MBA Students Win Fourth Consecutive LINKS Global Supply Chain Competition

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 15, 2019) — For the fourth year in a row, Kennesaw State University won first place in the LINKS Global Supply Chain Competition, a simulation that tasks students with managing high-pressure supply chain decisions for a manufacturing company.

The winning team consisted of four students in the Michael J. Coles College of Business part-time Master of Business Administration program: Jasmine Ahmed, Esmerelda Cantero, Aaron Andrews, and Daniel Audia. Each was a student in Dr. Michael Maloni’s Operations Management course.

LINKS Global Supply Chain Competition

The seven-week competition took place during the fall semester, with Kennesaw State outperforming teams from Florida Atlantic University, South Florida University, and Kansas University.

During the competition, teams ran a fictional global company that sells television set-top boxes. The eight rounds involved forecasting demand, setting inventory levels, planning transportation, planning production, procuring materials, and even determining marketing spend and product pricing.

“They are running the entire supply chain for their company in direct competition with student teams from other schools,” says Maloni, who gives students the choice each year of either participating in the LINKS competition or completing a separate research project.

The students met frequently during the semester to set and revise their tactics, and to make adjustments based on their competitive performance against the other teams relative to financial, customer, and operational measures.

All work related to LINKS must be done outside of class.

Maloni admits that LINKS is a more significant time investment for students compared to the other project option, but says the students who choose it gain a lot from the experience.

“It’s a lot of work,” he says, “almost an unreasonable amount of work. But for students who want to make more of their MBA experience, here is an opportunity for them to see how they stack up against MBA students around the world. I tell them this is the hardest 15 points you will ever earn in your MBA.”

The students who choose the LINKS competition enjoy the opportunity to broaden their horizons.

“When I decided to become involved in LINKS – which is based on hard-to-grasp supply chain concepts – I wanted to challenge myself and accomplish something that I knew was complex, but achievable,” says team member Jasmine Ahmed.

Although Ahmed enjoyed learning new skills such as sales forecasting, she says the most rewarding part was working with her fellow teammates.

“Being on a team taught me to work harder to achieve my potential,” she says. “Our win would not have been possible without the dedicated, professional team members I had the privilege of working with.”

Maloni has incorporated LINKS into his graduate and undergraduate operations courses as a learning tool since 2010, but only started entering teams to compete in 2015. With his students taking top honors each of the last four years, Maloni sees it as a testament to the quality of the Coles College’s MBA program and its students.

He is especially proud of the fact that his students, who are all taking a core operations class in a part-time MBA program, can compete and win against full-time MBA students in specialized supply chain programs. 

“It’s a function of the students’ willingness to put in the time to really go above and beyond," Maloni says.

-Patrick Harbin