For nearly a week during the busy Halloween season, 24 teams of global supply chain management (GSCM) juniors from the BYU Marriott School of Business took on a blizzard of additional work by competing in a case competition hosted by snowmobile giant Polaris.
In addition to vying for the $4,000 first-place prize, student teams aimed to render impact by finding practical solutions to the company’s real-life problem.
Due to pricing and backlog issues with current suppliers that ship from China, Polaris is exploring different routes to acquire parts in quicker and more affordable ways. For the competition, the company provided six new suppliers as possibilities and asked teams to determine which option would save Polaris the most money and how long the transition would take.
On November 3, 2022, after less than a week of preparation, the student teams presented their final solutions to a panel of judges comprised of BYU Marriott GSCM faculty and seven Polaris employees from a variety of departments, including supply chain, engineering, human resources, and product management. The judges selected six teams as finalists and announced the winning team at the awards ceremony held later that evening.
The first-place team consisted of GSCM juniors Hunter Palmer, from Tucson, Arizona; Sloane Wheeler, from Phoenix, Arizona; Sophie Goulding, from Elko, Nevada; Jared Martinez, from St. George, Utah; and Ahmad Alnasser, from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Morgan Shurtleff, BYU Marriott GSCM alumna and current Polaris employee, played a key role in coordinating and organizing the event. “We were extremely impressed with the presentations,” says Shurtleff. “The students offered a fresh perspective. Since our problem doesn’t have a clear-cut solution, we were interested to see how different teams analyzed the situation and used data to back up their proposals.”
Shurtleff says Polaris valued the students’ insights; in fact, the company requested the slide decks of the six finalist teams for company use. “Many solutions the students suggested were routes we were already considering,” she says. “Seeing them craft similar plans to our own supply chain team was admirable.”
GSCM professor Scott Webb was duly pleased with how the students performed. "The students did an excellent job in the case competition," he says. "The presentations were phenomenal."
Though a formidable test for the students, this case competition bolstered their confidence and strengthened their abilities. “In the weeks preceding the competition, we were stretched as much as we could be and then more,” says Palmer. “Every single person in the program proved they could accomplish hard things. I learned a lot about myself and discovered the strength of my team.”
To prepare, Palmer and his teammates explored countless ideas, calculated numbers, and frequently reformulated their plans to match Polaris’s vision. Palmer shares that the opportunity was useful for him and his teammates to apply what they learn in classes and to gain more real-world experience. “Projects like this teach me more than any test could,” he says.
On top of providing the priceless experience, Polaris presented the team with a $4,000 oversized check and a trophy at the awards ceremony. Team members were both humbled and thrilled with their finish. “Our plan wasn’t perfect,” says Palmer. “But we matched our strategy to meet the needs of Polaris, evenly divided participation between each member of our group, and dove the deepest.”
Shurtleff says the students gave Polaris more than supply chain solutions. “My colleagues and I walked away feeling rejuvenated and revitalized from our time with the students,” she says. “We left feeling excited again for our own work.”
She says the company hopes the partnership can become long term. “Everyone at Polaris keeps talking about the event,” says Shurtleff. “Polaris would love to sponsor another case competition at BYU Marriott in the future because our time with the students was incredibly valuable.”
Writer: Jaden McQuivey