Twenty-six graduate students from Virginia Tech’s Evening MBA program in the National Capital Region are visiting multinational companies in Scandinavia to get a real world look at how businesses apply the operations and supply chain concepts the students have studied and discussed in the classroom.
“We’ve read about so many supply chain management buzzwords and lean best practices that it was really cool to actually see them in action,” Liz Stryffeler of Ashburn,Virginia, wrote after one of the group’s first stops at Suunto, a small global manufacturer of sports watches, diving computers, and compasses headquartered in Helsinki, Finland.
All of the students are blogging individually on the 2015 Products and Processes in Scandinavia Study Abroad! website throughout the two-week trip. They return to Washington, D.C., on July 4.
In addition to Suunto, the itinerary includes visits to: KONE and Fiskars, two other companies in Finland; AstraZeneca, Electrolux, Saab, IKEA, Stora Enso, Volvo Trucks, and Volvo Cars in Sweden; and LEGO, Maersk, and Carlsberg in Denmark.
A few students wrote about their surprise at learning that KONE – a large global manufacturer of elevators and escalators but a name they hadn’t readily recognized -- not only produced the elevators and escalators for the newly redesigned, close to home, Springfield Town Center in Springfield, Virginia, but is also refurbishing all the Washington, D.C., Metro station escalators.
This is the eighth Scandinavian trip since 2003 organized and led by Barbara Hoopes, associate professor of business information technology in the Pamplin College of Business.
The program for the trip is planned in conjunction with four weeks of classroom study prior to departure. Representatives from the Danish, Finnish, and Swedish embassies in Washington, D.C, are invited to speak to the students during class time to offer an introduction to the countries they will visit.
Also prior to departure, students are required to partner up and select one of the companies to research and report on in greater detail.
“Scandinavia is a region of interest for our students for a number of reasons,” said Hoopes.
First, countries there are technologically savvy and consistently listed at the top of various surveys indicating global competitiveness, technology adoption, etc. Second, because markets in Scandinavian countries are inherently small, companies have planned globally in search of both suppliers and markets from their inception rather than as an afterthought. And, finally, there is a strong element of design intrinsic to the Scandinavian culture, making product form as important as functionality in most cases, she explained.
"Couple these business values with the fact that English is spoken widely in the region, and it makes for a wonderful environment for study abroad," said Hoopes.