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MSU supply chain expert looks to the future of “differentiation through solutions”

Russ White
Lou Anna K. Simon, David Closs, Mark Hollis

“Supply chain, particularly from a Michigan State perspective, means the end to end movement of product from the raw material from a mine or the ocean, through all the production processes, and to the consumer,” Professor David Closs tells Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon and Spartans Athletic Director Mark Hollis on MSU Today. “So we view it all as a very end to end process and try to manage that to meet the needs of the consumer and at the same time keeping cost and waste down.”

This MSU ethos “is what companies tell us differentiates MSU students. They understand end to end and they can communicate well to the executives.”

Closs is stepping down as chair of MSU’s renowned Department of Supply Chain Management and is The John H. McConnell Endowed Chair of Business Administration at MSU’s Broad College of Business.

“It’s evolving even further now as companies tell us that while they’re moving product, their real differentiation is a solution. Companies are looking for more insight into how they can benefit from their intellectual property and talent as well as from their product. The goods are becoming commodities. What really makes a differentiator today is getting the commodities there.”

An evolving change in the supply chain industry, says Closs, “is that more and more of us are buying goods online and having them delivered directly to our homes, not as much at the stores.” We all expect the goods we want to be available whenever we want them. And for the most part, they are.

This development is mostly positive, even for many small companies, adds Closs.

“It takes a small company that has a relatively limited market area and allows them to ship product around the country and around the world.” However, costs to scale up to meet increased demand can be a challenge.

Because there’s so much demand for supply chain talent, people are getting pulled out of other areas in companies and are being thrust into supply chain roles. So in addition to traditional undergraduate and graduate students and an online master’s of science program, the department offers a number of certificate and online courses for that audience.

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 94.5 FM and AM 870.

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