Charlene Vickers of Johnson & Johnson (left), with MBA students Renee Flores and Gal Atia and Len DeCandia of Johnson & Johnson.

Rutgers Supply Chain expertise is driving force in state's diverse supplier project

Rutgers Business School’s supply chain expertise is helping eight of New Jersey’s leading companies increase the amount of business they do with small, diverse-owned companies across the state.

The companies, which form the New Jersey CEO Council, set a goal to spend an additional $250 million on contracts with diverse-owned companies by 2025. Soon after Governor Phil Murphy announced the commitment late last year, his office reached out to Rutgers Business School to get the help of supply chain management professors and students.

Rutgers Business School professors and graduate students are working to establish the Diverse Procurement Center of Excellence, which is at the heart of the state’s effort to help diverse companies and foster more economic equity within the business community.

“Our Center for Supply Chain Management has an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on New Jersey’s economy and strengthen the diverse business community through this project,” said Lei Lei, the dean of Rutgers Business School. “We look forward to the results that will come from this powerful collaboration with government and private business.” 

“The expertise of our faculty and the talent of our students is well known in the supply chain industry,” Lei said. “Our involvement in the Diverse Procurement Center of Excellence allows RBS to demonstrate that knowledge to government leaders, the business community and the residents of New Jersey.”  

Professor John Impellizzeri, who heads the Rutgers Center for Supply Chain Management, is leading the work to develop the new center of excellence. He chairs the project advisory board, working closely with chief procurement officers, state officials and advocacy organizations, including John Harmon, founder and CEO of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, to establish proper metrics and execute on plans approved by the board.

“Rutgers Business School’s Center for Supply Chain Management and its expertise is getting the attention it rightly deserves,” Impellizzeri said. “The state is leaning on us in a very intentional way. They see us as an arm of the state government, and they’re getting the competency in supply chain management that they lack.”

Impellizzeri described the goal of the state and CEO Council to increase spending on diverse procurement by $250 million by 2025 as “very doable.”

As the Diverse Procurement Center of Excellence is built out, it will:

  • Work with advocates of diverse business owners to vet and increase the number of minority suppliers and businesses being considered by the companies.
  • Maintain lists of diverse suppliers, enhance the ability of companies to choose vetted diverse suppliers and serve as a portal to match suppliers with opportunities available at the eight companies.
  • Provide a platform to track each company’s diverse procurement spending and monitor their progress in increasing business with diverse suppliers and businesses.
  • Share best practices, including ideas from academia, among the companies
  • Enhance the potential of diverse suppliers to acquire new business with the companies by raising awareness of the state’s diverse business registration process and by providing training in business building and procurement bidding skills.

Daniel Ackerman, an MBA student who helped to manage the project during the summer, said his classmates worked closely with company executives on spend analysis. They identified every dollar the companies spent in New Jersey, he said, and then determined how much of that business went to diverse vendors.

“The state is leaning on us in a very intentional way. They see us as an arm of the state government, and they’re getting the competency in supply chain management that they lack.” John Impellizzeri, professor of professional practice, Supply Chain Management.

The students pored through 90,000 lines of data during the project, Ackerman said, and pulled together public data bases to identify different types of diverse businesses that could be added as suppliers for the companies to consider. “We were able to tell with each company where they were doing a good job on diverse spending and where they weren’t,” he said.

Each student team developed a “road map” detailing how its company could increase business with current diverse vendors. The students also culled through lists of diverse owned businesses to increase the center’s list of diverse businesses and to make companies aware of other prospective suppliers they could do business with.

Gal Atia focused her MBA studies on supply chain management and jumped at the opportunity to be part of “such an influential project” at Johnson & Johnson. “We really got a lot of exposure to the company,” she said.

Atia described weekly Zoom calls between the students and Johnson & Johnson’s director, supplier diversity and inclusion as well as a one-on-one meeting with the company’s global chief procurement officer. “They treated us like consultants,” she said. “They all made us feel like the work we were doing was very valuable.”

Atia’s teammate, Renee Flores, said she gained hands-on experience in supply chain management and procurement. “I learned what Johnson & Johnson has been doing for the last decade on supplier diversity,” Flores said, “and I was able to analyze data and be part of creating a company specific roadmap for the company to achieve future goals in supplier diversity.”

A total of 20 graduate students spent the summer working on the project. Sixteen worked closely with executives from the eight CEO Council companies, analyzing spending and suggesting ways the companies could do more business with diverse suppliers. Four students were devoted to building public and private facing portals for monitoring diverse procurement spending at the companies. The work will be handed off to another group of students to continue as the fall semester unfolds.

“The students who are interested in the work of the center are the leaders we want to attract and nurture at Johnson & Johnson – those who can blend the science of the work with their passion to improve the world.” Len DeCandia, global chief procurement officer, Johnson & Johnson.

Rutgers has agreed to spend five years running the center for excellence. For the students who participate, the project fulfils an experiential learning experience required as part of the three-credit Industry Client Project course run by Professor Joseph Agresta.

In addition to Johnson & Johnson, Prudential, Merck, Campbell’s, Verizon, PSEG, BD, and RWJBarnabas Health are involved in the project. The companies are contributing a total of $125,000 each year to develop the center of excellence.

Len DeCandia, global chief procurement officer at Johnson & Johnson, said Rutgers Business School’s involvement is “a testament to the trust and talents of the globally recognized faculty and students.”

“The strength and reputation of the program gives it the ability to pioneer a collaboration among government, private industry, and academia to benefit New Jersey’s diverse communities,” he said. “Taking this on while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic shows a resilience that can be an inspiration for others to leverage this model.”

Impellizzeri said the project offers students more than real-world learning. They get an “inside track” to executives at major companies in New Jersey. Meanwhile, he said, the company executives get “extended interviews” with Rutgers students with supply chain talent.

DeCandia agreed that all of the companies “get the benefit of new ideas and perspectives” working with Rutgers students.

“The students who are interested in the work of the center are the leaders we want to attract and nurture at Johnson & Johnson – those who can blend the science of the work with their passion to improve the world,” he said.



Press: For all media inquiries see our Media Kit