The Kühne Logistics University's Executive MBA in Leadership & Logistics program undoubtedly occupies one of the finest locations in the world for studying supply chain operations and management. It is held in Hamburg’s Hafen-City – a state-of-the-art redevelopment project in the heart of one of Europe’s busiest ports.
Twice in the course of the part-time, 18-month program, however, the students pack their bags and embark on weeklong excursions – the first to Shanghai, the second to Columbus, Ohio – to get a taste of the local culture and see up close how business is conducted in the world’s two largest economies.
A KLU staff member accompanies the students on these trips: “In the last years the program’s academic director Professor Rod Franklin or the program director Fabian Berger”, says program coordinator Holly Fulkerson. This time around, it was Fulkerson’s turn to support the students and travel with them to China in late March. It was her first excursion with students. All in all, it was a great success.
“We have students in the Hamburg cohort and also run the same EMBA program in Indonesia at the Indonesian Port Corporation near Jakarta, where we have a student cohort too,” Fulkerson explained. “Shanghai is the first occasion when they all can work together as one cohort. It was really nice to have them get to know each other.”
The first day in Shanghai kicked off with a welcome dinner and the group continued to get to know each other throughout the week. The rich cultural and evening program included a guided tour of an Art Deco masterpiece, the 1933 Old Millfun building, and visits to restaurants to sample the gourmet delights of the city, including Peking duck.
Coordinated in conjunction with Dr. Alexander Bode, a lecturer in the program with extensive experience in teaching and doing business in China, the week was not all sightseeing and fine dining. “They have to study; they all have to learn something,” Fulkerson pointed out with a smile.
After being exposed to China’s culture and history, the students attended their first lecture at Tongji University on Monday. “We have three course modules during the week,” explained Fulkerson. “The first one, ‘Managing Complex Expectations,’ talks about the stakeholders – who do you have to think about in your business and how do you manage expectations?” The lecture was followed by a visit to Volkswagen’s vast Shanghai plant. “It was really interesting to see their facilities and their conveyor belt car assembly system. Everything is so huge that we had to drive around in little golf carts,” she said.
The week’s other modules looked at designing low-footprint distribution networks and the implementation of lean logistics. The students also went on excursions to the Yangshan Deep Water Port, to UDC – a consulting company that works in the Free Trade Zone in the port – and to Sinotrans Air Transportation.
These tours give the students the opportunity to see how classroom theory is put into action in China and to experience another business culture and network, says Fulkerson: “Not only is it good for us to establish an understanding and network with a place like the port, but the students also develop an idea of how they do business there, particularly since all of the students are working in some sector of supply chain management and logistics.”
“Our visit to a consulting company was another networking opportunity for our students, because they could see how these people support companies who want to work through the port.”
Networking extends beyond interaction with local business people and the trip offers students the chance to establish lasting relationships with other classmates. “Overall, everyone enjoyed spending time together, especially with the Indonesian students, because it was the first time they had met,” said Fulkerson. “Now they have a connection. They’re going to do a project together and when they see each other in Ohio again, it will be like seeing old friends.”
“One of the rewards that you get from this EMBA program is you don’t just go to class, it’s about the people, it’s that mutual support – maybe for future business connections.”
By Jeff Kavanagh