Twenty Moore School Master of International Business students were able to gain real-world consulting experience last semester when they created a business strategy for UPS, one of the largest global package delivery and supply chain management companies in the world.
“This project is part of the students’ advanced international strategy course, where they not only learn about consulting methodologies, but they also get a deep dive into a particular industry,” said Wolfgang Messner, a Moore School international business professor who teaches undergraduate and graduate experiential learning and consulting courses each year.
For the UPS project, the four teams were each presented with company data and challenged with developing a strategy that would lower costs and increase efficiency for UPS during its peak season.
“UPS and [Messner] said ‘Here's the problem, here's some info, give us a solution in 10 weeks,” said first-year MIB student Isha Somani. “It's amazing that they trust us enough to let us run so independently.”
The students were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement with UPS, so they cannot discuss the specifics of the projects.
Each group first established their goals for the project and then spent time analyzing data and examining different variables to create a solution for the company’s issue at hand.
“Our goal was to provide an innovative solution that is supported by the data through careful analysis and breakdown of variables,” said MIB student Patrick Hall. “Using data visualization software, regression tools and optimization solvers, we were searching for the best possible solution to the issue.”
After weeks of interpreting statistics and building business models through different software, each team presented their findings to three UPS corporate employees: Rick Corral, director of international human resources operations; Pete Elroy, vice president of international human resources; and Safwan Ismandar, manager of industrial engineering.
Although it was not easy constructing a strategy from a raw data set with no clear correlation, each team succeeded in creating attainable solutions for UPS’s current needs that are adaptable over time.
“We wanted to deliver a solution that meets UPS's current need while also ensuring that it is malleable enough to change with UPS as needed,” said Somani. “We did lots of data analysis and model creation, so we could make our goal a reality.”
For many students, this project was an opportunity to further advance their managerial skills and learn what it’s like to work on a consulting team.
“I had the opportunity to realize the importance of belonging to a well-structured and productive team,” said Giovanni Azzoni, a double degree MIB student who is also working toward a second master’s in international management with Bocconi University. “Most of the times in consulting, you are dealing with issues that are too big to be faced individually; consequently, relying on a group of students and professionals that you trust is a valuable resource. By doing that, you can also leverage your strengths contributing to the solution in the best possible manner.”
This project also assisted students in further developing their data analytics and software skills, as they spent most of their time working with Excel as well as other regression tools.
“I have learned that data analysis is a time-consuming process,” Hall said. “It may seem redundant, but you can always find more connections that can provide a possible solution.”
Since completing the project, many students said they feel as though this opportunity gave them the chance to get firsthand exposure to working at a consulting firm with large, international clients.
“This project gave us a hands-on opportunity to work on a consulting project, which is the closest experience to working with a consulting firm,” said MIB student Aamna Sony. “Personally, I got to learn how to efficiently implement the client’s needs and wants into the deliverable model in the most efficient way possible.”
The UPS executives the students worked with and presented to were impressed by the work the students provided.
“The students were enthusiastic, asked probing questions to gather the necessary data and define UPS’s objective,” said Ismandar, UPS’s manager of industrial engineering. “Utilizing historical trends and a set of variables, the teams were creative, each took a unique approach and delivered their predictive models that met UPS’s need to forecast and plan accordingly.”
As the students progress in the Master of International Business program, they look forward to applying the skills and knowledge that they gained from this course’s experience to future projects in their careers.