Author: The Boeing Center

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About The Boeing Center

​ The Boeing Center at Washington University is a world-class research center that disseminates knowledge on global supply chain management, operational excellence, and risk management. We also work with leading industrial and service firms to help optimize global enterprise processes and develop innovative business models and supply chain solutions.

For Anheuser-Busch InBev, it’s difficult enough to manage the most efficient beer supply chain in the U.S. As they acquire an ever-growing number of craft breweries, the complexity of their distribution increases dramatically. But with extremely accurate production planning and time-tested transportation methods, the largest brewer in the world is able to spread the joy of delicious craft beer to the farthest corners of the earth.

Chris Pickett, Senior Director of Tier 1 Warehousing & Transportation, paid a visit to The Boeing Center to talk about his role in AB InBev’s operations. He shared insights on effectively integrating craft beers into a macro beer supply chain, as well as managing load complexity and shipment quantities across brands.

Product mix complexity is managed by AB InBev using three main strategies. First, they use rigid cycle production to maximize output for each SKU. Second, they plan pallets using optimized order quantity, which helps them to meet wholesaler demand using the fewest number of shipments. Third, they build pallets using proprietary technology in the warehouse environment, ensuring the most beneficial product stacking patterns. All of these techniques allow AB InBev to manage an efficient supply chain, while maintaining an extremely high service level for their craft beer offerings.

For more supply chain digital content and cutting-edge research, check us out on the socials [@theboeingcenter] and our website [olin.wustl.edu/bcsci]

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A Boeing Center digital production

Supply Chain // Operational Excellence // Risk Management

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A team of operations and supply chain management graduate students from Washington University’s Olin Business School came in second place at the regional finals of the Supply Chain Finance Community’s Global Student Challenge on Thursday, March 9. The competition, held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, was designed to promote awareness on the topic of supply chain finance and risk management.

“The Challenge engages participants to consider corporate strategy and business objectives and to manage cross-functional trade-offs in the value chain. Cross-functional understanding and collaboration are key components, as teams work together to turn their company around.” ~ globalstudentchallenge.org

The competition was based on a business simulation called The Cool Connection. According to the competition’s website, this simulation “provides insight in the complexities and inter-dependencies in supply chains operating under uncertain and volatile market conditions.”

The Olin team, composed of Xingxing Chen, Fasheng Xu, Yu Li, and Yunzhe Qiu, performed consistently well over multiple rounds, and stayed within reach of winning throughout the competition. Unfortunately, they were ultimately edged out in the final round of play. However, they placed ahead of strong competitors from Duke, USC, Maryland, and other top universities. They will find out in the coming weeks if they will advance to the global final to be held in the Netherlands in April.

On behalf of the Olin community, The Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation would like to congratulate the team on its excellent performance! All of them have sharpened their supply chain management skills through their participation in mini-consulting projects that BCSCI conducts with its member companies. Our students’ success at the Global Student Challenge serves as another validation of their capabilities.

By Evan Dalton

For more supply chain digital content and cutting-edge research, check us out on the socials [@theboeingcenter] and our website [olin.wustl.edu/bcsci]

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A Boeing Center digital production

Supply Chain // Operational Excellence // Risk Management

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Washington University’s Olin Business School was proud to host the second annual Monsanto Olin Supply Chain Case Competition on Friday, February 3. Teams from top business schools across the country competed for bragging rights and the $10,000 grand prize. Participating universities included Michigan State University, the University of Washington, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, the University of Minnesota, the University of Missouri, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Washington University in St. Louis, and last year’s champs, Texas Christian University. After much deliberation, the judges decided that UNC had delivered the top overall presentation, with second place going to WashU, and third place to Mizzou.

The competition was designed to give graduate students an opportunity to provide innovative business solutions to a case study written about Monsanto’s seed corn supply chain. Monsanto’s motivation for holding the competition was to foster and attract more supply chain management talent to work on food supply chain solutions for an ever-growing world. Monsanto’s Global Customer Care team, led by Mario Morhy and Marcelle Pires, was very pleased with all presentations and impressed by the level of talent and insight displayed by the teams.

1st Place $10,000:  University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill
2nd Place $5000:  Washington University, Team Olin :Tom Siepman, Serena Chen, Ravi Balu and Samantha Feng
3rd Place $2500:  University of Missouri- Columbia

The case study used for the competition, titled “Monsanto Company: Production & Inventory Planning Challenges in Seed Corn Supply Chains,” was written by WashU’s Panos Kouvelis, Emerson Distinguished Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management and director of The Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation. The competition was administered by Olin Business School’s graduate programs office, with Associate Dean Joe Fox acting as the master of ceremonies and his team, including Sarah Miller and Laura Fogarty, providing strong logistical support.

