Supply chain apps help Laurier drive logistics learning

The School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University has formed a partnership to help students get a real world perspective on supply chain management.

Next week the School of Business and Economics (SBE) will be installing

Descartes Systems Group’s Routing and Scheduling software for use in its logistics and supply chain management (SCM) classes. Michael Haughton, an associate professor in the Operations and Decisions area at the SBE, will also use the software in his ongoing research projects.

Haughton said students are already exposed to some software in the course of their program, but the Descartes tools will allow more specific opportunities to derive intelligent results from complex logistics algorithms.

Students may use the Descartes applications, for example, to model the route optimization of a fleet of vehicles. This would allow them to see how route optimization changes the duties that are assigned to various vehicle drivers, for example, or the consistency to which a driver will meet a particular customer. In the past, these kind of calculations were done by hand.

“”Instead of their ability to perform a mechanical task, if you will, of running through an algorithm, the focus can now be more on letting the software do the donkey work,”” he said.

Haughton said he approached Descartes after evaluating another software tool offered by a manufacturer in the United States. Besides the technical sophistication of Routing and Scheduling, he said he liked the idea of working with a more local company that would provide more accessible support. Descartes is donating the software under a long-term license agreement.

John Kellett, Descartes’ general manager for Canada in Waterloo, Ont., said Haughton’s students will gain a unique understanding of how to gain operational efficiencies in managing fleets. “”Once they graduate, if they get the job, it’s exactly what they’ll be asked to do,”” he said. “”I think it’s an excellent model and approach.””

The students won’t be the only ones doing the learning. Haughton said he will be taking part in the Descartes training himself to become more familiar with the product.

“”I will get a better understanding of what would be required to take students up to the level of decent competence,”” he said.

Kellett said Haughton won’t have to cram to be prepared for classes next fall.

“”It’s not complex,”” he said. “”It’s something that we can install the software, they can get up to speed very quickly, and start doing what their whole goal is, and that’s running the models and using this as a teaching tool.””

Using the software in class may change the way students are evaluated in the future, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have to do the math.

“”You give them small problems so they’ll know what the procedures are,”” he said. Then for the larger problems, it’s more a matter of formulating it so it can work with the software, getting the numbers out and trying to derive meaning — real, managerial meaning — from the numbers.””

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