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Building a Better Hybrid

By: Mark Crawford | Photos By: Jake Riederer and Weston Hartman

Building a Better Hybrid

The Wisconsin Hybrid Vehicle Team, including members from the UW–Madison Wisconsin School of Business and College of Engineering, pictured in front of the famous Bucky Wagon at the May 2014 kickoff event at Grainger Hall.

Traditionally, engineering students learn how to build innovative products and business students study how to manage operations effectively. This year, however, engineering students will work side by side with students from the Wisconsin School of Business, collaborating to optimize the performance of the UW–Madison College of Engineering's Wisconsin Hybrid Vehicle Team.

For decades, the College of Engineering has participated in advanced student vehicle competitions across the country. As the 2013–2014 student team prepared its application outlining the next year's hybrid electric vehicle prototype, members realized they needed to manage their supply chain more effectively.

Building Better Hybrids - Image 01 On-board generator for the hybrid vehicle with Engine Research Center RCCI-modified engine installed in the engine bay

"Our team's skillset was predominantly engineering focused," says Jake Riederer (B.S. '14), a mechanical engineering student on the team. “To realize our full potential, we especially needed expertise in inventory management, sourcing, marketing, finance, and supplier relationship management.”

The team reached out to the Wisconsin School of Business's Grainger Center for Supply Chain Management, and they formed a partnership to work collaboratively on the project with WSB students in both BBA and MBA programs as members of the same team.

"The Hybrid Vehicle Team is an excellent application of the Grainger Center's integrated approach to supply chain education," says Verda Blythe, director of the Grainger Center. "We emphasize the importance of cross-functional collaboration between engineering and supply chain functions, including operations, marketing and distribution, to achieve optimal business results. Business and engineering students working together on the development and commercialization of a new hybrid vehicle technology is an incredible opportunity for our students."



Eric Buechele "One of the greatest benefits is having both groups of students challenge each other to reach a higher level of performance." — ERIC BUECHELE (MBA ’15), BUSINESS LEADER ON THE 2014–2015 HYBRID VEHICLE TEAM



Building Better Hybrids - Image 02 A close-up view of the cutting-edge engine assembly.

Haley Hensen (BBA '14), who recently graduated with a BBA in marketing and a specialization in supply chain management, was the business leader for the Hybrid Vehicle Team in 2013–2014. In her role on the team, Hensen worked alongside dedicated engineers on a number of projects involving supply chain, marketing, and finance. She also got an inside look into how the business-engineering relationship works in industry during visits to companies such as Ford and Chrysler.

"In the past, the engineering students were challenged to keep up with inventory management, purchasing processes, and sponsor relationship management," she says. "Once the team partnered with the Wisconsin School of Business, these areas became a priority in helping the team become more efficient and competitive. Business students joined the team to focus on the supply chain and overall business management, allowing the engineers to focus on the technical tasks needed to design and build the car."




"To realize our full potential, we especially needed expertise in inventory management, sourcing, marketing, finance, and supplier relationship management."— JAKE RIEDERER (B.S. ’14)




Building Better Hybrids - Image 03 The same hybrid vehicle, parked in front of Grainger Hall to generate interest.

The partnership, which provides both engineering and business students with valuable, cross-college learning opportunities to better prepare them for professional success, will continue in the 2014–2015 academic year.

"I've spent the past six weeks working on the team, and, in that short time, I've come to realize that one of the greatest benefits of this relationship is having both groups of students challenge each other to reach a higher level of performance," says Eric Buechele (MBA '15), business leader on the Hybrid Vehicle Team this year. "We constantly ask each other, ‘Is this the best way we can solve this problem or tackle this obstacle?' It's been an amazing learning opportunity."