In this episode of the Auto Supply Chain Prophets podcast, hosts Terry Onica and Jan Griffiths are joined by Thomas Kull, a professor of operations and supply chain management at Arizona State University. They discuss the evolving landscape of supply chain education, workforce expectations, and the importance of gamification. Thomas shares insights on how Arizona State University has adapted to meet the needs of modern students and how they are integrating supply chain management into various fields, including public and nonprofit sectors.
The conversation also explores the challenges students face entering the workforce, such as navigating workplace culture and the importance of understanding and influencing organizational culture. Thomas emphasizes the value of considering talent as a supply chain and treating labor markets as a supply base, highlighting the need for preventative maintenance on the human capital side.
Ultimately, the episode encourages organizations to adopt a supply chain view of their workforce, embracing supply chain thinking across various business aspects to create a more interconnected and sustainable approach to talent management.
Themes discussed in this episode:
- Supply Chain Education
- The role of gamification in education and the workplace
- The significance of organizational culture
- The concept of talent as a supply chain
- Experiential Learning
- Supply Chain Thinking
Featured on this episode:
Name: Thomas Kull
Title: Professor of Supply Chain Management, Arizona State University
About: Thomas is a distinguished professional with over 13 years of industry experience and an impressive 15-year academic career. He currently holds the position of Professor of Supply Chain Management at W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University. Notably, he is also an accomplished co-author of "People, Process, and Culture: Lean Manufacturing in the Real World" and a co-author of an upcoming book in 2024, emphasizing supply chain management and operations.
Mentioned in this episode:
- Odette Conference in Berlin 2023
- Thomas co-authored the book People, Process, and Culture: Lean Manufacturing in the Real World
- Bill Stevenson’s Introduction of Thomas Kull as the new co-author for the new revision of Operations and Supply Chain Management
- ASU-Supply Chain Management Association
- QAD Redzone
[03:23] Innovative supply chain education: Thomas discusses how universities like Arizona State are reshaping supply chain education to align with the changing needs and expectations of students entering the workforce.
[07:30] Gamification in learning: The episode highlights the use of gamification in education and how it can be employed to motivate and engage students, making learning a more interactive and enjoyable experience.
[14:07] Culture in the workplace: Thomas emphasizes the significance of understanding and navigating workplace culture, highlighting the importance of being a "student of culture" to thrive in various organizational environments.
[21:44] Thomas’ advice: Integrate supply chain thinking: Thomas introduces the concept of treating talent as a supply chain and encourages organizations to adopt a supply chain perspective across different facets of their operations to enhance efficiency, sustainability, and talent management.
[04:20] Thomas: "What we've done, we've kind of reconfigured our institutions, reconfigured our colleges, they are no longer aligned by classical silos. They are integrated, and they're continually being integrated. And it changes how you approach students, who your students are, where your market of students is, and who comes to hire your students.”
[08:07] Thomas: "I think probably one of the largest areas that we are trying to push into and continually are growing is the gamification of education. The nice thing is that everyone likes it – even seasoned executives enjoy these 'video games.' I believe that gamification will only continue to flourish."
[10:23] Thomas: "I would rather have a bunch of people who wanted responsibility than a bunch of people who didn't want responsibility."
[11:11] Thomas: “One of the great aspects of gamification is the constant sense of leveling up. When you find yourself in a job where you don't experience that upward progress, it's easy to feel stagnant or discontent. Instead of dwelling on the frustration, it’s better to embrace that and figure out a way to leverage that need to feel like I'm progressing.”
[14:59] Thomas: "When you join any organization, recognize that its culture transcends its physical appearance. Whether it's a manufacturing setting or a gleaming glass-walled office, the culture's impact can be profound. Sometimes, even in seemingly humble surroundings, a vibrant and energetic culture thrives. The social elements of a work environment are very, very important.
