Wright State supply chain graduates filling the ranks at Crown Equipment

Ben Rhinehart, vice president-supply chain for Crown Equipment, says the company benefits from its relationship with Wright State’s Raj Soin College of Business and the Department of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management.

Crown Equipment Corporation has a successful history with graduates of Wright State University’s Raj Soin College of Business, hiring more and more to help power the company’s supply chain management operation.

The department currently has 20 employees with Wright State degrees, more than from any other university. These Wright State graduates hold jobs ranging from sourcing specialists to buyer planners to managers of materials and master scheduling. Several Wright State students also intern at Crown.

“This relationship has been ongoing and has deepened to a great extent,” said Daniel Asamoah, Ph.D., professor and interim chair of the Department of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management in the Raj Soin College of Business. “Crown is a great example of our industry partners who help provide experiential learning opportunities to our undergrad and graduate students.”

Supply chain professionals manage the flow of goods and services. They are involved in the movement and storage of raw materials, work-in-process inventory and moving finished goods from the point of origin to consumption.

Based in New Bremen, Ohio, Crown is the fifth largest manufacturer of powered industrial forklifts in the world, employing more than 15,000 globally. The company has 22 manufacturing facilities and more than 500 retail operations in 84 countries.

Crown’s relationship with Wright State has been further strengthened by the collaborative effort utilizing the university’s data analytics and visualization environment to prototype a supply chain risk system. It served as the predecessor to Crown’s globally deployed supply chain risk management system, which supplies the team with real-time supply chain data across many platforms, including its mobile device.

The relationship now extends well beyond the initial collaboration.

“We enjoy working with WSU for several reasons,” but the cooperation goes beyond that, said Ben Rhinehart, vice president-supply chain for Crown Equipment.

He said most of the Wright State graduates are somewhat local to the company’s headquarters and many intend to remain in the area. Local Wright State graduates are usually familiar with Crown and even have family and friends who work for the company. They demonstrate the strong work ethic that is reflected throughout the company’s workforce and tend to complement Crown’s culture and community values, Rhinehart said.

Rhinehart said Wright State’s bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in supply chain management help in the continuing education of Crown workers. He believes the classroom access provided by the university helps Crown share industry experience and relevant topics with the students that will help them transition to Crown upon graduation and immediately contribute.

Rhinehart said that Wright State embraces regional businesses and their needs through its supply chain management advisory board and welcomes regional business participation and assistance such as guest speaking opportunities and field trips.

In addition to his responsibilities at Crown, Rhinehart commits a lot of time to Wright State. He teaches supply chain management as an adjunct faculty member at the Dayton Campus and Lake Campus and serves on the Corporate Advisory Board of the Department of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management.

Supply chain employees can have a dramatic effect on a company’s bottom line because U.S. manufacturing companies spend up to 60% of their product costs on outside suppliers, Rhinehart said.

There are also a number of different functions in supply chain management — logistics, master scheduling, materials planning, tactical purchasing, strategic sourcing and global trade.

Wright State alumnus and Crown sourcing specialist Ryan Knapke said the university prepared him for success in his career by encouraging a collaborative learning environment.

“Oftentimes, I am working amongst cross-functional teams, and collaboration is key in obtaining a successful outcome,” he said. “The group work that was done while I was in school, I believe, has a direct correlation to myself being comfortable working with teams here at Crown.”

Rhinehart said Crown and its many Wright State student and alumni workers have more recently been under extreme pressure to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and its related supply chain challenges.

“I have been in manufacturing for 45 years and have never seen this level and duration of hyperactivity in keeping supply chains intact and functioning,” he said. “Crown was able to weather hundreds of days without pausing any production lines, even with a staggering number of suppliers affected by lockdowns and a lack of workers.”

Senior sourcing specialist Katie Link earned her bachelor’s degree in business management and her master’s degree in supply chain management at Wright State.

She said her graduate capstone project enabled her to do hands-on research and solve a real-life supply chain problem. She also noted that the graduate program taught her how to write, present and interact with senior management, which she does daily at Crown.

“Wright State gave me the skill set to be able to react to the current supply chain volatility we are experiencing today,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been prepared for success in my role without the Wright State supply chain program.”

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