MT. PLEASANT — Eighty Central Michigan University students will battle for the profitability of fictitious companies in a unique simulation competition, testing their knowledge of SAP, the world’s foremost Enterprise Resource Planning software.  Students that are part of the top five most profitable teams will be awarded scholarships. Competition begins Feb. 22 at 1 p.m. in Grawn Hall.
The competition kicks off the opening of CMU’s new Information Management Institute, an interdisciplinary organization designed to advance research and practice in the management of information to better solve organizational problems. The Institute provides a collaborative environment where students, faculty and industry partners work together to develop innovative information management solutions.
This ERPsim competition brings in mentors from 17 top companies who have coached the students in business strategy. Some of the companies participating in this year’s competition include General Motors, Steelcase, Ernst and Young, IBM, The Dow Chemical Co., and Dow Corning. Several are traveling from out of state, including Harley-Davidson from Milwaukee, Johnson Controls from Racine and 3M from St. Paul, Minn.
“These top companies are coming here because we have the best-trained students in the country,” said Stephen Tracy, faculty in CMU’s College of Business Administration and co-organizer of the competition. “Nobody’s training students in ERP as well as we are at CMU. When a student leaves our program, they know ERP. Our students have walked the walk, talked the talk and hit the ground running.”
Recruiters from top companies are hiring CMU business graduates, Tracy says. Students will get even more exposure through the new institute, as they work with skilled CMU faculty to solve the information challenges of real companies.
“When you look at the challenges businesses face today, many revolve around the management of information,” said Karl Smart, chair of the business information systems department and director of the IMI.  “Managing and using data well. Making the best use of resources. The institute will bring industry, students and faculty together to help organizations better find ways to solve problems.”
The IMI’s goal is to become a clearinghouse of ideas and best practices in areas ranging from SAP/ERP and big data to digital entrepreneurship to social media, Smart says.
During the Feb. 22 simulation competition, 20 teams of four students will compete. Each team will run a fictitious dairy company, selling milk, ice cream and cheese wholesale to retailers using a live SAP business software system – the software many real-life businesses use to handle their operations.
The ERPsim game used during the competition is an innovative learning-by-doing approach to teaching SAP and ERP concepts.
“It’s just like real life,” said Tracy. “As the students work, their competitors’ decisions act as curve balls. If a rival dairy drops its price on yogurt, for example, owners may be faced with too much inventory and have to update their sales strategy.”
 In the end, the team with the most profitable company wins. Scholarships and awards will go to the top five teams.
“ERPsim helps people understand how everybody is tied together in business decisions, from accounting to marketing to operations management, so they can make better decisions in their company tomorrow,” says Frank Andera, director of the SAP University Alliance Program and professor of business information systems.


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