[21:14] Thomas: "I think that my piece of advice is to help others have a more systemic, interdependent network value stream thinking beyond just production."D
Welcome to the Auto Supply Chain Prophets podcast, where we help you prepare for the future in the auto supply chain. I'm Jan Griffiths, your co-host and producer.Cathy Fisher:
I'm Cathy Fisher, your podcast host. Our mission is to help automotive manufacturers recognize, prepare for, and profit from whatever comes next in the auto supply chain.Terry Onica:
I'm Terry Onica, your podcast host, will be giving you best practices and key supply chain insights from industry leaders,Jan Griffiths:
Because the auto supply chain is where the money is. Let's dive in.Jan Griffiths:
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Auto Supply Chain Prophets podcast. Let's check in with my co-host Terry Onica. Terry, what have you been up to lately?Terry Onica:
A couple of things. I got word last week, that I'm going to receive an award at the Odette Conference in Berlin for my contributions to MMOG/LE. So, that was exciting. And then my other personal news is I ran the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon, and I placed first in my age group, and I had a horrible stomachache the whole way. I ate too close to running. I ran a little bit later. And I didn't feel quite right. So I thought, just, I did okay, on my time, I thought my time was okay. When I got home, I just went to check the final stats, and I took first place. So, I was super excited after that stomachache.Jan Griffiths:
That is awesome. Congratulations. It's just another lesson in mindset, right? It's about mindset, you put it in your head that you are going to finish that race, and you finish the race. And I wish that we could bottle that and give that to the young people who are coming up through our colleges and universities today. And that is a perfect lead-in for our guests today. We know that out there. In the automotive in supply chain, one of our biggest concerns is talent. What are we doing to make sure that the talent coming into supply chain, that we have the right curriculum in place, and they have the right skill set so they can come in and be successful? And lo and behold, who do we have with us today but Thomas Kull and Thomas is a professor of operations and supply chain management at Arizona State University, a well-recognized school. But wait, it doesn't stop there. He is also the co-author of the go-to Operations Handbook that we use in the world of academia. And for the first time, he is going to co-author this book with Bill Stevenson, and that book will be out later in 2024. With, and our audience is going to love this, an increased focus on supply chain management and operations. Thomas, welcome to the show.Thomas Kull:
Thank you for having me. That was an incredible introduction.Jan Griffiths:
I will put the links to your announcements about the book in the show notes. How's that, Thomas?Thomas Kull:
Oh, that's wonderful, you know, and, you know, we're used to facts being fact-checked. That's one of the wonders of technology. Students sit there and they listen to you lecture and they're instantly able to check online.Terry Onica:
So Thomas, Arizona State consistently performs in the top five supply chain universities in the United States. What's your secret weapon to always be ranking so high?Thomas Kull:
Guess what we have done is make the word exclusivity a dirty word. And being exclusive is no longer a fashionable thing. It's all about inclusivity. And when you devote an entire institution to an inclusive approach to education, you got to be innovative, and you got to do new things. We want to maximize excellence and maximize access. And those two historically, in the old world tradition, were not in coexistence. And we've changed that. So what we've done, we've kind of reconfigured our institutions, reconfigured our colleges, they are no longer aligned by classical silos. They are integrated, and they're continually being integrated. And it changes how you approach students, who your students are, where your market of students are, and who comes to hire your students.Terry Onica:
Can you give us an example of that?Thomas Kull:
With respect to a new program that we've developed in the supply chain world, it's a public and nonprofit supply chain, or public nonprofit procurement is what we're calling it right now. And it's the realization that the supply chain is not just exclusive to business, it's a lot of organizations now require it. I mean, my work a lot has been with the government, and my work has realized great value for those who are using that. But we also have a program that's for nonprofits as well; it's growing. It's just starting, but it's an example of how we are expanding ourselves by partnering with other disciplines: public administration discipline, procurement law, and those types of areas. Sustainability is another big part of that program.Terry Onica:
So Thomas, in prior conversations, you were sharing with me as a professor that you're teaching students now differently than you ever had before? Can you share with our audience, because I think it's really good learning as to how people learn today. And there might be some great advice out there for companies as well, too.Thomas Kull:
We're all in the middle of struggling with this; the boundaries are getting blurred across domains and disciplines. Every class has its own website through some learning management system, and we deliver a lot of our content through that. And the meaning of a classroom is it's much more of a two-way street, a two-way interaction. And we're leveraging the ways in which to do that. The technology demands of any class have gone up dramatically. And therefore, as a faculty, you become more reliant on those who are experts in the technology. And in the area, we have a, for instance, what we call a one-touch studio, where we go in, and we develop video content; it has a lot, it has a green screen and all these other technologies that sit around it, we develop videos, but then we pass it over to an editing group, editing group then refines it and puts all the right information in that we sometimes have graphics pop in and out. It's a team-based approach. We have instructional designers that help us through develop the learning management system. Now, it's a team-based approach. And it has escalated the expectations of students as well,Jan Griffiths:
You're meeting your students where they're at from a technology perspective, which is great because that obviously enhances the learning experience. But looking forward, Gen A, any thoughts about Gen A? I love it when I ask that question because people go, what was that?Thomas Kull:
