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For our consulting abroad project with the Indian automaker, Maruti Suzuki, my team has been tasked to work with one of Maruti’s suppliers to reduce their inventory levels and improve inventory storage and packaging methods. While seemingly a simple problem, it has entailed a lot of work—and a number of Skype calls with the client—to get to the bottom of things and accurately define the problem. You see, while on the surface the issue is inventory, what we’ve discovered is the problem actually deals with working capital and the supplier’s need to reduce inventory levels in order to reduce costs. Even my explanation of the discovery of this underlying issue seems simple. But trust me, it has involved a lot of work.

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Tom at the whiteboard drawing out the model.

First, there’s the work to wake up early in the morning and be on campus by 7:30am for our weekly Skype call to India. Then there’s the work of communicating—understanding language barriers and differences in meaning (although we all speak English)—over the occasional white noise and voice delay caused by Skype. Then there’s the work to make sure we have all the data we need and fully understand the extent of the problem. How much inventory are we talking about? How much gets produced per day? Where is it stored? And what’s the demand frequency from Maruti? How do you track your inventory and place orders with Tier 2 suppliers? How often do you receive supply orders? All these questions need answers. Sometimes the answers are provided, and sometimes not.

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India CAP Team 3 hard at work.

But we are making progress and each week brings a little more clarity to the problem, a bigger piece of the puzzle, and greater gains made toward formulating a solution. This is a good thing too, because we leave for India in three weeks! Thursday is our next call with Maruti and the supplier and we’re pumped to show them what we’ve come up with: a stochastic simulation model we developed using @Risk to identify optimal inventory levels. What? You don’t understand what I’m talking about? Don’t worry. Neither do I completely. The point is none of this could have been done without the initial work of building a relationship with the client, going back and forth with many emails and asking a lot of questions to first make sure we understood what the real problem was, and then determining how to approach it.

Fingers crossed our presentation to the client goes well! Stay tuned and I’ll tell you all about it next time.

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Bottles of beer represented by piles of pennies.

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This is not Saleh.

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Getting ready to distribute. Andrew looks a little strange here.

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Looking down the supply chain

Hi, my name is Misun Yoo, the second writer for Team 4 of India CAP, and this blog will cover the second week, from April 6 to 12.

In class, we are first informed on some travel tips by Global & Experiential Education. We have learned what to prepare before travel, how to address emergencies in India, and other beneficial things that will help keep our health and safety during CAP.

After that, we did “beer game”, which is a kind of inventory management, role-playing game; our team acted as a distributor. Through the game, we found that inventory management is a more complex process than we thought, and we need to consider the whole supply chain, including supplier and retailer, when making decisions.

In addition to what we learned in class, we continued communicating with our client, Mindarika. We have received answers responding to questions that we sent last week, through which we got some quantitative and specific information about Midarika’s inventory and production system. Then we called via Skype on Friday as usual and sent to them some additional questions as well. Even if we still have some difficulties due to limitations from time, geography, and technology, we are trying to get as much information as possible and to figure out the best solutions for clients.

The preceding post was written by my teammate Misun Yoo but is being posted by me as only I have access to post for my team (Varun Rajendran).

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Professor Click, our CAP coordinator, was kind enough to do a fun introduction to the CAP Rwanda program and our project.

See it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=py7T5G55MUE&feature=youtu.be

ImageJohn (in the blue), Steve, and I

Our team comprises of Brooks, John, Camilla, Steve and I (Teal). We are excited to work on a financial project with Ikirezi, an organic, essential oils producer in Rwanda. From crop to oil Ikirezi captures the entire value chain to produce 100% organic essential geranium and patchouli oils.

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Camilla and John

Dr. Hitimana, the owner of Ikirezi, is a social entrepreneur. With Ikirezi he employs over 500 small farmers, mostly widows and orphans, to provide a steady income as well as HIV education. Although we have spoken via Skype, we are excited to meet him in person when we arrive in Rwanda. Learn more about them here: www.ikirezi.com

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Dr. Hitimana & Ikirezi

The CAP projects are substantial and require at least twice a week meetings, appropriate delegation of work, and several client meetings via Skype. It is hard work but incredibly educational and a great way to use the financial and business knowledge we have gained in our first year of the GW MBA program.

Stay tuned!

