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Kellogg students won first place in the 2008 Global Supply Chain Case Competition in February. From left: Brian Boroff ‘08, Kiersten Regelin ‘09, Kyle Ledbetter ‘08, Vijay Natarajan ‘08.

Supply chain case another victory for Kellogg School team

February contest demonstrates students’ ‘holistic’ strengths as they tackle real-world problem using eclectic management tools

By Chris Van Nostrand

2/28/2008 - Each week recently seems to bring with it another win for Kellogg School students competing against peers from other top business schools.

The latest case competition victory was a quintessential Kellogg experience for a team of four students. In winning the 2008 Global Supply Chain Case Competition at Purdue University on Feb. 14 and 15 , Brian Boroff, Kyle Ledbetter, Vijay Natarajan (all ’08), and Kiersten Regelin ’09 embodied many of the best qualities of the Kellogg School culture, particularly in their highly collaborative, integrative and intellectual approach to solving a real-world challenge while competing against other top talent.

In assembling the team, Ledbetter turned to friends he met even before arriving on campus. Both Boroff and Natarajan were members of his KWEST trip . The bond was solidified in Senior Associate Dean Sunil Chopra’s fall 2007 Logistics and Supply Chain Management course. Regelin then soon joined the team, bringing with her significant professional experience in corporate social responsibility. In early December the group went to work formulating the best way to use their complementary experiences and expertise in anticipation of the Purdue contest’s Jan. 14 first-round deadline.

This series of events proved a perfect match for the case the students were ultimately given, which focused on a spice company that discovers a main source of its product coming from China is contaminated. Ledbetter credits Dean Chopra’s course with laying the intellectual foundation for their response, also noting that while the core issue dealt with a supply chain crisis, Regelin’s experience proved critical too. Says Ledbetter, a former plant manager before coming to Kellogg: “In the current environment, there are very few supply chain issues that don’t touch upon corporate ethics.”

Based on the strength of their submission, the Kellogg team was one of six finalists from an original field of 20 that received an invitation to the contest’s final round, held in conjunction with Purdue’s 2008 Global Supply Chain Management Conference. For the final round, the team was given an update on the case at 5 p.m. on Feb. 14. They were required to submit their final solutions by 8 a.m. the following day. Naturally, the update “changed the case completely,” said Ledbetter. “That was an all-night affair.”

Despite battling the effects of sleeplessness, the group presented to a panel of judges and to the entire conference — well over 100 participants. Afterward, they were told that despite developing a similar strategy to that of the second-place team, the Kelloggians’ ability to communicate their solution proved a differentiating factor.

Ledbetter reflects that the case drew heavily upon what members of the team had learned while at Kellogg, as well as their ability to function cohesively. “All the group work prepares you for events like this, but there was an added competitive element as well . . . It was fun to put a team together and work under such intense conditions; we’re all very close friends now.”

As for the work itself, “the case turned out to be very holistic — marketing, CSR, strategy, supply chain — and that was one of the real strengths of our submissions.”