TOM Group Reaches Global Student Case Competition Finals


A group of four technology and operations management students from Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Business Administration fell just short of a fairytale ending in their quest to win the APICS’ TFC Global Student Case Competition.

Kirk Baghdassarian, James Saga, Erik Jorgensen and Tiffany Kao traveled to Las Vegas, Nev. the first week in October to represent CPP in the event designed by the American Production and Inventory Control Society to test the knowledge of the world’s leading supply chain management students.

The competition used software simulations that provided teams the chance to turn around an unprofitable juice company by renegotiating fruit purchases, accounting for inventory damaged in transit and nearly every other aspect needed to raise key performance indicators. Contestants then had to justify decisions to a panel of industry experts during an equally-weighted presentation.

“Having a team make the finals at a global competition speaks for itself about our department and the quality of student it attracts,” TOM department chair Abolhassan Halati said. “Beating the world’s best undergraduate and graduate schools to get there is quite an achievement.”

In order to receive an invite for the Vegas event, the team had to win a March regional qualifier that featured universities from the western United States, Asia and Latin America. Organizers said it was the first time they had seen an undergraduate team emerge the outright victor.

According to captain Baghdassarian, the team didn’t change its core strategy heading into the Global Finals where they were the only students not pursuing and MBA. They focused on controllable factors like cutting costs versus counting on sales increases in route to a Top Six finish and traveled to Nevada confident in themselves and the TOM department.

“We used everything we learned at Cal Poly Pomona,” Baghdassarian said. “The way it’s taught to us, instead of using equations and hard rules, we learned the concepts and used our critical thinking skills rather than looking through a book checking off boxes.”

Baghdassarian is entering his final year of school and is the president of OMS, the TOM department student club. The first place finish in regionals has already been a talking point during interviews and companies attending the APICS convention also like recruiting competitors given the tumultuous road to the finals.

Saga and Jorgensen became alumni in 2015, but continued practicing with their teammates online in preparation for the competition. Both made the trip with full support from their new employers… under the condition they stayed for the convention portion and report back with results.

Kao is the youngest of the group and the only female. The second-year TOM student is now treasurer of OMS and will team up with Baghdassarian and two new students with the hopes of recreating the unprecedented run to the Global Finals with better results.

“We feel proud to represent what’s basically a public California school against all these private graduate schools with high tuition costs,” Baghdassarian said. “Because of the preparation from our TOM classes, I really think we had an advantage because our program is based on concepts, the application in cases and relating it to real life.”