Getting from here to there
Research organization working to raise the profile of logistics
- June 28, 2014
The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Logistics Systems (CCALS) got a boost last October when the Virginia Port Authority joined the organization.
Mark Manasco, the president and executive director of CCALS, hopes the applied research organization’s newest member will encourage other members “to think outside of domestic best practices and consider a global perspective where logistics and supply chain is concerned.”
The port authority brings a physical logistics component to CCALS with its deep-water facilities, technology and automated supply-chain systems. The port already has seen an increase in traffic from Panamax ships, huge vessels designed to pass through an expanded Panama Canal, making Virginia a prime East Coast location for the distribution of goods.
The port will be an even bigger player in the state’s economy when the Panama Canal’s expansion is completed late next year, allowing for an increase in traffic. “It opens up Central Virginia and puts it on the map in a lot of ways,” Manasco says. “It is a good partner to have in our organization.”
In addition to the Port Authority, current CCALS industry/government members include Logistics Management Resources, government consulting firm LMI, the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee and the Crater Planning District Commission. Four Virginia universities (Virginia Commonwealth, Virginia State, Longwood and University of Virginia) also are members.
Following CCAM model
Based in Prince George, CCALS follows on the successful model of the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), a collaborative research organization prompted by Rolls-Royce’s decision to build a jet engine component plant in Prince George.
CCALS’ goal is to bring together the research expertise of universities, businesses and government entities to foster the creation of goods and services. “We like to say we are industry-directed and university-executed,” says Manasco. “We have everybody at the table at a level that makes a difference. We have people creating jobs and people creating curriculum.”
It offers its members three categories of research — generic, directed (an issue specific to a member company) and collaborative, where the organization serves as a channel for federally funded, state and association research.
For example, VCU (along with other CCALS universities) is talking with the Defense Logistics Agency, a combat support agency. VCU is looking at the agency’s needs, such as access to strategic metals like tin and titanium, while examining “what our capabilities are,” says Chip Minor, a CCALS board member and the chair of VCU’s department of supply chain management and analytics.
The approach of CCALS and CCAM to research has resonated with corporations. “What makes both organizations unique is their intellectual-property policy,” says Barry Johnson, chairman of the board of CCALS and former chairman of the board of CCAM. “They give corporate members the ability to fund directed research anywhere in the network and own the research outright. With pre-competitive generic research, the intellectual property is owned by CCALS but made available royalty-free with a nonexclusive worldwide license to member companies.”
Other universities and states are trying to create organizations similar to CCAM and CCALS, but none presently have the same type of policy.
CCALS also is a separate corporation while some partnership organizations are centered under the umbrella of a specific university. “With CCALS, every university member is an equal partner around the table and that is a key component,” Johnson says.
CCALS hopes to attract businesses in growth industries such as health care, transportation and energy. Its location, within driving range of two-thirds of the U.S. consuming public, is a draw for companies considering relocation or establishing new operations. “It’s a good place to put your base of operations if you distribute goods,” Manasco says.
CCALS also is talking with General Electric about becoming a test site for the logistics application of the Industrial Internet, which helps companies and machines exchange information through a secure online connection. “GE has been to a couple of CCALS board meetings and presented information,” says Manasco.
Another goal for the organization is workforce development. Officials hope it will help define jobs of the future based on global standards and look at ways to build skills in the workforce. “We are looking at ways to leverage what people are doing now. When you talk about common problems and ways to approach things, nothing but good comes of it,” Manasco says.
Virginia Commonwealth University and Fort Lee worked together to create a new master’s degree program in supply-chain management. This fall Army officers enrolled in the theater logistics program at Fort Lee will be able to attend VCU for the first time. They will earn their master’s degree within one calendar year. “They will come to VCU in the evening one night a week for the first course and then take the remaining courses in the spring and summer,” says Minor. “It’s a fairly intensive program.”
The Army believes it is important for its officers to attend an academic facility and work with civilian students. “We are expecting in the vicinity of 10 soldiers, but it’s too soon to tell yet,” Minor says. “As we go along we expect that number to go up considerably.”
Even though the master’s degree program was developed with Fort Lee, VCU will make it available to anyone interested in supply-chain occupations. “It’s an opportunity for anyone taking the class to interface with the Army and vice versa,” Minor says. “The Army is a significant customer to a lot of companies.”
The program also is expected to benefit Army officers who hope to retire from the military in their early 40s. “This degree will give them something marketable that they can take to the corporate world,” Minor says.