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New Supply Chain Innovation Virtual Lab Launches

By Lorie Briggs

Video Chat Screen

The launch team for the Supply Chain Innovation Lab met via MS Teams to determine initial projects and direction.

TAMPA (July 10, 2020) --  A new lab at the University of South Florida will bring industry and academic supply chain management experts together in a “living lab” to tackle some of the industry’s biggest challenges – particularly as it relates to the ongoing transformation to digital supply chains and efforts to design networks that can help companies be more competitive in a global marketplace.

The Supply Chain Innovation Lab, housed in the USF Muma College of Business, is a direct result of the USF-Jabil Innovation Institute partnership. The Innovation Institute was formally launched at a ceremony last October where it was also announced that Jabil donated $1,000,000 to USF, which included $200,000 in research support. All faculty-led, funded research projects from the Monica Wooden Center for Supply Chain Management & Sustainability will be conducted by SCI Lab researchers; many of those will be explored in partnership with industry executives from Jabil.

The lab will bring together representatives from industry, higher education and public agencies to tackle global supply chain management challenges. Next-generation technology implementation and talent development are among those challenges, according to faculty member Donna Davis, who is the co-director of the business school’s Monica Wooden Center for Supply Chain Management & Sustainability.

Supply chains have long been part of the business operations realm, but the recent issues with cleaning supplies, paper products and personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic brought the importance and complexity of supply chains into mainstream focus. Most people, however, still remain unaware of the field’s impact.

“Effective, efficient supply chain management is essential to ensuring the availability of critical goods and services needed to keep businesses running and meet the needs of consumers,” said Davis. “Unfortunately, few people outside the field recognize how supply chain management impacts virtually every area of our lives.”

That is the reason that one of the new lab’s first projects will be a project to enhance supply chain visibility as a step on the journey toward digital supply chains. The next generation of supply chains will use digital technology to provide real-time access to data that is needed to better anticipate and quickly respond to customers’ changing needs.

Jabil, a manufacturing solutions provider that delivers comprehensive design, manufacturing, supply chain and product management services, is a natural partner. According to its website, Jabil builds a wide range of products across diverse markets and industries. The Fortune 500 company’s supply chain and logistics services include sourcing, virtual/vertical mechanics, supply chain management, advanced planning, quality, standardized global systems, sustainability and business analytics.

USF scholars are experts in reverse logistics, predictive analytics, global operations, sustainable supply chain management and public-private partnerships.

“Collaborating with professionals from Jabil, with expertise in areas such as manufacturing and design is very exciting, because we will have a chance to not only work with industry experts to solve vexing problems, but we will also have a chance to provide learning opportunities for our students,” said Seckin Ozkul, who has been named director of the new lab. That, he said, was part of the reason Jabil chose to partner with USF in the first place.

Students will work alongside the faculty and industry professionals to develop analytical skills by using geographic information systems mapping that produce “heat maps” of logistics activities as well as tools to analyze large data sets related to transportation and population demographics, such as workforce readiness. At the same time, they will learn how supply chain information can be shared digitally to improve performance. 

“When the Supply Chain Innovation Lab was created through unequivocal support from John Caltabiano, Jabil’s vice president of supply chain management, together with his Jabil colleagues, we envisioned a program that would provide new experiential learning opportunities and skills students need to stand out – and start out strong – in a competitive job market,” said Ozkul.

“I am happy that the initiatives we planned with our industry partners will do just that.”