Supply Chain PhD researcher wins Global Educator Challenge


Deakin University’s Gustavo Escudero has captained the winning team in the prestigious ‘Fresh Connection’ Global Educator Challenge 2021.

From border closures to goods shortages, to lockdowns, global supply chains have been tested by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the theme of “Supply Chain Resilience” was ideal to encourage world-leading supply chain and logistics experts to hone their problem-solving skills through the discipline’s most prestigious simulation competition – the ‘Fresh Connection’ Global Educator challenge.

The Fresh Connection is a cross-functional business simulation game focused on Value Chain Management. It is played by over 10,000 university students in 600 countries each year, providing realistic experience for students to gain advanced supply chain skills, and complex challenges for educators to test and extend their mastery.

The winning five-member team for this year’s competition was captained by Gustavo Escudero, a PhD student within Deakin’s Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics (CSCL). The victory marked a second milestone for Gustavo; he had already won the professional category in The Fresh Connection’s Global Challenge when a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2013.

The Director of CSCL, Industry Professor Hermione Parsons said there is a crucial need for highly qualified, experienced and innovative professionals in the supply chain and logistics industry.

“Challenging and extending our professionals through high quality education and competitions such as this is essential for our industry as it faces unprecedented challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, globalisation and other aspects of future uncertainty,” Professor Parsons said.

Mr Escudero’s supervisor Dr Roberto Perez-Franco, a Senior Research Fellow in CSCL, said The Fresh Connection is the most influential simulation game used in supply chain higher education.

“Gustavo’s understanding of supply chain is extraordinary. It is a great pride for CSCL that one of our doctoral students has achieved first place in such a prestigious competition,” Dr Perez-Franco said.

For this year’s competition, Mr Escudero joined over 60 professionals in the competition, distributed in 15 teams and all supply chain management experts and certified educators in the use of The Fresh Connection simulation. His team included supply chain experts from Germany, India and South Africa.

The 2021 Global Challenge was organised by simulation developer Inchainge (Netherlands). Participants were challenged to implement an effective supply chain strategy for a (virtual) manufacturer faced with declining performance. Their goal was to attain the highest return on investment through strategic and tactical decisions in a simulated supply chain.

Mr Escudero’s achievement is particularly impressive, given that he competed in the educator challenge while still a third-year PhD student. At CSCL his research is seeking to advance the discipline’s field of scenario planning – the method for planning under uncertainty – so that it more accurately reflects the needs of urban logistics.

“In the game, several disruptions occurred during the rounds, from natural disasters to political distress,” Mr Escudero said.

“In a regular setting of the game, the team has visibility of possible disruptions (locations, nature of disruption, expected frequencies and expected times to recover). For this version, visibility was culled so we had to ‘prepare for the unthinkable’.”

“Each of our team had different backgrounds, but we all understood this was a team effort. There is no room for silo thinking in this type of competition. This, plus the early definition of roles and rules of interaction, made it possible for us to perform well from the beginning. Time differences and remote coordination were challenging, but the use of remote collaboration tools (Zoom, WhatsApp and emails) and the user-friendliness of the simulation platform helped us to overcome these challenges.”

Mr Escudero has boundless enthusiasm for his discipline.

“The operations and logistics industry is always reinventing itself. This is as overwhelming as it is exciting; you never stop learning,” he said.

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