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Professor works to link academia to supply chain industry


By CHUCK CRUMBO
ccrumbo@scbiznews.com
Published March 28, 2012

CLEMSON — State universities and colleges can play a key role in shaping South Carolina’s future transportation plan and supporting the supply chain industry, said a logistics expert at Clemson University.

Scott Mason serves as the inaugural Fluor Endowed Chair in Supply Chain and Logistics in Clemson’s industrial engineering department.

“There are fantastic opportunities here given all the modes of transportation, the companies and industries that are here,” Mason said.

Scott Mason, Fluor Endowed Chair in Supply Chain and Logistics at Clemson
Scott Mason, Fluor Endowed Chair in Supply Chain and Logistics at Clemson
The state Department of Transportation is developing a 25-year statewide multimodal transportation plan. The plan will prioritize future transportation infrastructure requirements and serve as a tool to spur job creation, business expansion and education. It also will analyze infrastructure requirements, as well as rail, freight and transit components.

Academia’s role is built into the transportation plan because it “requires the consultants to coordinate with the universities’ transportation faculty,” Mason said.

That, of course, includes him and other supply chain experts at Clemson, the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business and other colleges around the state.

“There’s expertise in this state,” Mason said, adding that industry and universities can work together “to make tangible real savings — not just come up with academic studies where we write a paper that has no value.”

“We have a toolbox for solving problems that is pretty powerful,” he said. “We think we can offer value given different capabilities, objectives and mathematical, model-based capabilities.”

An expert in modeling large-scale systems, Mason joined the Clemson faculty from the industrial engineering department at the University of Arkansas, where he was chairman of graduate studies and associate department head.

Before moving into the ranks of academia, Mason began his career in the semiconductor industry.

He received his Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Arizona State University, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas.

Mason’s position at Clemson is funded through the SmartState program that links the state’s research universities to industry. Fluor Corp. contributed $2 million to match $2 million from the South Carolina Centers of Economic Excellence program, which was rebranded SmartState.

Although he has been on the job since July 2010, Mason finds that people are unaware there’s even an endowed chair for supply chain optimization and logistics at one of the state’s research universities.

A year ago, he said he was at a conference when a legislator suggested that the state find money for endowed chair for supply chain. Earlier this year, a top S.C. official said at an economic outlook conference at USC he was thinking about finding money to support an endowed chair in transportation, distribution and logistics.

Part of the problem might have been the timing of the Clemson announcement. The press release went out Aug. 30, 2010, just days before the college football season kicked off.

Mason said he doesn’t have a staff yet, but he’s working to link the universities’ supply chain expertise with industry.

“I want to be flying the flag for the state,” Mason said. “We are about economic development, creation of jobs and helping our state be better, faster, cheaper and more efficient.”

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