Category Archives: Supply Chain Management

Walton Ph.D. Student Wins Fellowship to Study Rice, Information, Markets

Information moves markets. That’s something every business student understands – or should.

Jessica Darby wrote her honors thesis on the relationship of rice markets and information while she was a University of Arkansas undergraduate. Now, as a doctoral candidate in the university’s Sam M. Walton College of Business, she’s studying ways that timely and accurate information flowing out of the supply chain can help rice farmers in Arkansas and around the world.

Darby researches how rice farmers get their information about markets and how they make decisions based on that information. She’s asking farmers if better sources of information, additional resources and more analytical tools can be developed to help with market decisions.

In spring 2017, Darby gained support for this research by winning a prestigious and highly competitive Adam Smith Fellowship from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The one-year fellowship for graduate students – which includes a quarterly stipend – can total up to $10,000. Fellows also are eligible to apply for conference and research support.

“I believe that working with the Mercatus Center will help me develop market-based tools and address relevant policy levers to reduce the information burden for farmers,” Darby said. “I want to articulate the power of markets in agricultural supply chains.”

Her research can also be a powerful tool in helping the farmers and the economy of Arkansas. Arkansas is the largest rice-growing state in the nation, with the crop grown on 1.3 million acres each year, mainly in eastern Arkansas counties stretching from Louisiana to Missouri.

Darby’s interest in commodities such as rice and the behavior of commodity markets was sparked by an internship as a commodity analyst with an Arkansas-based global trading and sourcing company, and a second internship with one of the largest shippers of grain on the inland river system. The latter gave her insight into the role that public information – especially United States Department of Agriculture reports – plays in decisions.

“In both roles, I was responsible for producing regional analysis to determine potential growth and necessary defense strategies to adapt to changing market and political environments,” Darby said.

Darby was introduced to free-market concepts and information’s impact on commodity trading and pricing through a Walton College supply chain class on capitalism and a class on futures and options in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. The latter class sparked an interest in working with Andrew McKenzie, a professor of agricultural economics and agri-business.

“He introduced me to Milo Hamilton’s book, When Rice Shakes the World,” Darby said. “Hamilton discusses the implications of policies on the functioning of global rice markets and argues for a ‘freer, market-oriented way for rice.’”

McKenzie directed Darby’s honors thesis on rice futures markets. The two published that research in the U of A undergraduate research journal Inquiry and then extended the research. Darby presented this extended research as a paper at the NCCC-134 Applied Commodity Price Analysis, Forecasting and Risk Management Conference. The two then co-authored an article on the topic – “Information Content of USDA Rice Reports and Price Reactions of Rice Futures” – that was published in Agribusiness: An International Journal.

“Our research shows that the USDA provides the rice futures market with important information needed by Arkansas rice mills and farmers to market their crops,” McKenzie said. “The Arkansas Farm Bureau notes that Arkansas farmers produce more than 9 billion pounds of rice each year, which generates billions of dollars to the state’s economy and accounts for approximately 25,000 jobs, crucial to rural communities.”

The impact of such research on Arkansas and its economy inspires Darby to continue to dig into the topic. “It’s important to me that my research connect to industry,” Darby said. “I have to see the practical application for both farmers and agri-businesses – especially those involved in the food supply chains here in Arkansas.”

McKenzie added that, in an era of declining federal budgets, the kind of research he and Darby have produced provides economic justification for the continued publication of USDA reports. Darby said that it also illustrates an opportunity for the private sector to provide additional valuable information.

“Our results undoubtedly show that USDA reports play a vital role in helping futures markets to discover price and that this is particularly important for the U.S. rice market, where there is a paucity of private data and forecasts to supplement government numbers,” McKenzie said. “However, our research also highlights the fact that rice futures are a thinly traded market with low liquidity and volume.”

McKenzie and Darby are currently engaged in potential research to explore factors that may be driving low trading levels, which increases uncertainty for farmers. Darby said the aim is to determine potential solutions to increase volume and open interest through both regulatory changes and private information provided by partners in the supply chain.

Darby earned a B.S.B.A. in economics from the Walton College in 2015 and a Walton M.B.A. in 2016. She says her passion for reading, research and free-market capitalism left no doubt she would enter Walton’s doctoral program right away. Winning the Adam Smith Fellowship is pushing that passion into a whole different realm, though.

“I believe that it will enable me to examine and better articulate the power of markets in global agricultural supply chains,” Darby said, “as well as the power of global agricultural supply chains in the structuring of global markets.”

Supply Chain Management Honor Society Inducts New Members

Sigma Chi Mu Tau, the Supply Chain Management Honor Society founded by the Department of Supply Chain Management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business in 2016, has inducted 14 members into its second class.