On behalf of the Olin community, The Boeing Center congratulates the UNC team on their victory and thanks all those who helped make this year’s case competition a great success!

For more supply chain digital content and cutting-edge research, check us out on the socials [@theboeingcenter] and our website [olin.wustl.edu/bcsci]

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A Boeing Center digital production

The Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation

Supply Chain // Operational Excellence  //  Risk Management

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In her presentation at the 8th annual Boeing Center Industry Conference, Natacha Alpert, innovation lead at Caleres, spoke about the future of the fashion industry. She described how technologies such as 3D printing and body scanning are being used to manufacture consumer products with a high degree of customization, as well as how Caleres is using 3D digital design to decrease lead times and drive strategy.

According to Natacha, 3D printing, design and scanning are the new roadmap to the future.  She believes within the next five years, the footwear industry will experience a paradigm shift that will help improve the way consumers shop and, subsequently, will change how we will look at manufacturing design in the future.


For more supply chain content and cutting-edge research, check out our social media network [@theboeingcenter].

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Video, above: Professor Panos Kouvelis, Emerson Distinguished Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management and Director of The Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation at Washington University speaks about his research on managing commodity price volatility in the supply chain in the latest Boeing Center digital production.

When commodity prices are stable, firms usually agree upon fixed wholesale price contracts, quantity discounts, buybacks and even some revenue-sharing schemes. But in volatile commodity price environments, annual price volatility can be as high as 60%, resulting in the need for escalation clauses and adjustable contracts. High volatility may even create situations where vulnerable suppliers fail to meet contractual obligations.

The focus of the new research is to find ways to better manage risks for such environments through using the right contracts and when it is appropriate to use financial hedges. One example of contracts often advocated for in such cases is the pass-through, or index contract, which is used to describe how the supplier will pass some of the increased material costs down to the buyer. These contracts can be effective as long as the downstream buyer is “big” enough to absorb the risk or has financially hedged such risks appropriately.

Pass-through contracts have not been viewed favorably by the corporate finance community. For example, environments of perfect markets with no financial frictions can be dominated by the so-called “coordinating contracts,” such as revenue-sharing or two-part tariff contracts.  Coordinating contracts achieve “first best” (i.e., the same profit as a single firm owning and running the whole supply chain), and with appropriate setting of their parameters, can coordinate the commodity risks for short lead-time environments.

Long lead-time environments create the need for appropriate penalty structures on top of such contracts, a feature not mentioned in the current literature, but elucidated in Kouvelis’ research.  However, in an environment of financing frictions (e.g., firms have limited working capital and need to borrow to execute their supply chain transactions), the coordinating contracts might be ineffective in the handling of financing costs.

In many cases, a pass-through contract with a downstream buyer that hedges commodity risks can be more effective. These situations are common when under capitalized suppliers with good margins contract with larger buyers in high volatility price environments, such as the auto, appliance, and aerospace manufacturing settings.

To learn more, read the abstract from Prof. Kouvelis’ paper below, or download the paper HERE.

Paper title: “The Role of Pass-Through Contracts in Environments with Volatile Input Prices and Frictions”
Authors: Panos Kouvelis, Danko Turcic (Olin), Wenhui Zhao, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) – Antai College of Economics and Management

Abstract
We model a bilateral supply chain with stochastic demand, stochastic input costs, production lead times, and working capital constraints. The supply chain participants contract as follows: Either they use the pass-through contract under which the upstream supplier passes her entire commodity input cost onto the downstream assembler, or they use an appropriately adapted revenue sharing contract under which the firms split both the production costs and the operating revenues. In the absence of financing needs for either firm, the pass-through contract is dominated by the revenue sharing contract – even if downstream buyer hedges all input costs. However, when working capital limitations drive financing needs in the chain, the financial frictions break the coordinating nature of the revenue sharing contract, and the created double marginalization inefficiencies and financing costs for firms with differential working capital and financing needs weaken the profit performance of the contract. Pass-through contracts do dominate revenue sharing ones when there are low (or no) working capital suppliers. Hedging behavior can be justified even in the absence of financing frictions for pass-through contracts, and it only involves the buyer. Hedging behavior in revenue sharing contracts happens when financing is needed, and either firms both hedge, or neither hedges, all commodity purchases in the supply chain. Double marginalization inefficiencies versus financing costs are the main factors in determining the effectiveness of the contracts, with financing cost dominated environments favoring the pass-through contract.

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