The challenges of the supply chain industry are becoming increasingly complex and demanding. Professor Sime Curkovic’s experiential problem-solving course provides students the opportunity to collaborate with real world companies to address challenges supply chain managers face, identify opportunities, and determine the best workplace solutions. It’s an ideal system for assisting companies, giving students hands-on experience, and developing relationships for future employment. WMU is cutting edge when it comes to providing live projects that allows students to take risks, make mistakes, build confidence, and ultimately see their studies come to life.

During the Spring 2022 semester, Fusion Management Partners (FMP) had the pleasure of working with WMU’s Integrated Supply Management (ISM) supply chain students to tackle unique industry questions that their company and partner companies deal with in the real world. FMP is a company that focuses their attention in three core industries, including Real Estate, Transportation & Logistics, and Manufacturing. Their core services are providing business growth solutions through Branding & Marketing, Business Planning, Strategic Sales Plans, Supply Chain Consulting, ERP Technology Solutions, Real Estate Development, Research, Management, Sales, and much more. Partnering with companies like Clark Logic, a Real Estate & Logistics Company located in Portage, MI, FMP has been able to provide WMU with opportunities where the students can be challenged and apply what they have learned in the classroom. “We were impressed with the abilities and understanding of the WMU students while interacting with them for four semesters in total” says Greg Dilone, Managing Partner at FMP.

The first semester trial run was back in 2018 with a small group of students with Justin Mielke as a Student Team Lead. The students were partnered with Clark Logic to perform a deep dive into the logistics and warehousing market. Clark Logic was founded in 1969 in Three Rivers, MI, starting out as Central Manufacturing Services, and is owned and operated by Southwest Michigan native and WMU Alumni, Jamie Clark. Expanding the Southwest Michigan footprint, from a single site of 465,000 S.F. of industrial space in Three Rivers, they have grown to over 45 locations, and over 4,500,000 S.F. of Warehousing, with over 4000 Trucks, Trailers, Containers, and Material Handling Equipment, and over 120 employees. The first semester project consisted of bringing together market trends and competitive analysis that allowed the students to document market saturation, availability of real estate, transportation equipment, and map like companies for competitive advantages. The DMAIC and A3 processes were utilized. “It’s Real World [Experience]” said Justin Mielke, 2018 Student Team Lead (and now a Junior Partner at FMP!). He went on to say, “You don’t learn this in a classroom. You can’t learn this in a book. They appreciate me. Greg gives me the spec, but also gives me the freedom to make suggestions and learn.”

The second semester was quite a bit different and involved Student Team Lead, Jerrod Jones, while he managed four programs at Clark Logic, utilizing the DMAIC process to streamline and focus the competencies of the students. The programs operated independently with four groups of four students with sixteen students total. All teams were placed with leads within the Clark Logic organization and given specific programs to operate within. Working within the different verticals of the business, Team Manufacturing & Supply, Central Manufacturing Services, iTrailer, and J&L X-Press, the students were all given semester long tasks to evaluate the programs they were assigned to and provide direction on how to improve and maintain control of the improvements. “The projects I’ve worked on and seeing the end results are really eye opening by seeing the hard work you can do and see it get put into motion. It was great being able to see my work being used to expand the company and grow the market in Southwest Michigan. This really helped me solidify my decision by picking the correct major for myself” said Jerrod Jones. For the actual presentations, see:

The third semester was an expansion of the first semester with Clark Logic and helped expand the company’s knowledge and insight into the Paper Industry, Wood Manufacturing Industry, and Greenfield Site Developments. The insight gained from the three semesters had a great impact on the operations and investment directions of Clark Logic, later forming Industrial Partners USA, a joint venture with Great Lakes Capital of South Bend Indiana, to bring “New Construction” Industrial Development to Battle Creek, MI. In March of 2020, leading into the pandemic, Industrial Partners USA (a Clark Logic Company) broke ground on the first speculatory industrial development to be seen in the Greater Kalamazoo Area in decades, creating a new chapter for Clark Logic as it expanded its offerings and footprint. Since breaking ground in 2020 Clark Logic has added additional sites in Portage, Pavilion Township, and Mattawan, continuing to expand along the I-94 corridor in the Greater Kalamazoo Market.

The pandemic brought a halt to the collaboration with WMU and Clark Logic but was rekindled in Mid-2021 when FMP engaged WMU. With the help of Dr. Sime Curkovic, ten students were assembled for the fourth semester of this partnership. “Dr. Sime has been monumental in positioning some of his best talent and allowing for us to assist him in giving students experiences that are crucial to learning,” said Greg Dilone. This year brought a new light to three projects.

Group 1: [Tommy Casari, Alle Yulyo, Sultan Kresna] were challenged with a complex feasibility study. The goal of this study was for the students to determine if the cost savings for a company to switch from trucking to rail could justify the investment of a new rail served warehouse. The students researched and analyzed these costs, considered the SWOT of the industry, and proposed the path forward for FMP’s client. The insight of this project will be extremely useful and provided a great experience for the students to understand the industry.

Group 2: [Lidya Kartika, Ben Nuechterlein, Emmanuel Muzyumba, Josey Paprocki] were tasked with vetting 7 major cities. FMP’s intention was to use this industry knowledge to identify any geographic or market limitations in these markets and determine the ideal locations for a logistics/manufacturing company to expand their business.

Group 3: [Courtney Farrish, Kelly Foster] were tasked with understanding the market forces that are impacting the price of containers, trucks, and trailers. The goal of this project was to provide insight FMP’s partner company Clark Logic on current market conditions and trends. The students researched the impact of covid and inflation and delivered a comprehensive plan for Clark Logic.

Since 2018 the partnership with WMU continues to blossom and bring with it new opportunities for the students to use their skills and put themselves to the test. When asked, Dr. Sime said “Greg Dilone has gone beyond the call of duty to be an engaged member and friend of our program. He has provided our students with internships and mentored them so that they are fully prepared for the full-time workforce.” With more then 30 students now participating in the partnership the ISM program has been able to continue to provide strong career experience for the students. Local businesses like Clark Logic have also benefited from the program. “Being able to provide space for the young minds of the future to flourish and grow has been an honor and duty I have been happy to fulfill as an alumni of Western. They have brought a great deal of knowledge and skills that we were happy to apply at Clark Logic and will continue to look forward to providing opportunities. These are the future minds of the supply chain world and there is no better way to assist them in their careers,” said Jamie Clark, President of Clark Logic.

If you are looking to host a program like this in your business and don’t think you have the time or resources to do so, Fusion Management Partners is available to help bridge the gap. Providing you with a custom program, tailored to your needs, and operated independent of your business, so you can continue to focus on your company while gaining resources and being part of building the minds of the future. Contact Junior Partner, Justin Mielke for details.

With this semester over and summer quickly approaching we are eager to see what projects and impact the students of the ISM program here at Western Michigan University will embark on next.

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