A hurricane is barreling toward the Gulf Coast. How should a bank prepare its ATMs to serve its customers near the impacted areas? Commercial customer cash volume changes at a specific bank’s vault. Should a bank continue to operate this vault or outsource to an armored carrier?
These scenarios—and others—were presented to students in Gary Page’s Sourcing and Supply Management class last spring by Regions Bank. Students then recommended courses of action that will maintain efficiency and a high level of customer service.
“Our objectives of the case study were to expose students to principles of managing supply chain operations within a service industry, such as banking,” says Sarah McClellan, a Regions VP and Operations Manager. “We also intended to further develop the students’ skill sets to make an immediate impact at the beginning of their careers.”
Case studies are nothing new to students in Page’s undergraduate classrooms, or for MBA students, who offer consultancy to dozens of industry partners each fall. “I try to prepare students for the real world,” says Page, executive in residence at Harbert. “I am looking for opportunities to get them out of classroom lectures and involve them with company issues.”
The Regions study was established with support from MBA alum Chris Brasher, Regions Executive VP of Enterprise Operations.
“It’s great to have the opportunity to sponsor a project that not only pushes the students’ abilities, but exposes them to the operational side of banking,” says Brasher, an Auburn Supply Chain Management Association sponsor whose firm partners with the college’s Center for Supply Chain Innovation.
Of the dozens of students participating, the team of Emily Clement, Mary Parker Robertson, Seth McAnear, Anna Hickinbotham, and Kathryn Wingenter, submitted the case competition’s winning proposal, based on a thorough written report—complete with financial and operational data—and a final presentation made before Regions executives.
How should Regions handle ATM cash disbursement in the event of a hurricane? The team reported, “Regions should be proactive by increasing the cash orders throughout the entire hurricane season. This will cut down costs created by emergency cash orders as a result of being reactive to a current hurricane forecast.”
And what about that vault? Should Regions continue using the vault at that location, or outsource its commercial cash operations to an armored carrier? And if an armored carrier, which one? The group suggested utilizing an armored carrier over the vault, citing cost, and chose that carrier over two others, based on customer service ratings and reliability.
“It’s interesting to bring in fresh perspectives to our operational processes,” Brasher says. “We were impressed. The students really devoted a lot of effort toward understanding our operations. Giving the students real-world situations that the bank deals with daily allowed Regions to gain new insights into how these issues can be approached while introducing students to the type of work they can expect post-graduation.”
Companies also use case competitions as recruiting tools. Regions’ Operations division hired three Harbert Supply Chain Management graduates between December of 2016 and this May. McClellan says Harbert’s recent SCM graduates have “hit the mark” by bringing in a new perspective to problem-solving, while providing strong technological skills.
“The growth of the Supply Chain Management program at Auburn has been extremely exciting,” Brasher says. “The faculty and staff are some of the best in the nation. Our industry is increasingly relying on strong data analysis to support various operations. I firmly believe the data analysis and presentation skills the program has implemented in core classes are two key factors in Auburn producing top-of-the-line Supply Chain Management graduates.”