Author: Guest Blogger


About Guest Blogger

From time to time we have professors, students, staff, alumni, or friends who are not regular contributors, but want to share something with the community. Be sure to look at the bottom of the post to see the author.

Panos Kouvelis contributed this post. He is the director of The Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation and Emerson Distinguished Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management.

There was no worse time for global supply chain managers to hear about a 1,300-foot ship carrying 18,000 containers and weighing over 200,000 tons stuck, diagonally, in the Suez Canal and stopping global trade flows between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

Major supply chain pains already were in play. Electronic chip supply chains were suffering shortages affecting diverse industries, such as autos and consumer electronic products. Tight shipping capacity was overstretched in an effort to respond to a quickly recovering demand for durable goods shipped from Asia to Europe and the US. Ports were severely congested on the West Coast of the US and in Europe. Now a major shipping route handling $10B in global trade a day was blocked for six days.

Panos Kouvelis

All of the supply chain headaches got worse because of the Suez Canal incident. (The ship was freed March 29.) Some of the ships carried electronic components and products that got further delayed, to the despair of factory managers and consumers waiting for them. Furthermore, other commodities from steel, coal and grains needed for production and consumption either in Europe, Asia or the East Coast of the US were going to be coming at least a week to a few weeks late.

360 ships in waiting

It would take days to get the 360 ships in waiting through the canal and to their next port. And, as queueing theorists like to remark, the “batched departures” from the canal would hit the already congested ports in Europe (e.g., Antwerp and Rotterdam) and on the West Coast (e.g., LA and Seattle)  as “batched arrivals,” an overloading pattern creating further delays for the ships in finding berthing space and getting unloading services. The delays would result in further loss of shipping capacity for all products, and as much as 4% for shipping crude and petroleum products.

For ships rerouted around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope the delays would be for at least two weeks and with increased fuel costs of at least $30,000 per day. Freight costs that were already high, with China to the West Cost more than double and China to Europe more than triple over a year ago, would get even higher for the coming year. Moreover, containers stuck at sea and waiting for unloading at ports accentuated the empty container shortages and imbalances in this crucial ingredient of global shipping flows.

More for coffee and gas

As you sip your gourmet coffee from Africa, get ready to pay a few extra cents for your coffee and your gas, and to wait a few weeks longer for your Japanese car, exercise bike, new PlayStation and iPad.

On the other hand, if you hold shares in major ocean shipping companies, these are good times. Probably not the best times, though, for ship and maritime load delay insurance companies. As always, some win and some lose.

Global supply chain managers feel no great relief: They know all about ripple effects and “bullwhips” cracking and hitting long lead-time, just-in-time, global chains in painful ways. The Suez Canal incident will be felt within their retailing, manufacturing, chemical and oil chains at least for the next month.   

Kate Hogan, MBA

Riley Hawkins and Kate Hogan, both MBA ’22, are co-presidents of Olin Women in Business and wrote this for the Olin Blog.

Transparency in the hiring process, publicly stated hiring goals, intentional mentoring efforts and externally reported accountability are key components to promoting a workplace that supports and promotes women, according to panelists in a recent event sponsored by Olin Women in Business and Anheuser Busch’s internal organization, Women in Beer.

The joint event, staged in honor of Women’s History Month, was entitled “What does it mean to be a feminist at work?” and hosted virtually on March 10.

The panel was moderated by Nidhi Kandari, MBA ’21, and included Karen Bedell, Center for Experiential Learning practicum and board fellows program director; Abbey Bethel, director, BSC Logistics–East Region IM, Anheuser-Busch; Ashley Macrander, associate dean and director of graduate student affairs; and Jennifer Logan, senior director, planning and performance management at Anheuser-Busch.

Clockwise from top left: Bedell, Bethel, Macrander, Logan, Kandari.

The event sparked interesting dialogues with emerging themes of accountability, inclusion and mentorship.

In regard to accountability, the panel discussed ways to ensure organizations are held to a high standard. For example, making hiring numbers publicly available helps to move the needle in terms of how quickly the candidate pool diversifies.

In addition, companies that make public commitments to hire more diverse candidates are more likely to end up doing so. Designating someone who challenges potential bias in interviewing—a “bias breaker”—is another way to ensure companies are held to their commitments of hiring more diverse candidates.

However, hiring diverse candidates isn’t enough. The panel shared valuable insights on the importance of inclusion. Without true inclusion, diverse candidates tend to have high turnover because they feel alienated. Companies and managers need to create an environment where people are comfortable and are able to be themselves once hired.

Finally, the panel spent time talking about a topic that’s especially important to emerging women business leaders: mentorship. Studies have shown that people with mentors are more likely to receive promotions, which makes mentorship a great tool to level the playing field for women. Panelists reminded attendees that mentorship is a two-way street, so mentees should think about how they can add value to their mentor and rise together.

One event participant asked how to find a mentor without conveying that she was needy or obnoxious.

“It’s an honor to be a mentor, so don’t feel like you’re burdening someone by asking them to start a mentorship chat,” Jennifer Logan said. “It means you like their work and it’s a compliment.”

