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Preparing leaders - your future depends on them

A Toy's Story

As you wander the aisles at Target, looking for a baby doll for your favorite niece’s birthday or a new pair of jeans, do you ever stop and consider how all of that merchandise got there? Sure, trucks loaded with boxes probably arrive day and night, but where do they come from?

Understanding and mastering that journey is the heart of supply chain management.

Students in Michael Hasler’s introductory operations management class have spent five weeks each summer since 2010 looking into this everyday marvel. But rather than merely sitting in lectures and reading case studies, these business majors track products — a doll, a calculator, blue jeans, melamine dishware — upstream through the supply chain, starting at an Austin Target store and ending up in factories located throughout the Pearl River Delta region in southern China.

The class is more than just an extended field trip, though. “Relating to an experience is key to adult learning,” says Hasler. “Everyone has been to a Target, but this forces you to look at the whole operation in a new way.”

The seed idea for the course was planted in 2005, when the university’s Center for International Business Education and Research began working with faculty members in supply chain management — which wasn’t even a major at that point — to develop a core course that students could take abroad.

Fast forward to May 2009. Hasler and a group of McCombs School of Business colleagues met with supply chain executives at Target’s Minneapolis headquarters. The Target team brought out a map that illustrated the international nature of the company’s supply chain, with stops from a distribution center in north Texas all the way to manufacturing plants in China.

“We realized there might be an opportunity here to do something more special than the usual academic-industry partnership,” recalls Doug Houseman, senior project manager in Target’s distributed automation group and Hasler’s partner in developing the course.

Three years later, the supply chain management major has nearly 170 students, and Hasler’s course is collecting accolades. He won the 2012 Wickham Skinner Teaching Innovation Award from the Production and Operations Management Society in April, an international honor, and he also picked up the McCombs School 2012 Teaching Innovation Award in May.

“Turns out the course is a pretty big innovation,” says Hasler.

From Austin, to north Texas, to Long Beach, Calif., and across the Pacific Ocean to Hong Kong and mainland China, read teh full 2012 Student Travelogue through the Target Supply Chain:

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