CLEMSON — Clemson University is partnering with experts in Asia to help expand a master’s program that prepares engineers for leadership roles in the business of figuring out the best way to manage the flow of goods and materials needed for everything from retail to large capital projects.

Dr. Bill Ferrell, a professor of industrial engineering and associate dean of the graduate school, addresses a supply-chain conference in India as part of Clemson University’s outreach to Asia.

Bill Ferrell, a professor of industrial engineering and associate dean of the graduate school, addresses a supply-chain conference in India as part of Clemson University’s outreach to Asia.

The effort underscores Asia’s growing importance on the world stage as markets across the continent grow at a rapid clip, opening tremendous business opportunities for corporations worldwide, including in the United States.

The growth is increasing the need for engineers who understand the continent’s unique logistics challenges.  India, for example, struggles with traffic-choked cities, inadequate ports and a widely distributed population.

A Clemson program that offers a Master’s of Engineering in industrial engineering will be broadened to include content specific to various countries. The online program has been offered for six years with a focus on supply chains and an emphasis on large capital projects.

Figuring out how to overcome Asia’s logistics challenges is a big business in itself and could have ripple effects across the globe that broaden markets and increase profits for U.S. companies as the pathways for commerce are cleared.

While Clemson has already made inroads in India, the university could also expand to the Middle East, the Philippines or any number of other countries based on global growth, said Bill Ferrell, a professor of industrial engineering and associate dean of the graduate school.

“We realized from companies that a major part of their future is not in the United States,” he said. “When we talked to the folks in capital projects, they said their backlog was international and the same is true for companies selling a variety of goods.  Growth is international, particularly in Asia and the Middle East.”

The master’s program now has about 120 students scattered across the United States and around the world. The program is aimed at logistics and supply-chain professionals at various energy, power, construction and manufacturing companies.

As part of its outreach to Asia, Clemson University recently helped organize the second Industry-University International Conference on Supply Chain.

The two-day conference in New Delhi brought together experts, government officials and industry representatives from the United States and India.

The conference helped connect Clemson to the experts who know the most about India’s challenges and can help develop content for the master’s program, said Scott Mason, the Fluor Endowed Chair in Supply Chain Optimization and Logistics.

“When business is being done in India, we can’t naively think it’s the same way as when they’re building a plant in Louisiana,” he said. “We’re trying to reach out, find the partnerships.”

The logistics market in India is valued at $90 billion to $125 billion, employs 45 million people and is growing at 15 percent a year, said M.P. Singh, executive director of India’s Ansal Institute of Technology and Management, Lucknow. “Due to its current growth and its future growth potential, the Indian logistics sector is viewed as one of the most attractive in the world.”

Jim Scotti, senior vice president and chief of procurement for Fluor Corp., said that the company added money to a Clemson supply-chain program to help expand it internationally, which included making the conference possible.

The engineering-and-construction company has several clients in India and a large office in New Delhi, he said.

“We do business all over the world,” Scotti said. “We buy millions of dollars of materials and equipment from suppliers in India for the construction of capital projects globally, so it’s important that people understand our schedule and quality requirements.”

The millions of variables that go into managing resources for capital projects include locations of suppliers and warehouses and whether it’s best to ship by truck, train, boat or air.

Clemson educators hope to help Asia answer some of those questions by educating the next generation of industrial engineers in the United States and abroad.

“They’re the people who are going to deal with these issues and be the ones who actually engage and solve the problems in the future,” said Jim Piekutowski, a program manager in Clemson’s industrial engineering program.

India ranks 134th out of 189 economies on The World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business” index. The World Bank ranked India 46th out of 155 in global trade logistics performance.

Experts estimate that between 20 and 40 percent of India’s produce spoils before reaching consumers because of infrastructure limitations and lack of cold-storage warehouse facilities.

But some see glimmers of hope for improvement.

New roads, ports and airports are under way, Singh said.

The Indian government has energized the logistics business with tax incentives and encouraged private investment, including public-private partnerships, he said.

India’s already huge, largely English-speaking workforce is expected to add 140 million people to its ranks over the next decade, Singh said.

The Clemson team that traveled to India for the conference included Melur “Ram” Ramasubramanian, chairman of the mechanical engineering department and the D.W. Reynolds Distinguished Professor.

Plans for gradual growth in India will no longer work, he said.

“You have a crisis that you’re dealing with when it comes to moving goods reliably in time to be of value,” he said. “So that’s where the interesting problems are. Clemson supply chain experts have the opportunity to develop innovative solutions working with the local industry while educating the workforce — a win-win scenario for Clemson and the Indian industry.”

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