Education and Small Business & Startups

GVSU and WMU develop supply chain assessment tool

It’s free to small businesses here that turn to the SBDC for help.

January 30, 2015
| By Pete Daly |
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The Michigan Small Business Development Center at Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University have jointly developed an online supply chain assessment tool free for small businesses.

The assessment is based on 52 questions worked out over 2014 by Ken Jones of WMU and staff at the SBDC.

“It probes all the major elements of the supply chain,” said Jones, who is a professor of Integrated Supply Management and also director of Executive and Workforce Education offered by the Haworth College of Business at WMU.

The questions are designed to reveal issues in production of goods or delivery of services, and will include specifics on production plans; purchasing issues such as how to identify sources of raw materials; logistics management; and delivery of the products.

The questions go in-depth: “If there are returns of products by customers, how do those products come back to the company?” Prompt returns are essential in helping determine the extent and causes of quality problems, he said.

At the Center for Integrated Supply Management, WMU has Bronco Force, an initiative to help mainly small businesses or startups — just as GVSU is home to the SBDC.

This is a diagnostic tool for the consultants at both universities, said Jones, which is helpful if a particular consultant’s expertise is in some other field of business that does not normally involve supply chain management.

Bronco Force has partnered with the SBDC and the Southwest Michigan First economic development agency, and is starting to become connected with The Right Place in Grand Rapids, according to Jones, offering university expertise to help small businesses, without charge.

“We’re just another tool in the toolbox for industry, and a lot of smaller to mid-size companies like the approach. It’s a way to get problems solved, and they don’t have to throw a lot of resources at it” in determining where the problem is and what needs to be done, said Jones.

WMU has had an Integrated Supply Management program since 1995. It made news in August when it was ranked fifth on Gartner’s Top U.S. Supply Chain Undergraduate University Programs for 2014. Gartner also lists WMU as the leader in its program scope category, a reflection of ISM’s unique combination of supply chain management, engineering, information technology and business education that prepares graduates for challenging and high-paying careers, according to WMU.

Of the 40 programs evaluated this year, only Michigan State University, Penn State University, University of Tennessee and University of Texas at Austin ranked higher than the WMU program.

Melissa Angel, a staff member at SBDC, said the supply chain assessment tool has now been used by a number of businesses and entrepreneurs who have sought help from SBDC.

She said the issues revealed in the analysis may help improve profitability, quality, inventory turns, and ultimately customer satisfaction and retention.

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