There's always the next generation. You know, we're still, I guess, trying to get our full arms around Gen Z. And it's a little bit of a misnomer, I think, to exclusively think of this new generation or any new generation is bringing on the change, because I think, I mean, I teach executives quite a bit and their expectations are quite high for my video content and my online development in LA. It is more of a cultural phenomenon societal than it is, I think, a generational, but generation does help, I guess, instigate that. I mean, I think probably one of the largest areas that we are trying to push into and continually are growing is the gamification of education. And it works. The nice thing is that everyone likes it, and everyone likes to play, even when I get some of the more seasoned executives, believe me, they enjoy playing the video games. I would say that just any gamification is just going to grow. And standing up lecturing is falling slowly down on the list of useful thing.Terry Onica:
It's really interesting to know, and I hope a lot of our listeners are listening to this because we often talk on this show; a lot of the technology we see in manufacturing is old, right? We're not working on current cool things. And so I hope people are really listening to what you have to say because I thought that was really fascinating how it's changing.Thomas Kull:
You're spot on, Terry, with, you know, managers need to look at how incentives and information are communicated and how interaction occurs. We're working with Amazon, for instance; they've figured out ways in which to gamify, to some degree, the day-to-day work. And in small ways, I can't remember exactly what they used to call it, but the way they were the time studies, and every day, they would get some feedback, and they would get up, get paid based on their performance of the day. And it's not quite like that, but it's a little more holistic. It's a way to gamify the work environment. And it's, it's what's great about it, immediate feedback, high visibility of information, holistic thinking, and motivation, and it works. And so, I think managers need to rethink how they incentivize and manage.Terry Onica:
So looking at the students today coming out of Arizona State, what are their job expectations? What are they looking for in the area of supply chain? Is there any insights that you can give us?Thomas Kull:
There's a lot of moaning and groaning that I've heard with some executives and managers about, oh, you know, these, they want to run the place too soon, you know, they don't want to learn the hard knock. Yeah, I get that. But you know, people want responsibility. And I would rather have a bunch of people who wanted responsibility than a bunch of people who didn't want responsibility, to take responsibility. So the students want to feel like they can influence something, and have an influence on their work environment, pretty soon, and someone say, prematurely. And one of the methodologies that we've been recommending is that provides students with projects that are, you know, that maybe they don't have decisional, fiduciary responsibility or something like that. But they do have a set of projects that they can work on to have domain over and influence. And that gives them something to feel like they're building a repertoire and an expertise, and demonstration of their skills. But going back to this issue of feedback and gamification, you know, one of the great things with things about, I guess, gamification, you're leveling up, you know, you level up, level up, level up. But if I'm stuck in a job, but I don't feel like I'm leveling up ever, you know, I'm feeling bad or something wrong, rather than again, complain about it, it's better to embrace that and figure out a way to leverage that need to feel like I'm progressing. Well, that's what students want, what we do is we train them to hit the ground running, ASU is known for its ability to provide students who can immediately start to get their hands dirty, and you can trust them. To do that, we give them a lot of experience, experiential learning, I mentioned that. Simulations we have a lot of simulations that we give and expose students to where they really feel, and they learn by doing more than by listening, and repeating, it's more by doing, and also, obviously, a very robust internship program. And we have a lot of live projects that we expose students to in a class instead of giving them a case study, that's, uh, you know, been written or whatever. We give them something that's live and real. One of the cases was the City of Surprise Police Department, they had a capacity problem with their patrol officers. And that was a live case. And students worked on that and proposed a solution. It was amazing. And what a great way to realize the realities of having dirty data. I mean, different stakeholders have competing interests and then figure out how to navigate through that. That's what students need to be able to do.Terry Onica:
It's fascinating because I mentor students in the supply chain myself. And oftentimes, it's interesting, like the capacity of the police. A lot of students I mentor would say they were doing that as their job, they wouldn't see that as a supply chain, right? And I'm like, yes, you're doing supply chain. Look closely; managing capacity has everything to do with the supply chain. So it's really interesting. It's really in every facet of our life. And I guess we can, not that we want to thank COVID for anything, but it really brought attention in the world of supply chain. Like we've never seen it before, which is really good, it needed that. A question for you so, I often see in manufacturing still there are still a lot of old manufacturing environments out there that are not up to date on technology. Sometimes, they may feel dingy when you walk into the plant. How can students today go into that environment and gently nudge plant management or the corporation management that we got to get better at this, right? We have to embrace technology. How do we manage this because I really want this younger generation to walk into manufacturing and think it's cool, but in the state it's in today, there's just a lot of work that needs to be done. So what can students do to make that change?Jan Griffiths:
And let's, let's add another dimension to that. You talked about the environment, it could be a dingy factory. But let's talk about culture. If students are walking into, particularly in automotive, if they walk into a command and control kind of culture, where it's you know, do this or else, go off there and do that, and I'll come back and check on you. And maybe there's some micromanagement involved. Because I think sometimes we always like to talk about, oh, this is great. This is a wonderful workplace, you're going to use this technology. It's going to be awesome. You're going to work on this project. It's very experiential, but then the harsh reality of the culture they're in and trying to convince people to do things, and people are not going to do things that our students can ask him to do. How do you prepare them for all of that?Thomas Kull:
