Chain Reaction

Building tomorrow’s supply-chain leaders

Movement means money when the scale of delivery is vast and each minor tweak saves millions.

The nation’s biggest supply-chain mega-players — J.B. Hunt Transport Services, one of the largest trucking operations in North America; Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat producer; and Walmart, the world’s largest company — are based in the backyard of the University of Arkansas. Moving product from manufacturer to retailer to customer is part of the region’s DNA.

So it’s not surprising that researchers and alumni from the university are deeply engaged in solving the problems that might otherwise vex companies seeking new and improved methods for the efficient flow of goods from location to location.

The supply chain management program in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas consistently ranks as one of the top 20 programs nationwide. In 2015, U.S. News & World Report ranked the Walton College’s supply chain management and logistics specialty 12th among all public business schools.

“At the Walton College, we are building tomorrow’s supply-chain leaders,” said Matt Waller, chair of the Department of Supply Chain Management. “Our graduates find themselves in exciting and diverse roles in organizations where they manage critical processes such as planning and forecasting, purchasing, sales, transportation, storage and distribution, all of which are required for the efficient flow of goods and services between points of creation and ultimate consumption or disposition.”

Waller leads a diverse team of scholars with expertise in each of these areas, but the researchers also focus on new and emerging challenges, such as asset protection in the era of mobile retaining, point-of-sale technology, sequential pricing of multiple products based on customers’ online preferences and the impact of key retail accounts on supplier performance.

With support of the Walton College, the department hosts cutting-edge executive education programs, such as “J.B. Hunt Supply Chain University,” to help their partners manage their supply-chain processes more effectively and develop innovative solutions that will solve tomorrow’s most pressing supply-chain challenges.   

The department also operates the Walton College’s Supply Chain Management Research Center, the place where supply-chain leaders across the nation look for thought leadership. Formed in 1996, the center links students, faculty and industry to develop tomorrow’s supply-chain leaders. The center offers programs and opportunities for collaboration in a neutral setting, where academics and industry representatives come together to influence supply-chain management. Since its founding, the center’s industry membership has increased threefold. More than 35 member companies have defined five strategic planning areas for supply-chain management: student interaction, curriculum/executive education, research, development and membership.

Walton College supply-chain management researchers serve on several national academic and industry boards. Recently, associate professor Terry Esper, who also serves as executive director of the Supply Chain Management Research Center, was named associate editor of the Journal of Supply Chain Management.

“These are exciting times of growth and advancement for supply-chain research and education at the University of Arkansas,” says Waller. “Join us as we influence the future of the profession in academia and industry.”