In a pilot project carried out at the University of Northern Iowa, students employed video conferencing to communicate with their counterparts in Brazil. Through the auspices of a non-profit organization, they worked with Brazilian women to market their handicrafts in the U.S., according to Schrage. In weekly conferences, they reviewed marketing techniques in addition to such key details as the Harmonized Code System.
The students selected a range of handmade products, then delved into U.S. consumer tastes in order to sell them. Items included napkins, pillowcases and dish towels. Once they had the products in hand, participants undertook a research project which included samples and a survey that was conducted both in the U.S. and Brazil. Results were then analyzed and compared.
Although the Brazilian students had to be able to speak English, there were still language and cultural barriers to overcome. Time-zone differences were a particular challenge, says Schrage. "We had to keep adjusting the time for meetings. Sometimes the understanding of what the other party was supposed to do was not clear."
Yet another factor to consider was logistics. "It turns out the cost of shipping a box of the product was more than the price of the product," Schrage says. Students also dealt with issues of fair-trade certification, order lead times and the minimum volume of product that was needed to justify its importation. Nevertheless, the project proved to be a valuable learning experience for the students. Schrage now wants to expand the effort to include several countries.
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Keywords: supply chain, supply chain management, international trade, global logistics, transportation management, logistics management, supply chain planning, retail supply chain
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