URI business students apply supply chain management lessons around state

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KINGSTON, R.I. – March 1, 2010–Mention supply chain management and most people would think of behemoths like Hasbro Inc. or CVS Caremark moving millions of goods from the manufacturer to the consumer in the most efficient manner.

But three groups of University of Rhode Island supply chain management majors in the College of Business Administration learned that the concept encompasses so much more thanks to internships with South County Hospital, the Quonset Development Corp. and Deep Water Wind.

Arranged and supervised by professors of supply chain management, Douglas N. Hales, James R. Kroes and Yuwen Chen, the students learned that the techniques of the discipline could be applied to almost any operation.

South County Hospital

Kendall Liebman of Tewksbury, Mass., Bryan Liese of Coventry and Ryan Colgan of Congers, N.Y. met throughout the fall with numerous South County Hospital staff members to assess scheduling for the Diagnostic Imaging Department, which includes X-Ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, to see where customer service could be improved.

“I thought I knew what supply chain management was supposed to be, but didn’t understand that it could apply to services,” Liebman said.

Such comments bring smiles to the professors’ faces. Central to the supply chain program is intensive instruction in Lean Management and Manufacturing Principles and Six Sigma, both of which are designed to eliminate wasteful processes. Graduates of the program are eligible to seek Six Sigma Greenbelt Certification.

At the hospital, the students met with hospital personnel to examine phone coverage, appointment scheduling, clinical staff scheduling, and equipment availability among others.

Liebman said the hospital internship was one of her best URI experiences. “When I go to interviews, I have this project under my belt. This will differentiate me from other students.”

Louis R. Giancola, 
president and chief executive officer of South County Hospital, said he was grateful that URI’s College of Business Administration made such outstanding students available for the study.

“The students gave us some great insights into our processes” Giancola said. “Once they turn their final recommendations over to our people, we will massage them and figure out how to adopt them. There is no question that this will help us improve our customer service.”

Deep Water Wind project

The three-member team of Patrick Zimmerman of Smithfield, Katherine Hermiz of East Providence and Hui Yang, a graduate student from China, examined issues related to permitting, port development, transportation, including ships, the environment and manufacturing relating to the offshore wind farm proposed by Deep Water Wind in Block Island Sound.

The students met with Paul Rich of Deep Water Wind, and Evan Matthews of the Quonset Development Corp. and attended a conference in Boston.

“They definitely think Rhode Island is going to be the first state to have an offshore wind farm,” Zimmerman said. “Companies want to build an offshore facility on the East Coast, but at the moment they can’t find a port that is suitable.”

He said Quonset has potential, but configuring the 117 acres necessary for the project is one of the big challenges.

“A project this big will bring jobs, it will make us a greener state because we will be using less fossil-based energy,” Zimmerman said. “Living in a state that is at the forefront of this is very exciting.”

Hermiz said building an offshore wind farm with huge turbines is not like constructing land-based units. For example, the single turbine that towers over Portsmouth Abbey in Portsmouth is a 660-kilowatt turbine. The offshore turbines would be 5-megawatt units, or about 7 times more powerful. Offshore turbines can be as tall as the 60-story Seattle Space Needle.

Hales said that with such a huge project, 16 different agencies would be involved, a process that can affect competitiveness regionally and globally.

He said the Chinese are moving quickly to embrace wind power. “By 2030, the Chinese want to have four times the wind turbine capacity of the United States. They want at least 30 to 40 percent of their energy to come from wind energy,” Hales said.

Quonset Development Corp.

The study done by the students for the Quonset Development Corp. on the potential for container freight shipment has actually become part of a $45 million federal grant application by the corporation, of which $22.3 million was awarded on February 17th, due in part to the work of the students.

Those who have worked on the project are: Mark Tetreault of North Kingstown, a December graduate; Lauren Reis of North Kingstown, a junior; Jeffrey Gordon of Warwick, a senior, and Steve Humphrey of Tiverton, who earned is bachelor’s degree in May and is now seeking his master’s degree in business administration.

The study was supported by a grant from the URI Transportation Center and Insight, which donated a license for its SAILS software, a leading reference standard for supply chain strategy analysis.

“The students reviewed all of the studies dating to the 1970s and none of them looked at whether there was a need for a port,” Kroes said.

Port Director Evan H. Matthews told the group that he was unsure if enough demand existed to justify a mega port, so the students examined options ranging from a mega port to a smaller operation that would use barges to move containers.

The group assessed fuel costs, container ports in New York and Boston, rail and trucking. The group found that a freight container operation at Davisville could compete successfully with trucking and rail service. The students found that there would be demand for about 15,000 containers annually at Davisville compared to 1 million containers at a mega port.

“This would be a small operation with maybe one to two barges coming into the port each week. There would be an extremely low environmental impact,” Kroes said.