The University of Arkansas initiates are:

Seniors: Chu Chen, Katherine Gavin, Alissa Gardner, Macy Roe and Sarah McGuire.

Juniors: Kate Barger, Shane Canady, Garrison Coker, Ryan Edwards, Emma Fields, Taylor Hunt, Cristina Perez-Espinoza, Sadie Wallner and Ryan Walter.

The two co-presidents, chosen from the junior class, are Hunt and McGregor.

Membership is extended to supply chain management juniors and seniors as well as educators and professionals who have shown dedication and contributions to the supply chain management profession. Sigma Chi Mu Tau recognizes academic merit and encourages leadership, ethical behavior and commitment to high standards in the pursuit of supply chain management excellence.

Membership is open to students majoring in supply chain management who have taken at least one upper level supply chain course. Invitations are sent to students based on rank in class. Juniors must rank in the top 10 percent of their class and seniors must ranking in the top 20 percent of their class.

Invitations are extended once during a student’s academic career.

The organization is accepting university memberships as well for future chapters. Contact faculty adviser Carole Shook at shook@uark.edu for more information.

Google, IBM and SamsClub.com Executives to Speak at Trends in Technology Conference

Leaders from Google, IBM, SamsClub.com, QVC, Starship Technologies and useAIble will be featured at the 2017 Trends in Technology Conference on Wednesday, April 26, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center in Rogers.

The conference, hosted by the Center for Retailing Excellence and the Supply Chain Management Research Center at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, will present technology trends affecting retailers and supply chains.

A highlight of the conference will be a conversation between Nathalie Walton, strategic partnerships lead, Google Shopping/Emerging Business Development at Google, and Jamie Iannone, president and chief executive officer of SamsClub.com.

“I am excited to discuss trends in e-commerce, online growth and other technology challenges with Jamie Iannone of SamsClub.com,” Walton said. “Brands like SamsClub.com continue to lead the charge with data analytics, business strategy and business execution.”

Iannone brings a wealth of insight to building an online presence and enhancing the retail experience. Also featured at the conference is Ben Emmrich, strategic partner developer at Google, who manages strategic partnerships with top-tier retailers utilizing the online marketplace Google Express.

Brigid McDermott, vice president, Blockchain Business Development at IBM, will deliver the conference’s keynote address on driving the growth of emerging technologies to improve banking, supply chains and innovation, all while reducing costs and risks. Other speakers include Linda Dillman, chief information officer, retired, at QVC; Nick Handrick, head of operations at Starship Technologies, and Rix Ryskamp, chief executive officer and founder of useAIble.

Registration for the event is $750 for the general public, with group rates available, or $250 for Walton College MBA students or alumni.

For more information and to register, visit cre.uark.edu/2017-conference.php.

Walton College Clinical Professor Honored by North American Case Research Association

A clinical assistant professor of Supply Chain Management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas has been honored by the North American Case Research Association for his collaboration with an Arkansas company to produce a case study on the introduction of a new product.

David Graham Hyatt created the teaching case, “Delta Plastics of the South: Conserving Water in the Delta” and the accompanying instructor’s manual after conducting interviews with company leadership and an honors colloquium project in Fall 2015. At this year’s association conference, held in Las Vegas in October, the case was one of two bronze award-winning entries for best case, selected from 113 eligible cases submitted.

The ongoing project was made possible by support from the Walton College Worthen Case Fund and a grant from the Wally Cordes Teaching and Faculty Support Center.

The case concerns Delta Plastics’ introduction of Pipe Planner, a product that helps calculate the hole sizes in plastic irrigation pipe widely used by farmers in the delta regions of Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and Louisiana. Use of the product lowers irrigation costs and lessens the water draw on the shrinking Mississippi Alluvial Aquifer, which provides most of the water for irrigation in the delta.

Research: Consumer Sentiment Yields Insights Into ‘Flash Sales’

The consumer search for online bargains has contributed to the recent popularity of “flash sales,” which offer limited quantities of products at a discount for a limited time.

Consider Amazon Prime Day, for instance. On July 12, 2016, Amazon offered thousands of products at huge discounts on flash sales that lasted minutes. Many people were able to snatch great deals, but others were disappointed when accessing Amazon’s website just to find that the deals they were looking for had sold out.

Annibal Sodero
Annibal Sodero: Assistant Professor, Department of Supply Chain Management

Annibal Sodero, assistant professor in the supply chain management department at the Walton College, led research to better understand how retailers, such as Amazon, can better forecast sales and set prices accordingly for flash sale deals in order to satisfy demand, without risking being left with overstock. Continue reading Research: Consumer Sentiment Yields Insights Into ‘Flash Sales’