Marquette Business

A Marquette alum and The Smart Factory: A showcase for supply chain’s future

Most people walk by O’Brien Hall and see the finished product, a 110,000-square-foot building that symbolizes the future of business education at Marquette.

Contained in that larger picture, though, are endless details: 182 tons of rebar, more than 9,000 bricks on the exterior façade and 251 doors, just to name a few.

To Marquette alumnus Mark Cotteleer, Bus Ad ’88, his alma mater’s business school is a symphony of component parts, from the largest steel beam to the wall-mounted pin cushions in the dean’s suite offices — all a miracle of modern supply chain management.

“Look at all the millions of pieces that went into that building standing there today. That didn’t happen by magic,” Cotteleer says. “Ultimately, someone had to physically deliver it to the corner of 16th and Wisconsin, then snap it together. That’s amazing. That’s supply chain.”

As a managing director of supply chain operations at Deloitte Consulting, Cotteleer now has a different big building to showcase: Deloitte’s The Smart Factory @ Wichita, a state-of-the-art facility that is advancing the future of industry. The Smart Factory features a fully functioning manufacturing production line that combines cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, cloud and edge applications, robotics, vision solutions and more to improve manufacturing performance.

Cotteleer hopes it will be a model for companies that contract with Deloitte — something tangible they can see and touch to envision their own digital transformations.

“This will help our clients and other stakeholders understand the promise and possibility of smart manufacturing,” Cotteleer says.

A group of Marquette University officials flew out to Wichita in late January to meet Cotteleer and tour the factory at Wichita State University, which hosts The Smart Factory on its Innovation Campus, to bring together Deloitte’s technology experience with the university’s research, educational and innovation capabilities. That group included Tim Hanley, acting Keyes Dean of the College of Business Administration and a former global industry leader at Deloitte.

“At Marquette, we are very focused on how we might best collaborate with industry to offer our students the very best applied learning experience,” Hanley says. “We visited Wichita State to better understand their industry partnerships, and to see one of the best smart factory experiences in the country.”

John Knapp, executive director of Marquette’s Innovation Alley, also made the trip, hoping to bring lessons from The Smart Factory’s partnership with Wichita State back to Milwaukee.

“You have talent, technology, resourcing and funding; all of those things have to be connected to one another,” Knapp says. “What I’m looking to do is understand how Wichita State put those pieces together over time. That story of success is something I want to dig into to think about how I can move Innovation Alley toward a more advanced ecosystem.”

Cotteleer graduated from Marquette long before there was an Innovation Alley on campus. He got a finance degree and wrote computer code for his first job at Accenture Consulting. However, he soon found where his real passion was: the shop floor.

“I was never going to get that work because of my finance degree,” Cotteleer says.

Cotteleer remedied that problem by getting three more degrees: an MBA and a Master of Science in industrial engineering from the University of Michigan, followed by a DBA from Harvard Business School. However, Cotteleer still considers his Marquette degree to be foundational.

“I got a world-class education at Marquette, full stop,” Cotteleer says. “I went from Marquette to some of the greatest universities by reputation in the world. The preparation that I got at Marquette was a huge difference-maker for me and I didn’t realize it at the time.”

Today’s students can find similar value in a Marquette education. Marquette Business’ undergraduate and graduate supply chain management programs are ranked in the top 20 nationally by U.S. News and World Report, the best marks in Wisconsin. According to the latest survey data, nearly 100 percent of supply chain graduates find employment within three months of graduation or proceed immediately to graduate school.

Part of Marquette’s status as an elite place to study supply chain management is owed to its location in the heart of Milwaukee, which was long known as the “Machine Shop of the World” due to its substantial manufacturing base. Harley-Davidson, Regal Rexnord, A.O. Smith and Johnson Controls are just some of the multinational companies that have major manufacturing operations in the city, ensuring a durable job market for supply chain graduates.

Just as machines are changing labor on the factory floor, digitally driven assembly lines are disrupting decades of supply chain practices. Knapp says that for Milwaukee to keep its status as a manufacturing hub, the city will have to transform from the world’s machine shop to its “maker space” — an area that employs technology beyond traditional machining.

“I think we still make things here and we’re really good at that and it’s important, but we need to move companies in this region along on that digital transformation journey,” Knapp says.

While Deloitte built The Smart Factory to be a model for its clients, Cotteleer hopes it can also be a model to his city and his alma mater, showing them both what it will take to have staying power in an ever-changing industry.

“I believe that Marquette has a role to play in advancing the cause of manufacturing in southeastern Wisconsin and therefore the United States,” Cotteleer says. “The tools that we’re using in Wichita should be deployed if manufacturing is going to be a success in southeastern Wisconsin.”

Before Cotteleer employed those tools and before he came to Deloitte or earned degrees from Harvard or Michigan, he learned the essence of supply chain management at Marquette.

“Supply chain is about getting the right product to the right place at the right time for the right cost and for the right person,” Cotteleer says.

It’s a mantra that has informed Cotteleer’s professional life ever since, and one that dozens of Marquette graduates take with them into the workforce every year.