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Tepper Students Capture International Case Competition

ops-competition-winners-102x83 Eaton Corporation’s Golf Grip Division may have worldwide recognition, but it took a winning team of five Tepper School students to explain how the diversified industrial manufacturer can exploit its expertise in other products for golf courses here and abroad. Their pitch?  Employ Eaton’s Industrial and Electrical sectors to analyze energy and water conservation methods to keep golf courses economically viable.

This was the 16th annual International Case Competition organized by Tepper Business School’s Operations Management Club, at which the Lead Sponsor, Eaton Corporation, posed the practical question: How can Eaton “use its current presence in the golf market to sell cost improvement solutions for golf courses?”  Charged with deciphering how Eaton products from its other Industrial and Electric sector businesses fit golf industry needs, the 14 participating teams* were given a broad, unstructured berth – for the first time in the Case Competition’s history –  to use all Web resources at their disposal.

This is exactly where the Tepper students excelled, says Sunder Kekre, Ph.D., the Operations Club’s faculty adviser and Bosch Professor of Operations Management; Director, Center for Business Solutions, as well as director of the Center for E-Business Innovation. “They went to the Web and pulled in ideas, then came up with a financial analysis and implementation plan that was well researched and analyzed. They demonstrated that in this fast-changing world – with a vast amount of overwhelming data – they knew how to determine what’s important and what isn’t.”

Tepper students are invited to at least 20 case competitions a year, but it’s the International Case Competition that stands out as Carnegie Mellon’s hallmark endeavor – exactly why achieving first place was that much more rewarding for the Tepper team: Rajashree Todmal, Full-Time MBA candidate, ’13; Rohan Balakrishnan, Full-Time MBA candidate, ’12; Brett Seager, FlexTime MBA candidate, ’13; Carla Vale, Full-Time candidate, ’13; and Naveen Sukumar, Full-Time candidate, ’12.

Top-tier business schools competed in this prestigious two-day event (November 11-12, 2011), which gives students the opportunity to solve multinational corporations’ real-world issues in real-world crunch time. As a bonus, corporations get to know students from the leading national and international MBA programs. In addition to Eaton, this year’s Silver Sponsor was the St. Louis-based international engineering company, Emerson.

While the Case Competition drills down to those two demanding days, there is a lot to be said for Tepper organizers Jenny Hu, MBA candidate ’12, and Jay Haugen, MBA candidate ’12, who conducted a campus-wide search for these top competitors. As vice president for external affairs for the Operations Management Club, Hu researched how other schools prepared for these competitions and brainstormed with the club’s board. The goal was as much to win this year as it was to engage first-year Tepper students so they can carry on the tradition.

And what better way to inspire students who hadn’t seen a Tepper International Case Competition championship for eight years than to motivate them with an artsy, on-the-mark video created and produced by second-year Tepper students?

“This is no light-weight program. We’re in it to win,” says the sonorous voiceover.

While the appeal was attractive to Vale, she quickly learned that no one was a shoe-in. The first year students had to survive an internal, mini-case competition designed by Balakrishnan and Sukumar, who had participated the previous year. Of the 35 students who competed, the top three (Todmal, Seager and Vale) then observed a case competition at Michigan State University.

“The challenge in competitions like this is that we know there is no right answer,’’ says Vale. “It all comes down to how well we back up our reasoning, how thorough we are, and ultimately, how we get the message across.”

Adds Todmal:  “It’s unbelievable how much you learn about a topic in 12 hours.” 

There’s no question that the Tepper team was well-prepared. They researched the history of Eaton’s Golf Grip Division, and the creation of the first molded Golf Pride grip, which became the industry standard. But with rising costs and little growth opportunity at golf courses in the United States and parts of Europe, the judges asked for a plan to ensure continued returns. Put into practice your myriad resources, the Tepper team said. Propose surveys to analyze and assess golf courses’ electrical and water output, then determine how Eaton’s recycling systems and electrical chargers can be used efficiently and economically.

One judge praised the team for providing a “fact-based, real-world” proposal he would expect from any consultant. And, Robert P. Griffin, MBA, ’03, manager of Eaton’s electrical plant in Beaver, Pa., should know. He was on Tepper’s winning team in 2003 – when he got his job at Eaton.

*The teams came from business schools at:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of North Carolina, Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue University, Michigan State University, University of Virginia, Vanderbilt University, University of Southern California, University of California Los Angeles, University of Notre Dame, Rutgers University, Northwestern University and Yale University.

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Mark D. Burd

Director of Public Relations

Tepper School of Business
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, Pa. 15213-3890

Tel: 412-268-3486
Fax: 412-268-7824

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