shipper of Choice.” Their recommendations will be used in the next phase of the company’s project. Whirlpool officials say the scope and scale of the project is typical of work assigned to employees.

“The data analysis and student recommendations have given us direction of work for the next phase of the project,” said Hegg.

Not only did the project solve a challenge for Whirlpool, but the Evening MBA students—for whom this is a final course in their degree programs—earned practical experience by solving a problem using the breadth of their coursework.

“This is not a business case review from decades ago. The gSCIE course draws students who want to impact real-world business decisions happening today,” said Hegg. “They understand the importance of becoming experts, as well as thorough research and analysis, to make the best possible recommendations impacting real business decisions.”

This is the first blog of two focusing on the Global Supply Chain and Innovation Enterprise, or gSCIE. Watch next week for the second posting on the Kelley Biz Blog.