Thinking Like Executives, UH Industrial Engineering Students Bring Home Prize
May 5, 2017
Laurie Fickman

A team of four Cullen College master’s candidates in industrial engineering is quick to tell you that industrial engineers make the best CEOs.

“Sundar Pichai,” throws out Dhinesh Thiru Narayanan Muralitharan, who also is a teaching assistant in the C.T. Bauer College of Business. No less than the CEO of Google is Muralitharan’s pick when talking about industrial engineers and their business prowess.

“Of course the CEO of Microsoft is an engineer, too,” adds Dinesh Babu Sivasamy, citing Satya Nadella as his illustrious example.

“Oh, and they’re both from India, too!” said Muralitharan, as the group laughs in agreement that as Indian Americans they are in good company.

Muralitharan, Sivasamy along with Srivignesh Somasundaram and Anand Krishnamoorthy have reason to be counted among their prosperous peers. Collectively called “Team Bottomliners,” they brought home first place in the annual Institute for Supply Management’s Houston Case Competition.

A case for change

In the competition, the group was presented with an actual business case that had really taken place in a company’s history. In this case, Scotts Miracle-Gro was under pressure due to high plant and labor costs at their plant in Temecula, California.

Faced with the choice of outsourcing, the team went to work like a well-oiled C-suite of executives, identifying cost drivers, calculating variable costs, performing statistical analysis and analyzing risks. In the end, they proposed staying put to benefit the long-term prospects of the company, though a move would have saved $7M in the short term. As the team concluded, “Supply Chain is all about value creation and not just cost cutting.”

“We acted as the owners of the company, not as consultants and that helped us a lot,” said Somasundaram, who served as team lead. He said the judges indicated that kind of thinking propelled them to first place among 12 Texas teams.

Building the team

Before ending up in the same class and heading to the competition, the four members of Team Bottomliners were all neighbors in Houston’s Linkwood area, but they didn’t know each other well. Since they formed the team, they all became best friends.

“Oh, we probably spend too much time together now,” laughed Sivasamy.

Krishnamoorthy admits his presentation skills were a little rusty when he joined the team. “I last participated in a competition in second grade,” he said. “So I was a little nervous, but it was a very good experience and we even beat a team where someone had 20 years of experience.”

He says winning gave him a direction for his future. “Since winning the competition I have confidence I can go in this path of supply chain management,” he said.

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