Giving some final words of advice, Macrander said, “Strong teams are magnets for talent, so make sure you’re part of a team where there is trust and vulnerability and everybody knows your value.”

Russ Shaw, BSBA ’85, was one of three people the Queen of England recognized as a commander of the British Empire in 2021. Shaw received the honor for his contributions to technology and business in London. Here, he describes how his Olin education helped him get there.

My Olin education covered four years, receiving a BSBA and majoring in accounting and receiving minors in economics and Spanish. I also participated in a number of extracurricular activities, with a particular highlight being a student representative to the Washington University Board of Trustees.

I certainly used the knowledge gained in my coursework in many aspects of my career. Some of the standout courses for me were macroeconomics, statistics, finance, marketing and a great course in leadership during my senior year.

My days are never the same as founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates. I meet with many startups, scale-ups and investors across many tech hubs around the world. I talk to journalists and do media interviews frequently, and I am in contact with various UK government agencies.

Many tech hubs

Through Global Tech Advocates I have travelled to many tech hubs both large and not-so-large, meeting amazing entrepreneurs with great visions and aspirations. I have hosted tech events spanning from San Francisco and New York to Shanghai, Bangalore, Tokyo, Singapore, Paris, Bogotá, Madrid, Shenzhen, Milan, Stockholm and, of course, London.

A key part of my role is to put the spotlight on critical issues that impact tech ecosystems. This includes issues around talent, diversity & inclusion, digital skills, infrastructure and access to funding.

I was honoured to be recognised by the Queen in her New Year’s Honours list as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).  This is one of the highest levels of recognition in the United Kingdom by Her Majesty. The CBE has been awarded for service to business and technology.  I was honoured to meet Queen Elizabeth several years ago when she and Prince Philip hosted a technology reception at Buckingham Palace.

In terms of advice as students embark on their careers, I always say that there are two components that are integral to any career journey: reputation and network of contacts.  Both need to be nurtured and developed throughout a career. I also encourage students to travel and see the world, to keep expanding their horizons and to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking.

Where do we go from here, in the second year in these times of coronavirus? As we pass the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring a global COVID-19 pandemic, Washington University in St. Louis experts, including from Olin, look both back and ahead. Here are excerpts from a comprehensive post in The Source.

Innovating=problem solving

“During the pandemic, problems were suddenly appearing everywhere. And the race to innovate and solve those problems was the most rapid I’ve seen since the initial craze in the late ’90s. Solving acute, short-term problems feels good … but it is not a long-term strategy, and it certainly doesn’t lead to eventual sustainability for your organization. The opportunity now is to call a timeout and reassess all you’ve been doing recently to decide which of your new solutions are simply acute versus ones that can set your customers and you up for long-term success.”

– Doug Villhard, professor of practice in entrepreneurship and academic director for entrepreneurship, Olin

How long have you been waiting for your exercise bike?

“As the summer came, and most of us got used to a life with limited or no access to dining services, sports venues and other entertainment, we fell in love with our own houses, kitchens, in-home entertainment devices, exercise equipment, power tools, furniture, cars and boats. The demand for those products came back at a speed of recovery and level nobody expected. By persisting for six months or so, such conditions unleashed a ‘bullwhip’ that pained these supply chains as never before. The ripple effect wasn’t a 10-20% increase down the line to manufacturers and raw-material suppliers, but rather reached 50-100% levels. Shortages followed — exacerbated by shortages in semiconductors and one essential of supply-chain transportation, shipping containers. …

“In the current, (ab)normal state of the world, with highly changed consumer behaviors, the demand peaks are higher and longer persisting, and our forecasts even more erratic. The logistics bottlenecks in ports, ocean and air cargo are still limiting global flows and severely elongating lead-times — so how long have you been waiting for your exercise bike?”

 Panos Kouvelis, PhD, director of The Boeing Center for Supply Chain Innovation and Emerson Distinguished Professor of Operations and Manufacturing Management, Olin

Emergency vaccine supply chain must become long-term strategy

“While countries around the world are still on their learning curves of rolling out the first vaccines, new coronavirus variants continue to emerge. What has been pulled off as an emergency response needs to be developed into a sustainable, systematic, long-term strategy to fight against the virus, which is likely to persist for the foreseeable future.”

“A vital part of this long-term strategy is to build reliable and responsive vaccine supply chains: 1) Each stage is adequately equipped to ensure safe and fast vaccine distribution. 2) The end-to-end supply chain visibility provides valuable data to inform vaccine R&D, manufacturing and distribution planning. 3) It also can facilitate the timely, cross-region, supply-demand rebalance and efficient planning of local events where vaccines are administered. And 4) that end-to-end visibility directs proper intervention in underserved regions.”

– Lingxiu Dong, PhD, professor of operations and manufacturing management, Olin Business School

Ending mask mandates could hurt economy

Several states easing mask restrictions in March not only goes against the advice of federal health officials, it also contradicts the findings of Olin researchers who found mask mandates boost the economy.

