Supply Chain Economics course added to FCBA

December 5, 2011

By Elise Dismer ’13

Look down. The plastic beneath your fingers traveled a long way in order to end up on your keyboard.

From crude oil to laptop keyboard to consumer, supply chain economics follows the way companies make and distribute products.

Beginning in January 2012 Bradley will offer the course “Special Topics in Supply Chain Economics,” which will examine the evolution of supply chains, the economic forces that have helped mold their structures, their competitiveness and the economic impact of globalization.

“The class integrates the current realities of how businesses are functioning,” said Professor of Economics Dr. Bob Weinstein.

Weinstein, the former president of the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC), an organization that focuses on improving productivity and competitiveness of small to midsized manufacturers, said understanding supply chain economics is important for businesses of every size.

“The course will help students to understand what businesses are trying to accomplish through the way that they structure their supply chains and the kinds of career opportunities that are emerging as a result of global supply chain development,” he said.

During his time at the IMEC, Weinstein noticed a change in the way companies were doing business as a result of globalization and changes in supply chain structure.

He saw that many manufacturers had started reducing the number of suppliers they deal with directly in order to increase their efficiency and competitiveness in the global market. For example, a large company that would have interacted directly with 15-20,000 suppliers a decade ago might now only directly interact with 1,000 first tier suppliers, who in turn manage lower tier suppliers.  

“There are sound economic reasons for these changes,” he said, “which has had a profound impact on smaller suppliers, many of which have not had to invest a lot of time or resources into marketing to multiple companies.” 

His course will focus on how supply chains function as “extended enterprises” and the factors impacting supply chain competitiveness in evolving domestic and global markets.

Weinstein also plans to bring in speakers from companies like Caterpillar and John Deere to give students the opportunity to hear directly about how supply chains compete in the real world. 

“I think it’s very important for students to understand why and how companies are working with supply chains and what the implications are for the kinds of positions that they may be taking after completing their college education,” he said.

While his course will focus on the economics side of supply chains, he looks forward to working in collaboration with faculty in marketing, management and industrial and manufacturing engineering departments who are also integrating supply chain concepts into Bradley’s curriculum. 

And while students tap away at assignments for his class, each stroke of the keyboard will remind them that the topic they’re studying has a direct application to their lives.