Teal

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The four India projects all deal with some aspect of supply chain, from the narrow (inventory layout optimization), to the broad (procurement-assembly-delivery: our project). Our team brings a lot of different background and skill sets to the project, but very little supply chain experience. As the professor says, that’s the point – we are all here to learn.

Getting back to basics, our class had a simulation for a whole supply chain, from factory to retailer. The simulation was simplified, but it demonstrated well some of the complexities in dealing with supply chains in terms of product delivery and information flow – “orders” swung wildly from a steady 4 to 0 to 50!

Setting up the four stages of the supply chain

Setting up the four stages of the supply chain

What was streamlined at the beginning became a backlog quickly (Note, no actual beer consumed during class)

What was streamlined at the beginning became a backlog quickly (Note, no actual beer consumed during class)

In one month, we will be in country. At this point, we are all becoming well versed in the language of supply chain and beginning to formulate our recommendations. Time to keep learning!

Image Hi, everyone. My name is Varun. I am the team leader first writer for team 4 of the India CAP, who is working with a large Indian automobile manufacturer and their supplier of front panels to address issues with inventory management. My teammates include (from left to right in the image above) Andrew HarrisonMax Sandler, and Misun Yoo, working under the leadership of GWSB Decision Sciences professor Shivraj Kanungo.

This blog entry covers the first week of work we are blogging, from March 30 to April 5th, 2014. This week was largely a learning process. Learning about kanban cards, learning about our client, and how my team members could work together to address their issue. Despite my team having as diverse experiences as teaching English, working in marketing, doing technology support, and agriculture, we have little experience with operations, the automobile industry, or really even the country of India itself! Add to this mix communications, logistics, and cultural challenges and you have quite a formidable task ahead! However, although these challenge could overwhelm others, I feel strongly that with a focused approach, ambition, and help from the right people (including our classmates, professors, and client, as well as the large amount of informational resources available online and elsewhere), we can tackle this issue.

For the moment, I do not have much else to post about. If you stay tuned here, you will get a good idea of the fun (and indeed not-so-fun) stuff we will do to enrich our education as we come to a solution for our client’s issue. We will be posting every week and you can expect another post for this week soon. Check for posts from our team specifically by using the tag “Team 4 India”. For now, this is Varun signing off!

Having never been to a developing country in Africa, the Rwanda experience was eye-opening. The people were amazingly friendly, proud, and determined to grow and succeed in business in the future.

There is a lot of development taking place right now in Kigali. Aside from the normal influx of non-profits and aid organizations, the government is doing a good job in promoting the city as a destination. There is a convention center that will be completed soon, along with a series of new high-end hotels. Some criticize the pace of this development, saying that it is growing too fast and is not yet supported by the volume of business activities in the country. I disagree, and based on what I have seen Kigali definitely has potential to get put on the map as a city of commerce. The government is exploring new avenues such as being an East African conference destination and also enhancing its revenue from additional types of tourism.
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In our recommendation to the Rwanda Development Board, we talked about finding a more defined means of attracting investors to Rwanda. In the agribusiness sector, we recommended agricultural tourism – a way for people to get to know how coffee or tea or wine production is done. We think that a more personal approach will yield a higher number of investors and will help them understand the reasons behind their funding, not just the financial rewards. Additionally, we recommended an enhanced web presence under the slogan of “Choose Rwanda”. What we saw during our time in-country was a great deal of potential, something that could not be easily seen from the other side of the Atlantic. So, in turn, we’d like for everyone to see this.

ImageIf you’re reading this and have yet to experience the Consulting Abroad Project, we invite you to “Choose Rwanda” as well. Trust me. You’ll have a blast-

-Alexander Prostyakov

Team WFS delivered its client presentation today and wrapped up its CAP Sweden journey. After finishing the remainder of our assignments, we took a boat cruise through the archipelago to socialize with our classmates one final time. Near the end of the cruise, the team interviewed Professor Helm to get her take on the CAP experience:

VIDEO: Interview with Professor Helm

We would all like to thank the Grey Blanket Association (GBA) for its generous contribution to our blog. Without that fine organization, none of this would have been possible.

Professor Helm and Christina Johannsen did a wonderful job of organizing both the course curriculum and in-country activities. What I said in jest about the GBA applies sincerely here: without these two people, none of this wonderful experience would have been possible.

Good night, and good luck!

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