China Trip Gives Students Up-Close Look at Global Retail Supply Chain

An Iowa State University assistant professor will be taking a second group of students to China next spring to get a first-hand look at global supply chain logistics. The long-distance field trip is part of Prof. Scott Grawe’s project to let his students see a retail supply chain from end to end.

The supply chain management teacher took 27 students this past March on a 10-day China trip to see a sourcing department, ports and a factory used by retailer Target, which is the focus of the upcoming trip as well. Before the overseas trip, students visited a Target store and distribution center in Cedar Falls, then a port and deconsolidation facility in Los Angeles.

“You see pallets stacked upon pallets and sometimes you could see damage occurring on the bottom levels holding the most weight. The packages also get thrown around quite a bit,” said Alesha Smith, a student on this year’s China trip, in a piece from the university. “Now whenever I’m annoyed by the ridiculous amount of packaging my products come in, I understand why.”

The Iowa State students also worked in teams to solve supply chain challenges presented by Target executives, and visited the company’s Minneapolis headquarters after they returned from China to present their ideas.

“For the students who have taken the international logistics class, where we do supply chain mapping, they get to see what a supply chain actually looks like,” Grawe said. “The trip really helps drive the point home that this is the product you might buy in a few weeks, and we see all the points in the supply chain that it touches in order to get to that shelf at Target.”