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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jan. 16, 200912:00 PM EST

UNF logistics lab to help program, businesses reach new heights

by: David Chapman

by David Chapman

Staff Writer

When the Transportation and Logistics program was designated as one of the University of North Florida’s flagship programs in 2006, program officials believed they could continue to elevate the program into the top 10 in the nation.

With the recent opening of its new Logistics Information Technology Solutions Laboratory, that goal – and others – are now more attainable.

The program currently has 125 students and provides training for careers in supply chain management, international logistics, transportation and physical distribution. Logistics refers to the planning, coordination and implementation of the details of a business.

The lab resembles an executive board room with several workstations where students can learn from supply chain management software, including Oracle and SAP, two of the industry’s leaders. Twenty-four computers with the designated software are available to students, and the student-to-computer and class ratio allows for competition.

“The idea behind this facility is that it provides logistics software training of all types,” said Dr. Yemisi Bolumole, UNF associate professor of logistics. “From students up to the experts.”

The software will let students receive the technical training that local employers seek when looking for employees, said Dr. Robert Frankel, Richard deRaismes Kip professor of marketing and logistics, and is something the business community sought.

The logistics program holds a career fair every February and October and surveys business leaders on what they were seeking in graduates.

“Technology training kept coming back up,” said Frankel. “They said they wanted graduates to be more tech ready in a broad range of software.”

The lab’s software will be used by students outside of graduation and will help them get a better start in careers – benefitting both the students and the business community.

“Local and regional logistics are a big part of the business community and the program is fully integrated with them,” said Frankel.

The $330,000 lab was built through funds from the flagship program status, but the software, if paid for normally, would far exceed what the program could afford.

“For a medium sized company, the software would cost about $8 million,” said Bolumole, who referenced a 2005 study.

UNF’s software tab didn’t come near that, though, as Frankel said software companies “have a strong outreach toward academics.”

Instead of a multimillion dollar bill, the program pays a $10,000 annual fee for access to the same software.

When it became a flagship program, the rise to national prominence also leads to faculty looking outside the school for funding – something that can be difficult in current market conditions.

But, the program has recently received several offers, including one from a national company that deals in warehouse management systems for an in-kind donation of software. Both Bolumole and Frankel said they were surprised by the offer.

“We need it but we didn’t believe we could get it this soon,” said Bolumole. “Software to us, right now, really is better than money.”

The price of the software would have been more than the program could have afforded.

“We’re talking some really strong numbers,” he said.

Two of the area’s most promising business deals from 2008, the Matsui and Hanjin deals with the Jacksonville Port Authority, have further created a need for a properly trained and ready workforce – needs the UNF flagship program can and will provide assistance with, said Bolumole.

“We have a strong relationship with the Port (Authority),” she said. “Our program is going to play a prominent role in the port industry for a long time.

“Our location helps and we’re pushing out graduates with specific skills to help the industry.”

In its rise to the top 10, program faculty and students will continue to foster relationships with local and regional businesses – something both Bolumole and Frankel said they’re proud to do.

“With logistics, we help the business community 24/7,”said Bolumole.

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