Syracuse University Magazine

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Dan Goehry, director of inventory operations for Staples

Partnering with Staples

Inside the Milton Room, in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management Building, Sandra Carruitero ’15 stood in front of a group of executives from Staples Inc. on a Tuesday morning in April and began to discuss the potential impact of natural disasters on the company’s supply chain. “I’m going to be talking about hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes,” she says.

By the time Carruitero finished, she had outlined which Staples supply facilities are at greatest risk for such events, the possible consequences, and proactive measures that could improve the outcome. Carruitero was part of an undergraduate and graduate student team that worked with supply chain management professors Burak Kazaz and John Park G’10, G’12 to develop a comprehensive risk assessment report for Staples that covered natural disasters, chemical and nuclear threats, crime, and IT disruptions, and recommended ways to reduce potential losses. “They put together a nice finished product for us,” says Dan Goehry, director of inventory operations for Staples. “We see risk all the time and have good strategies to mitigate against it, but a formal presentation like this helps either validate what we’re doing already or sheds some new light on things we might not have seen before.”

Later in the day, another team of students and faculty, led by Kazaz and faculty colleague Zhengping Wu, presented its findings to the executives on the company’s inventory operations. Both presentations were the culmination of several months of research, data collection, analysis, and modeling by the teams through a partnership forged last fall between Staples and the Whitman School’s H.H. Franklin Center for Supply Chain Management, a national leader in the field that was founded in 1919 as the first of its kind in the nation. Along with the benefits of sharing research and knowledge with a corporate partner, the collaboration includes Staples internships for Whitman students. “Getting support from Staples for this partnership helps the center fulfill its mission of creating and disseminating new knowledge that would lead to best practices in the industry,” says Kazaz, executive director of the Franklin Center and a Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence.

According to Kazaz, the research findings were well received. In part, they focused on how to improve interactions and enhance supply chain efficiencies between the company’s U.S. retail distribution centers, which supply Staples stores, and its fulfillment centers, which serve Staples’ contract, dot-com, and Quill businesses. With some minor revisions, Kazaz says, the company plans to implement the risk assessment recommendations and act on suggestions in the inventory report that could produce up to 14 percent savings in fulfillment center operations. “We are quite excited about what happened on the day of the presentations,” he says.

For the students, the in-depth project proved invaluable. Carruitero, a retail management and supply chain management double major, had never done a risk assessment and called the project a unique opportunity to learn beyond the classroom and work with a national client. “Every step along the process was new and challenging,” she says. Colin Morgan ’15, a supply chain management and finance double major, characterized his risk assessment presentation on crime as one of the most difficult of his college career, requiring him to winnow down an enormous amount of information to key points. “From an experience standpoint, this was a great opportunity,” says Morgan, noting the project also sharpened his Excel skills. “It was fun to work on a project and put concepts I learned in classes to use. Providing meaningful results to a firm is also a great talking point during interviews.”    —Jay Cox



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“Every step along the process was new and challenging.”

—SANDRA CARRUITERO ’15

Photos by James Vivenzio