I do tell all the students so before you leave, you need to learn and make sure you have the ability to learn about being a student of culture. When you enter into any organization, know and understand that culture, it's not just, you know, dirty stingy manufacturing, you can go into an insurance beautiful, pristine, you know, glass building with all the beauty. And it's the same thing, it's maybe even worse. And you can have a very dirty place and have a very lively and very energetic culture, culture and the social elements of a work environment are very, very important. And that's why we tell them to be students so they can learn how to survive and thrive, more importantly, how to thrive in that culture. And if you're not aware of it and not studying it, you're going to be a victim of it. So I think, being cognizant of the influence and importance of culture number one, then learning that ahead of time. So, as you're interviewing, as you're talking, you're interviewing them for what is their culture? And how would you, how would they handle sticky situations, our competing priorities? How do they handle those things? The biggest thing that employers are facing; obviously, we know this is that they're competing for labor, competing for how to attract the right talent and how to keep that talent. That's a classic problem of turnover, especially younger, obviously been exposed to that willingness to move to another environment or organization pretty quickly. You win based on, obviously, some of the old basics of pay and whatnot. But you win based on that narrative aligning with a student's narrative of what they feel deeply about. We have a what's called a Supply Chain Management Association. It's a group that brings in companies to talk to our supply chain students, and they have one-on-ones and a lot of roundtables; in fact, just this week, we're having it. But the Supply Chain Management Association is run by the students. And it's the student's voice. And executives should find out what is it that attracts students. And I think if you can convince an executive, not the HR people, but the plant manager, like you say, it was expensive to leave an organization. But those who are setting the incentive systems in the way it's managed. It's amazing what are the benefits of being an attractive employer is.Terry Onica:
You know, it's interesting where you talk about the gamification and about plants because you're right, there are a lot of plants out there that may not be the most beautiful plant in the world, but they have gamified what's going on there, and we have a product called QAD Redzone, and it's a connected workforce solution. And the shop floor workers work on iPads, they can alert that something's going wrong on the line, upper management can see what's going on, they get kudos and gold stars, when they, you know, have a really great day, and they've really gamified it. And it's amazing. When we get done with that implementation. Those workers are just so excited; they're on fire, and they're so happy about what they're doing. So I think a lot of things you were saying are really true because I'm seeing that now that they've learned how to gamify the shop floor. It's really cool. It's fun to come to work every day. And then the nice thing is just shift turnovers, which used to be the worst everyone can see, and see what happened on the prior shift, and you can continue on, so that. I like your advice, too, about the leveling up. And I think that's going to change the way I do things. To think about the younger generation wanting to continue to level up to show them, I think that's really, really good advice, too. Yes, exactly.Jan Griffiths:
And Thomas, what is the one piece of advice you would give to these leaders as they contemplate what they need to do to bring in supply chain talent into their organizations, one thing?Thomas Kull:
I would first start by the power that they could achieve by bringing supply chain thinking into other aspects of what they do beyond buying parts and shipping products. If you think about talent as a supply chain, all of a sudden, that changes your mechanics of how you enable and empower your workforce. You look at labor markets as a supply base, and you know you need to manage that supply base. And you need to figure it out. Just like when you talk about being a customer of choice to suppliers. Do you want to be an employer of choice, and how do I bring awareness to the labor market that I am an employer of choice? How do I look at human capital as this resource that has ebbs and flows in its level of maintenance that it requires? I mean, think about your machinery as you need preventative maintenance on your machinery, and people a lot of people sometimes do that well and sometimes don't. But at least they're aware of that that's such a thing that exists now what about preventative maintenance on the human capital side? And what preventive means are you doing there, I used to get very angry when my managers would be very proud of themselves, staying late at work, working past when the shift ended, and they would stay there, and they'd work late and they'd be there, and they would come in on the weekends. And they'd be very proud of that. And I would be angry, I would say that well, that's a sign that we have a problem, we have, we're overcapacity, we're overwhelmed, we're not properly sizing the work for you as an individual. And if I was overworking a machine, I'd be very aware of that, and I would know that it's eventually going to fail. People think that they think human capital is this kind of never-ending resource they just kind of keep digging down, digging down, eventually, you're gonna hit bottom, and then you know, you burned people out. And I think even if it wasn't such a tight labor market, that would be a non-win strategy, but it's really accentuated in that tight labor market, so I think taking a supply chain view with labor but also helping your other aspects of a business think more using supply chain thinking like we alluded to earlier in this talk. So I think that would be my piece of advice is bring and help others have that more system, interdependent network value stream thinking beyond just production.Jan Griffiths:
And there it is, Thomas Kull. Thank you very much for your time today.Thomas Kull:
Happy to be here. And I really hope we get likes on this and we level upTerry Onica:
There you go, me too. Let's level up.Jan Griffiths:
Let's level up! Thank you.Jan Griffiths:
Are you ready to find the money in your supply chain? Visit www.autosupplychainprophets.com to learn how, or click the link in the show notes below.