Students and professionals team up for business simulation


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General Motors team two takes a selfie after winning the ERPsim competition in McGurick Arena, Thursday, February 11, 2016.  

Students rubbing shoulders with executives from Fortune 500 companies is not an everyday occurrence -- yet that is exactly what happened in McGuirk Arena on Thursday.

At the fourth annual ERPsim Invitational Competition, students and professionals worked as a team to win a large trophy for their company and scholarships for the students. Representatives from 40 different companies attended the event, each taking on a team of four or five students to mentor.

Winners of "Flight One"

First Place: General Motors team two

Second Place: 3M

Third Place: Dow Corning

Fourth Place: SAF Holland

Fifth Place: Blue Cross Blue Shield

Winners of "Flight Two"

First Place: Harley-Davidson

Second Place: Cargill

Third Place: Monsanto

*The two tiers denote the winners of the final round. After the first round, the top 20 teams with the most generated profit were separated from the bottom 20. The top teams competed against each other for the second round to win flight one, while the bottom half of the teams competed against each other to win flight two.

The goal: to devise a winning strategy that achieves the most profit for a fictional company.

Steve Tracy, from CMU's SAP University Alliance Program, said the simulation is designed to engage students in an active-learning environment. More than 190 students have been practicing for weeks for the chance to use skills in various business practices and SAP software.

The simulation mimics a high-stress business environment.

"Each team is engaged as a wholesaler of six dairy products to various retailers in three regions," Tracy said. "They will have to make quick decisions, because each simulated day lasts between 60 and 75 seconds."

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Business students attend the ERPsim competition in McGurick Arena, Thursday, February 11, 2016. 

Before the simulation began, students had the opportunity to ask six corporate leaders questions through a panel discussion.

One student from team Caterpillar asked the executives what they think is the biggest mistake most young professional make. Dave Cottleer, vice president and chief information officer for Harley-Davidson, said he believes young professionals undervalue relationship skills. 

"I would take a team that has good chemistry and is willing to learn over a group of technical experts any day," Cottleer said.

The panel-members reinforced the belief that teamwork and communication trump innovation and technical skills throughout the discussion. Laura Marble, vice president of Michigan Delivery Systems and Support for Blue Cross Blue Shield, said she believes the most successful individual is able to find a balance between all four characteristics.

Panel members also discussed the practice of consumer classification, customer relations, past mentors who influenced their lives, habits that allowed them to attain high levels of success, and more.

An out-of-the-box event

Ryan Igielski is one of four mentors from Harley-Davidson that came to support and help their student team this year. He also attended last year, and said he marvels at the uniqueness of CMU's event.

"Having a university put on something like this is something you could easily take for granted," Igielski said. "Not all universities are doing this type of stuff on this scale; it's huge." 

The four Harley-Davidson representatives flew in from Wisconsin to attend CMU's ERPsim Invitational.

On Friday, many of the businesses' representatives will attend a career fair, hosted by the College of Business.

Peter Claus, director of IT North America for Kautex, said during the panel that students should not hold back from approaching potential employers. As an employer, he is interested in people with diverse skills, not just knowledge about Information and Technology.

"There is a lot of talent here, so tomorrow's career fair is going to be busy," he said.

The Winner's Circle

Results for the simulation were taken in two tiers, or "flights." 

After the first round, the top 20 teams with the most generated profit were separated from the bottom 20. For the second round, the top teams competed against each other to win flight one, while the bottom half of the teams competed against each other to win flight two.

First place for flight one: General Motors, team two

Varun Chintalapati, graduate student from India

Shanmuka Thummalapalli, graduate student from India

Chaitanya Muthyanolla, graduate student from India

Preetham Seelam, graduate student from India

Saikiran Kommanaboina, graduate student from India

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