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IDM Students Excel at Case Competition

Ford -- One hundred years of automotive achievement.A solid team effort is essential whenever working as part of a group. Lisa Mehta, Jeremy Silverman, and Dennis Timpanaro, know the meaning of teamwork. That knowledge led them to a tie for a first-place victory at this year's IDM Case Competition, sponsored by the Ford Motor Company and held in mid-March.

The Challenge

Ten teams, comprised of juniors and seniors, most of whom are enrolled in the Industrial Distribution Management (IDM) curriculum, a concentration in Business Administration, entered the competition. Each team, several weeks prior to the competition, was given a case statement defining a business problem for which they needed to devise a set of recommendations to present to a panel of judges. This year's problem involved the "lean enterprise initiative" of Plan for Every Part, which Ford is currently implementing throughout its supply chain. The case given to the students was devised primarily by William Qualls, professor of business administration and director of the IDM program. Qualls called the case competition "an excellent opportunity for students to experience the practice of presenting their ideas to managers after spending an intense amount of time trying to come up with a unique solution."

Each team researched the problem, gathering ideas and statistics from both their in-class work and outside sources, and formulated a solution. The groups then had to prepare a 20-minute slide presentation and to be prepared for a 10-minute question and answer period, during which the judges were free to ask any questions about the team's proposal.

The Preliminary Competition

Dennis Timpanaro quote.Beginning in the morning, each team presented its strategy for solving the problem described in the case statement. Two members of the College of Business faculty and a representative from Ford judged this initial round. The students were evaluated on their speaking abilities, presentation skills, research, and the plausibility of their solution. They were also assessed on how effectively they answered the judges' questions.

Mehta, Silverman, and Timpanaro's team recommended a supplement to the system already being used at Ford and outlined both the qualitative and the quantitative reasons for their recommendation. They then fielded the judges' questions, defining certain terms, clarifying certain ideas, and reemphasizing their key points. After the initial round, the members of the team huddled to discuss some of the strengths and weaknesses of their presentation and what strategies were necessary if the team moved on to the final round.

"You don't want to give too much background information because it can get monotonous," said Timpanaro, an IDM senior, "but you don't want to give not enough, either." Added Silverman, also a senior in the IDM program, "You want to relate the solution directly to the case; [give] a basic explanation of what should be done."

The Finals

At noon, four teams selected for the final round were announced, and the team of Mehta, Silverman, and Timpanaro was among the four. The team members decided to regroup over lunch, strengthening portions of their presentation they felt were weak in the first round. The final judging took place in the afternoon, with the three Ford representatives -- Jim Dixon, Mike Shaver and Reinder Vanderschoot - acting as the judges.

The team altered its presentation slightly for the final round. They did not remove any facts, but rather emphasized points that were missed by the first-round judges and clarified background information that seemed to be needed given the earlier questions. Mehta felt that the team needed to be more persuasive during their presentation.

The Results

A winning team poses with Ford managers."I couldn't have asked for a better presentation," said Timpanaro in the time between the team's final round and the awards presentation. All three members of the team confessed to being nervous and excited about hearing the final results, but occupied their time by discussing how they worked together as a team. The process of developing a plan of action for the problem involved a lot of time and effort spent working together on what idea would work best.

"Team chemistry is key to how a team does," said Timpanaro. "Yes," interjected Silverman, jokingly, "I'm a pleasure to work with…I'm the glue that holds these idiots together." Silverman and Timpanaro were part of the team that won the competition in 2003. "They were both good mentors to work with," said Mehta, an IDM junior.

The competition winners were announced shortly after 5 p.m., with the Mehta, Silverman, and Timpanaro's team tying for first place. Each member of a placing team received a Ford-sponsored scholarship with the distinction.

"As hard as it is and as much effort it takes," said Timpanaro, "in the end, it's all worthwhile."

--Ashleigh Johnson
April 2004