“Our research shows that mask mandates help increase consumer spending. The issue with the economy has always been that customers are hesitant to go out and shop, and having a mask mandate tends to increase consumer spending by about 4%. Thus, cutting the mask mandate is certainly unlikely to help the economy. …

“While COVID-19 cases are trending down, and people are rapidly getting vaccinated, having people interact more directly, inside and without masks does give the COVID-19 virus more of an opportunity to evolve to another form that might be resistant to the current vaccines. If such a variant comes into being, that will have huge costs on both people’s health and the economy. 

– Raphael Thomadsen, PhD, professor of marketing and study co-author, Olin Business School

Working from home is here to stay

“Some surveys show a sizeable majority of organizations plan to give workers the option of working from home between one to four days per week. So, although most companies aren’t planning to remain fully virtual, they are planning to adopt a hybrid mode of working to retain some of the flexibility of a work-from-home model.”

recent Pew Research Center study found nearly 90% of people who have been working from home during the pandemic do not want to return to the office full-time.

“Companies are also making this decision because it will save money on real estate and facilities. In a recent KPMG survey, more than two-thirds of CEOs reported that they are planning to downsize office space. In my view, this is the strongest indicator that some form of work-from-home will stay — CEOs are putting their money where their mouths are.” 

– Andrew Knight, PhD, professor of organizational behavior, Olin Business School

WFH2.0: Spontaneity and flexible coordination

“Amongst many things, this past year generated a massive experiment in what it meant to run our businesses/non-profits/schools with the talent working from home (WFH). So, what did we learn?

“On the one hand, turning any spare bedroom into a home office has made us nimble in disconnecting the ability to get things done from any particular physical site. It turns out that pulling back on co-worker distractions and adding an ability to take breaks when the mind requires rest has helped many of us settle into a new productivity groove. On the other hand, dislocation from co-workers has made generating innovative, out-of-the-box initiatives much more difficult.

“While I am hopeful this year has helped leaders realize that many can be quite productive with a greater level of autonomy, individuals and organizations need a new set of skills and processes to generate ideas in a world where collaboration has become overly structured into hour-long Zoom calls and spontaneity correspondingly squeezed. With companies running the gamut from saying you can WFH forever to others suggesting this past year was a blip on the radar, I hope more organizations find a way to strike a balance between autonomy and coordination.”

– Peter Boumgarden, PhD, director of the Koch Family Center for Family Enterprise and academic director of the Center for Experiential Learning, Olin

Frankie Hong, MSFQ ’20, is a Center for Experiential Learning practicum fellow—and the first from Olin’s Specialized Masters Program.

I was placed on the team for the practicum project of Midwest BankCentre in the spring 2020 semester, and this project is still one of my highlights at Olin. It was the first time that I interacted with a real-life client to such an extent.

I still remember being nervous and anxious, trying to play it cool. But I could not keep my legs from shaking at the first in-person client meeting in January 2020 in the Pagedale community. 

Stepping into the unknown can be intimidating, but this experience excited me even more as we started to see the bigger picture. We held multiple stakeholder meetings with the clients and the faculty advisors to tell the story using the best models we could find. The clients were supportive and able to provide resources and feedback. They became my mentors when I landed in this part of the finance world.

It was a fortunate coincidence that my summer internship was at a St. Louis FinTech company, where our clients were community banks across the US. The knowledge I gained from the spring practicum was valuable throughout my summer internship. Working alongside several Olin students, we managed to create a valuation tool for community banks in only eight weeks. This experience reinforced the importance of experiential learning and implementing the values-based and data-driven approaches I learned at Olin.

Continuing his CEL journey

These experiences helped me make up my mind to apply for a practicum fellow role to continue my CEL journey. It did not occur to me then that I would become the first fellow for practicum from the SMP population.

As a practicum fellow, I had the honor of working with the Purina team for the fall 2020 semester. Each team member brought passion and expertise to the work and strived to deliver a successful final product to the client. The team also gave me full support on my fellowship project, which is to look at how to improve the SMP students’ recruitment process and facilitate collaboration among different communities.

Ability and diversity

Through interviews and surveys, I learned more about this cohort’s ability and diversity and was amazed by the talents people can bring to the table. The awareness of CEL experiential programs is relatively high among the SMPs. Some even indicated that these programs are one of the biggest reasons they chose to attend Olin, since successfully managing the programs reflects the business school’s power to offer quality service and professional guidance to students. For students coming straight to Olin after finishing their undergraduate study, the variety of experiential programs provide a valuable way to gain their first consulting experience working with real clients and apply skills learned in the classroom to practice.

When asked about their experience, many SMPs participants in the fall semester told me they were surprised at how the team collaborated efficiently in the virtual setup. Some of them took up the role of “technical team lead” when the project required unique skills such as website design and data analytics.

Even when entering an industry that they were not familiar with, students believe a fantastic team lead, an engaged faculty advisor and a responsive client will all contribute to achieving a satisfying result.

I encourage all SMP students to participate in experiential learnings programs where theory meets practice. Do not hesitate to offer your fresh perspectives and even plan on showing your leadership skills in a team. 

We have come a long way and will continue navigating through the uncertainties ahead of us. As I continue to work as a CEL practicum fellow in the spring semester, I look forward to the journey ahead and am more than happy to connect with Olin’s talents.