Place in the World

ECU distribution and logistics students finish third in international competition

What began as a way to gain some real-world experience ended with a third-place finish in an international competition for a group of East Carolina University students.

Students, from left, Emma Gilbert, Isaac Kraft and Matt Jarman, with Ana Harman on the computer screen, placed third in an international competition. (Contributed photo)

A team from the industrial distribution and logistics program in ECU’s College of Engineering and Technologyfinished third in the ERPsim Leap Year Challenge 2024. The five-week logistics sustainability simulation game allowed the students to apply their knowledge to make strategic decisions about a fictitious dairy distribution company. The team was the top performing American university in the competition.

“We wanted to take what we’re learning in the classroom and try to take it to the next level and apply the concepts to real-world scenarios,” said Isaac Kraft, the team’s captain.

Kraft, Emma Gilbert, Ana Harman and Matt Jarman used SAP software to manage a variety of dairy products, a central distribution center and regional warehouses as part of the competition. SAP is one of the largest enterprise planning software programs in the world. ECU has been a part of the SAP university alliance since 2009, allowing faculty to integrate the software into their courses and expose their students to the technology.

As part of the competition, the team used the software to analyze costs, transportation, inventory, overhead, purchasing, sales pricing and even carbon taxes on a weekly basis to improve the company’s value.

“They had to do all of the analysis. They had to get all of the data entered. They made all of the decisions,” said Dr. Mark Angolia, assistant professor in industrial distribution and logistics and the team’s faculty advisor.”

That gave the students a glimpse into the type of work they will do when they graduate from ECU.

“This is everything as distribution and logistics students we expect to use in our future careers,” Gilbert said. “Every company, this is how they operate. They’ve got to have inventory. They’ve got to have sales forecasts. They’re going to make purchase orders. They’re going to make sales orders. So doing this gives us a chance to look at how a company that we may work for in the future may operate.”

The international aspect of the competition meant the students had to adjust to using euros instead of dollars.

“There were teams from throughout the world — China, Canada, Great Britain, Mexico. It was interesting,” Jarman said.

Isaac Kraft studies data as part of the competition. (Photo by Ken Buday)

The students monitored their progress and that of other teams each week when the standings were released.

“After every round, it was fun to see where we were on the leaderboard against all the different countries, but also all the details,” Gilbert said. “It was fun to see how we did. Did the tactics we use work, or did it not work? … It was fascinating. It was cool to see how well we did and the learning experience when maybe we didn’t do so well. You get to come back as a team to figure out how to fix it.”

Kraft said he enjoyed working with team members on a common goal.

“It’s nice to collaborate with people who are motivated and interested,” he said. “This was a completely voluntary thing.”

Harmon added a unique element to the team as a distance education student who joined work sessions remotely.

“This is my first semester, and I was sort of here to watch,” Harmon said. “I’m still learning and it’s starting to make sense. I really am enjoying it. I learned a lot from them.”

Not only did the students learn through the competition, but also they viewed it as an opportunity to highlight ECU’s industrial distribution and logistics program, which was recently recognized as sixth best in the country by

“Doing this in a competition format against other teams really motivated us to act like this is a real company,” Gilbert said. “We wanted to do well and show that ECU has sufficient skills in SAP and that we come out after our time at ECU and can operate this without having to start fresh. That’s impressive to a lot of companies, and it saves them money on having to train us, so it’s a benefit to us once we leave here and a benefit to the companies that hire us.”