EMIL-SCS: Highlights From My International Learning Experience

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By Theresa Foran, MS IL 2008

When I enrolled in Georgia Tech's Executive Masters in International Logistics & Supply Chain Strategy (EMIL-SCS) program, I had been working for DB Schenker's Corporate Logistics group for four years. Barry McNeil, Schenker's vice president of operations who had already graduated from the program, assured me that I was in for a unique experience. And he was right.

Through EMIL-SCS, I have learned about global supply chain issues firsthand. I saw trucks lined up at border crossings from Eastern Europe heading into Western Europe and from Mexico into the United States. I experienced traffic in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I wound my way through the airport in Guangzhou, China, and watched huge ships navigate the narrow passage through the Panama Canal's locks. In Hong Kong, I stood on the bridge of the world's biggest container vessel as containers were simultaneously loaded and unloaded. I have talked to local business people about their specific supply chain challenges in China, Malaysia, France, Germany, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, and beyond. Going through EMIL-SCS has been an amazing and informative experience. What is the EMIL-SCS program like? The residence structure is designed for students who work full time. The program is built around five two-week residences in which participants are fully immersed in classes, away from workplace distractions and often in overseas locations. The residences are supported by coursework and assignments, completed by students back at home between sessions. This requires application and commitment from the students, but the program is designed for incorporation around normal work activities. In fact, many of the assignments require students to apply the theory taught in class to the practicalities of their own company and work environments.

The exact details of each residence vary with each class, but here are some highlights from mine.

Residence I - North America: This residence was a very academic baptism by fire into the world of modeling, optimization, finance, and other aspects of technical logistics held on campus at Georgia Tech. This was pretty scary for those of us with liberal arts backgrounds (my undergraduate degree was in French and business studies). The quality of teaching from the likes of Stephen Timme, our charismatic finance professor, and Martin Savelsbergh, who was able to explain optimization to novices (like me) and experts alike, made the eight-hour days in a classroom bearable.

Residence II - Europe: This residence was a complete change in focus from the purely academic to the reality of doing business in Europe. The residence had a mixture of academic classroom sessions (labor relations in Europe, history of the European Union, sustainability in the supply chain, etc.), outside speakers (European trucking operations, discount airline business model), as well as site visits (Port of Le Havre, Kia car factory) in France, Germany, and Slovakia. The residence also involved live case sessions where a host European company outlined a specific relevant supply chain issue the company was facing, and a small group of students worked together to present potential solutions and lead a class discussion with the company about the issue. The live case I worked on was with a French company, Legallais-Bouchard, that was looking to expand into another region of France. My team reviewed and presented several options for a future distribution network that included operational and financial considerations.

Residence II - Latin America: My third residence began with a visit to the Panama Canal. We also took in site tours in Chile and Brazil. Maria Rey, an academically outstanding presenter and previous EMIL-SCS graduate,
explained some of the complexities of logistics in the region. Professor John Bartholdi held some lively classroom exercises on warehouse design. Picking paper clips from cups with tweezers gave us a hands-on opportunity to understand the benefits of the bucket brigades-a way of organizing workers on an assembly line so that the line balances itself.

Residence IV - Asia: This was probably the most ambitious residence, with visits to Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, a train ride to a manufacturing plant in southern China, Shanghai, and-for a few of us who tagged on an extra weekend-Beijing and the Great Wall. One of the highlights of the residence was a tour of Elly Maersk, the largest container ship in the world, while it was in port in Hong Kong. Others included discussions with Dell, Intel, Jabil, and William Fung on topical supply chain challenges.

Residence V - North America: In our final residence, we came back to the classroom in Atlanta for a week, and then we were off to Laredo, Texas, to experience border operations. Then we headed across the border into Monterrey, Mexico, for discussions on NAFTA and a visit to a maquiladora manufacturing site.

While participating in the residences, we also took part in a global project, based on a real-life supply chain opportunity. We were divided into teams and worked on our project throughout the program. During the final residence, we presented the results of our project to the course directors, our classmates, and members of the EMILSCS advisory board. I was part of a team that analyzed the routing of products and components from sources in Asia to manufacturing and assembly facilities in North America. We were particularly satisfied to hear that our subject company (a major global manufacturer of computer equipment) had decided to implement some of our recommendations as a pilot project just prior to our presentation. If you are interested in the program, you can find out more at If you are fortunate enough to participate, have fun! With so much travel involved, it is always an adventure. Traveling together is a great way to network and bond with your fellow classmates.


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