The West Valley outside Phoenix has emerged as an important center for warehousing and distribution in recent years. Some of the largest companies in the United States -- Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, Home Depot, Macy's -- have opened facilities in the area, capitalizing on Arizona's business-friendly environment and an advantageous location on the U.S. transportation network.
This year, the W. P. Carey School’s Department of Supply Chain Management will join in the growth of this vibrant commercial cluster by offering a Bachelor of Science degree with an emphasis in logistics at Arizona State University's West Campus. Students in the program will provide a valuable talent pool for area businesses, which have been scrambling to find skilled employees.
"The West Valley is home to many big warehouses and some very large trucking companies," said Arnold Maltz, an associate professor of supply chain management at the W. P. Carey School. "In addition, we have a growing number of manufacturers there who are big users of logistics. It makes sense for us to have a program in logistics located on the West Campus."
This initiative will include a new advanced logistics course for undergraduates in supply chain management. A capstone supply chain management course for students at the West Campus also is being redesigned to be oriented more toward logistics. And to support the department's new logistics emphasis, plans are under way to recruit two new faculty members who are experts in logistics.
"There's a very clear need for this," said supply chain management Professor Joseph Carter. "Employers are clamoring for these graduates. We have the resources and the ability to provide a top-notch program in logistics at our West Campus."
Top instruction for a changing profession
The dictionary definition of logistics is "the detailed coordination of a complex operation involving many people, facilities, or supplies." Applied to business, logistics encompasses warehousing, transportation, planning and related services.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects logistics to be one of the fastest growing fields in the country over the next five years. Driving the trend are rapid advances in information technology and information systems, increasing globalization, and major shifts occurring in energy, transportation, and the environment.
Professor Carter said that companies that operate in the West Valley have been urging the school to launch the initiative.
"Our industry partners in the area have been speaking to us for quite a few years about the need for talent in the logistics area within their corporations," Carter said. "We are finally getting the resources and the impetus to develop a logistics emphasis program to try to meet those talent needs."
In the past, entering the field of logistics did not require a great deal of formal training.
"Historically, people went into logistics because either their dad or mom – usually their dad – was in it," Maltz said. "They often started out working part-time at a company and just stayed."
Today, however, logistics managers need much more preparation.
"With the new globalization, technological change, and greater analytical requirements, it has become a different game," Maltz said.
Any undergraduate in the supply chain management department at the W. P. Carey School can enroll in the new logistics program. Registration begins later this month, with the official launch slated for August.
"We will be preparing students to be either front-line managers for transportation, warehousing, and logistics companies or to manage the logistics functions inside of retailers, manufacturers, and service companies," Maltz said.
An academic-industry partnership
About 25 students are expected to sign up for the program initially. The initiative is designed to draw students already enrolled at the W. P. Carey School, as well as employees of companies located in the West Valley.
"We hope to attract people who are there working who may need some specific knowledge that we can give them that would help them to advance their careers," Maltz said. "There may be other employees who would want to take classes because they already have substantial college credits in supply chain management but need a few more to graduate."
The supply chain management department has been working with companies in the West Valley to tailor the program to meet the needs of the industry.
"Our partnership with the business community is what makes this a unique program," Carter said. "Our partners have been advising us every step of the way."
Maltz said he would ask employers to allow logistics classes to make site visits to facilities in the area. "I expect to invite managers from the different employers to talk to our classes," Maltz said. "We are going to ask them to help us design the course."
Carter said companies in the area are being asked to offer internships to students. "Our goal is to have every student in this program get an internship in logistics between junior and senior years," he said.
The area's business community welcomes the W. P. Carey School's logistics initiative, according to Kirk W. Hellofs, vice president of operations for States Logistics Services, Inc., a West Valley company and leading third-party provider of supply chain management solutions.
"With our growth comes the need for talent, which we are confident ASU can help provide," Hellofs said. "We have been a longtime supporter of the ASU logistics program, and are excited to continue our support."
Managing people, managing robots
The advanced logistics course at the West Campus will be offered in the second semester of the next academic year and will meet on Fridays.
Maltz, who will teach the course, said it would cover all facets of logistics.
"We'll be talking about how you manage a transportation company, and how other companies manage buying transportation," Maltz said.
If a company does not provide its own transportation services – and not too many do -- then it must contract with a transportation provider, according to Maltz. "In the class, we will be talking about trucks and trains and boats and planes," he said.
Another section of the course will consider how to manage a warehouse, which is an increasingly complex task, according to Maltz.
"Today, running a warehouse is basically managing people, but that will change as robots become more common," Maltz said. "Running a warehouse also will involve optimizing the interaction between people and robots."
The course will include instruction on how to analyze transportation options and what to do with inventory, according to Maltz.
"There will be some math involved because mathematical analysis is necessary to determine how much inventory to keep and which transportation operation to use," he said.
For grads, a world of opportunity
Students who graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Supply Chain Management with a logistics emphasis can expect no shortage of job offers.
"All of our graduates are pretty much in demand, but this specific area is something employers are especially interested in, both on the west side of the Valley and also nationally," Maltz said.
Carter said that graduates of the program who want to stay in Arizona should be able to get jobs with local companies, while individuals who want to explore the world will have plenty of options.
"I think it's an amazing opportunity for young people," Carter said. "The W. P. Carey School is a major player on the global stage. Graduates may be able to go anywhere in the world that they want."