A group of five business students and an industrial engineering graduate student took part this spring in the inaugural Exploring Business in Peru program, a two-credit management class hosted by the Global Supply Chain Management Initiative (GSCMI) and transportation, logistics, and storage company Tlogistica of Lima, Peru. The program targets undergraduate and master’s students to provide them with the occasion to work on real-life business problems and provide solutions to businesses in Peru.
The projects are implemented by the companies involved and are related to the subjects of supply chain, manufacturing and operations. In addition to a rich learning opportunity, students are exposed to cultural activities including a tour of Lima and a weekend trip to Paracas National Reserve. This program is designed to further enhance student classroom learning.
GSCMI partnered on the trip with Eduardo Huerta-Mercado, a 2000 graduate of the Purdue Executive MBA program and director of Softeon LATAM and INvent Technologies. The student participants were Thiago Moura, MBA; Prasad Raghu, MSGSCM; Mahalakshmi Vasudevan, MSGSCM; Luke Mercer, BSM; Nilo Cedeno Guadamud, MBA; and Ray Shao Rae Wu, MSIE. They were accompanied by GSCMI staff.
“This was an experience that I knew I wanted to be a part of as soon as I heard it was happening,” Raghu says. “You not only experience the culture of the people, but also get an opportunity to explore business in that country with a focus on supply chain. It's not every day that a graduate student gets the chance to study abroad.”
“This was truly an amazing trip where we got to learn and as well explore more about Peru’s culture and how business differentiates from place to place,” Vasudevan says. “I was grateful for the opportunity to work in a cross-functional setup where I was able to bridge the current gap between the tightly closed doors of supply chain and technology.”
Raghu and Vasudevan’s project involved a video analytics prototype to perform "real-time" inventory control of pallets entering and exiting warehouse doors of San Miguel Industries, a packaging company in Lima.
“During the transfer of boxes from the manufacturing unit to the company's warehouses for storage, errors occur when registering all the boxes manually that enter each warehouse,” Raghu says. “That leads to a loss of time in the search for the location of the wrongly entered and registered boxes. There is also an inconsistency of data registered in SAP with those of the warehouse since they don’t match.”
Raghu and Vasudevan proposed a novel solution requiring the forklift operator to stop for a few seconds before entering the warehouse, using cameras to capture an image of the process. The operator then performs optical character recognition on the image, identifies the barcode, and captures the time of the pallet entering the warehouse. Once the pallets’ storage location is confirmed, the warehouse management system can be updated and errors can be corrected.
“This consultancy experience will definitely help me in the future as I'm now able to understand the operational problems and map them with available technology in an efficient way,” Vasudevan says. “I’m going to intern at Amazon as senior program manager, so this experience is truly a preview of what I should expect.”
For Raghu, another positive takeaway was a lesson in cross-cultural communication. “There was a language barrier, but in our previous module we took a course in negotiations where we had to face a cross-cultural negotiation situation,” he says. “The skills we developed in that course helped us navigate some of the communication issues we encountered in Peru.”