Out of the Classroom, Into the Warehouse

Out of the Classroom, Into the Warehouse

Careers in the warehousing, distribution, and other supply chain-based fields involve a lot of moving pieces, both in the literal and figurative sense. These concepts-in-motion can be difficult things for new logistics learners to wrap their heads around until they get a real-world sense of the industry. But unfortunately for many students, practical opportunities don’t happen until as late as their internship.

But now, that’s all changing. An innovative new partnership aims to box up that tired old notion and send it packing.

The Logistics Learning Lab

The University of Indianapolis (UIndy) and Vincennes University (VU) have teamed up to provide educational training experiences and warehousing simulation exercises. The new UIndy Logistics Learning Lab, located inside the 30,000-square-foot VU Logistics Training & Education Center (VU LTEC) in Plainfield, will allow university students to participate in lab simulations using cutting-edge technology and industry-tested equipment.

University officials have announced that simulations in the lab will encompass activities like unloading, software assisted fulfillment, and operating packaging automation, transportation management, and working with other warehouse equipment.

Currently, this lab is unique among Indiana universities. According to UIndy, there are no other four-year supply chain programs where the university is offering a laboratory for the study of logistics.

“I wanted a place where students could learn about logistics outside of a classroom,” said Dr. Craig Seidelson, UIndy assistant professor of operations and supply chain management. “The easiest way to teach it is actually in a warehouse.”

UIndy supply chain management students were previously getting their first hands-on experience during their applied business projects, which they conducted in actual warehouses for companies around Indianapolis. Instructors realized this type of experience was coming too late, basically because there was too large of a jump from the classroom to the warehouse.

“The gap between the classroom and the real world was wide when it comes to logistics,” Seidelson said. “And the new UIndy Logistics Learning Lab will bridge that gap. [This] will make them much more capable when doing their applied business projects with actual clients.”

Undergraduate students will be spending up to six hours in the lab per term, and graduate students potentially more. Simulations will be designed as a competition between teams. Instruction in the lab will be intentionally minimal to allow students to learn by doing, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes.

Demand Ranks High, And It’s Growing

This new lab is certainly being established at the right time. Demand for individuals with warehousing and supply chain qualifications remains strong in Indiana. As a specific example, last year research firm Supply Chain Insights estimated that for every new supply chain management college graduate that enters the workforce, there are likely six open positions waiting for them. Also, up to a third of the existing workforce is already at retirement age.

On top of that, logistics and distribution firms throughout the state have been growing. Quite a few large investments and jobs announcements have come over the last few months.

  • Supply chain service manager ALOM recently opened its new Midwestern hub. The state-of-the-art production and fulfillment facility encompasses about 160,000 square feet and will triple the company’s Midwest service capacity. ALOM plans to increase its employment locally by 25 percent as a result of the expansion.
  • TOC Logistics International is adding 87 new jobs with a $1.8 million expansion to its headquarters. The company said a growing demand for efficient supply chains across a variety of global industries led to their decision to invest.
  • Hoosier Logistics Inc. experienced 630% revenue growth between 2016 and 2018. As a result, the company is expanding in two locations; it’s existing Indianapolis corporate office and a new satellite office in Fort Wayne. Up to 45 new jobs will be added.
  • FedEx Corp. plans to invest $9 million to lease and equip a spec building near the Indianapolis International Airport for its FedEx Supply Chain Inc. division. The company has committed to adding 225 full-time jobs.
  • DHL Supply Chain is expanding its pharmaceutical and medical device distribution network by 40 percent with an investment of $150 million, part of which will be a new Indiana facility.

Could Be A Hands-On Trend

With the need for a deeper understanding of supply chain industry activities, the new school of thought regarding greater hands-on opportunities for learners could be the start of a trend. A more efficient way to educate the future workforce and equip them with practical knowledge is likely to catch on with other programs quickly. Logistics is all about efficiency, after all. It’ll be interesting to see what universities develop next to meet the needs of the industry.

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Category Features, Logistics