University of Bath Partnership with Rapid Fire Supplies

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

In October 2020 the MSc Operations, Supply Chain and Logistics Management students embarked on their Practicum unit. Split into four groups they were each partnered with a different company from Rolls-Royce to Rapid Fire Logistics Ltd and set with the task of composing a live consulting project. During the process they had to engage with academic literature, identify and collect relevant data, problem solve and conduct relevant interviews.

We recently caught up with a couple of the students following their final presentation on Rapid Fire Logistics Ltd.

Tim was the project manager on the Rapid Fire Logistics team, however he has not always wanted to go into this industry

Tim Phillips
Tim Phillips

“I did my undergrad in Chemistry. As much as I found it interesting, I knew after the three years that I didn’t want to be a chemist. I wanted broader business skills, I didn’t do economics at A level – which is kind of my biggest regret, so I wanted to find out how companies operate. I think I have an operational, project-based mindset so thought it was a good decision to study (MSc Operations, Supply Chain and Logistics Management)”

Safwan
Syahrul Safwan Najwan Bin Faisyal

Teammate Safwan took a more conventional route to enrolling on the course,

I did my undergrad before Covid in Business and Logistics, so I had a good building block for my MSc”.

Covid-19 impact on studies

Both students agreed that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted their studies although working remotely has had some unexpected positives. Tim commented that, “It is different, it’s more convenient, not doing the commute saves time. People have more time to do zooms with you and things are a lot faster and easier, but I do miss the ‘in person’ contact time with tutors that I was able to have during my undergrad”.

When asked, why did you choose this particular course? Its reputation impacted Safwan’s decision, “The CIPS and CILT qualifications were a big factor for me, I’d be a qualified member of both organisations when I graduate so that’ll look amazing on my CV”. A similar reason impacted Tim who was planning to study elsewhere until he found that Bath was in the top three in the country for the course.

One of the unique units of the University of Bath’s School of Management’s MSc Operations, Supply Chain and Logistics Management course is the practicum itself.

Tim explained the first steps he took to tackle this mammoth project, “Lots of calls with Craig (Rapid Fire Logistics Co-Director), getting him chatting and speaking about the business. There was a difference between attacking the project on an academic side and kind of actually being useful.

Finding issues that Craig was facing and using the academics and literature based on other similar companies to find solutions for him”.

As part of the practicum the team also spoke to a sample of current Rapid Fire Logistics customers to collect data and learn more about their needs, it was during one such interview that Safwan made a surprising discovery,

“Something interesting I found was when we interviewed the customers/ suppliers we were trying to find out if PPE will be viable after the pandemic and they were all very optimistic that the sales will continue to rise even post-vaccine. It’s a classic example of a bullwhip effect where customers’ consumption rate does not actually affect their demand. We thought that the demand would dwindle, but somewhere on the supplier side they’re saying it’s going to rise which gives a signal to the manufacturers to produce more PPE”.

Due to the intensity of the practicum there were lots of ups and downs along the way for all of the team, One of the main challenges was collecting data due to it being a new company some of the data was fragmented so it took a lot of time piecing it together.

After managing to source all the required data there was relief when they could finally showcase the hard work they had been doing over the past few months.

Tim commented that, “The presentation was a really nice opportunity to share our findings and to get some positive feedback, we did it on zoom with a couple of lecturers marking it and Craig and Nikki (Rapid Fire Logistics Directors) joined too, they seemed really happy with it. It’s very satisfying to combine everything into one piece of work”.

Lessons learned

Hindsight can give us clarity, when asked whether he would go back and change any of the decisions he made throughout the practicum, Tim’s mind sprang back to the interviews they had conducted, “Craig selected from his large customer base but we asked who he wanted to find out more about and interviewed those customers. Sometimes they weren’t aligned with what we were looking into.  If I could go back, I’d have spent another week or so preparing to get the information that we wanted”.

On the other hand, Safwan had a more spiritual response, “I wouldn’t change anything I did as I’ve learnt from the things that went wrong, everything that was supposed to happen happened”.

The opportunity to work alongside a real company is a distinctive part of this MSc course, but how much more beneficial is that compared to studying a simulated company?

 Tim explained it is “So great having a live company and I think it’s better having a start-up company like Rapid Fire Logistics Ltd. With the bigger companies it gets quite hypothetical whereas although there’s more challenges with a start-up I think it gives you a more accurate representation of how a business operates, you can provide feedback that can influence the company and might actually make positive changes. I wouldn’t trade it for an alternative to be honest”.

Safwan also found this experience rewarding and mentioned how it could help him succeed in the industry, “It was great to work with a real start-up as it prepared me for if I want to start my own business in the future”. Their final assignments are currently being completed and we wish Tim, Safwan and the rest of the team the best of luck. Before departing they gave some sterling advice for any new students starting their practicum on the MSc Operations, Supply Chain and Logistics Management course.

 “So great having a live company and I think it’s better having a start-up company like Rapid Fire Logistics Ltd….I think it gives you a more accurate representation of how a business operates, you can provide feedback that can influence the company and might actually make positive changes. I wouldn’t trade it for an alternative to be honest”.

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