Students learn real-world supply chain, sustainability skills in Italy

This summer, 23 Penn State Smeal College of Business students spent six weeks in Florence, Italy, studying supply chain and management from an Italian perspective with Norm Aggon, assistant department chair and instructor in operations and supply chain management, and Ron Johnson, senior instructor in management and organization.

The course, “Extreme Global Makeover: Integrating Supply Chain Applications, Managerial Skills, and Italian Culture for Personal Success,” provided students an opportunity to visit four different Italian companies and learn to assess their manufacturing operations in terms of supply chain management and sustainability.

“The students were able to see four Italian businesses, which represented four different industries. They were also able to compare both small and large manufacturers. There was really a wide variety in what they were able to learn from these four companies.”

-- Norm Aggon, instructor in operations and supply chain management, Smeal College of Business

“We wanted to combine supply chain and management skills to provide students with an understanding of how to enter and evaluate a manufacturing facility and assess that plant in about three hours,” said Johnson.

The four companies students visited included hand-blown glass company IVV, confectioner Perugina, textile manufacturer Lanificio Luigi Ricceri Sli and world-famous luxury sports car maker Ferrari.

“The students were able to see four Italian businesses which represented four different industries,” said Aggon. “They were also able to compare both small and large manufacturers. There was really a wide variety in what they were able to learn from these four companies.”

Aggon and Johnson prepared the students for visiting these manufacturing plants by learning how to use a new set of auditing tools. One tool was based on the supply chain SCOR model (learning to assess operations) with the other based on auditing best practices in sustainability. At each company, students applied these tools by touring the facilities and talking with managers to understand the way the company functions and how Italian business differ from that in America.

“At the end of the course, we provided students with advice on how they could frame the things that they learned, both on their resumes and in interviews, to help them land internships or full-time employment.”

-- Ron Johnson, senior instructor in management and organization, Smeal College of Business

“I think the students learned that, in Italy, business is much more driven by relationships,” said Aggon. “Relationships are perhaps more important than performance metrics, and that really impacts the way that Italians do business.”

Johnson added, “About 98 percent of Italian companies are considered small to mid-sized, so it’s a very different business environment considering that alone.”

In addition, Aggon and Johnson wanted to ensure students could use this experience to benefit them in their job search.

“At the end of the course, we provided students with advice on how they could frame the things that they learned, both on their resumes and in interviews, to help them land internships or full-time employment,” said Johnson.

“Extreme Global Makeover: Integrating Supply Chain Applications, Managerial Skills, and Italian Culture for Personal Success” is one of several faculty-led summer programs offered by Smeal. These programs provide students the opportunity to take unique classes in an international setting with Smeal professors. Classes focus on foundational concepts through a global lens.

Contacts: 

Smeal Office of International Programs

Work Phone: 
814-865-4264
Last Updated August 28, 2014