Department of Supply Chain and Analytics partnering with Cass Information Systems to bolster research, experiential learning

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Haitao Li, Tony Urban

Professor Haitao Li and Cass Information Systems Executive Vice President Tony Urban have helped develop a new partnership between UMSL’s Department of Supply Chain and Analytics and Cass, a global leader in expense management and payment services.

Cass Information Systems has a rich history dating to its 1906 founding as a local St. Louis bank, and it has grown and evolved over more than a century to become a global leader in expense management and payment services.

It provides business intelligence to help its clients maximize efficiencies in their supply chains through freight audit and payment. The company also assists large corporations in managing their utility, telecom, mobility, cloud and waste expenses through advanced invoice processing capabilities.

The Department of Supply Chain and Analytics at the University of Missouri–St. Louis will have a chance to tap into that expertise to bolster research and enhance teaching as part of a new collaboration that will also benefit Cass by strengthening product development.

Together, they hope to help strengthen St. Louis’ place as a leading transportation hub nationally.

“Cass Information Systems is excited to partner with UMSL’s Department of Supply Chain and Analytics,” said Tony Urban, the company’s executive vice president and transportation information services business president. “Their emphasis on applied research and developing future supply chain leaders is in line with our core offering of helping shippers and carriers work better together.”

Part of the collaboration will allow UMSL faculty members to benefit from industry data to help inform or improve their research.

“A main role Cass plays is to bridge the gap between shippers and carriers by providing financing,” said Professor Haitao Li, who chairs the Department of Supply Chain and is also the founding director of the Laboratory of Advanced Supply Chain Analytics. “They’ve got lots of data, lots of valuable data at the transaction level. It’s very comprehensive, multi-year, multimodal – across trucking, rail, air and barge. It involves multiple industries for sure, multiple transportation methods. For trucking, for example, they track full truckload and less than truckload.

“It’s data that’s very, very relevant for research as well as classroom teaching.”

The pandemic showed everyone the importance of reliable supply chains, and any research that can help strengthen them and make them more resilient has the potential to have significant societal impact.

Li and his colleagues also believe in the value of experiential learning and have been intentional about working it into the curriculum, particularly for students in UMSL’s Master of Science in Supply Chain Analytics program. He sees potential for creating some case studies and tailored class projects in collaboration with Cass to expose students to the way industry operates.

“It’s going to significantly enhance the quality of our program and students’ experience,” Li said.

Urban, who earned his MBA at UMSL in 1998, has been key in driving the collaboration between UMSL and Cass. He has great familiarity with the knowledge and talent of UMSL’s faculty and students.

Though he began his career in accounting and has spent time in finance, his work in transportation information services over the past nine years at Cass made him a good fit to join UMSL’s Supply Chain and Analytics Advisory Board in 2019.

“He’s been one of the most active and engaged members of the board,” Li said. “We team our board members with our faculty to work on different initiatives, so he’s been actively involved in the student engagement working team, in particular, working with our supply chain transportation club. He is kind of a board liaison for that for that club and helped organize a variety of student activities.”

Urban has also hired several UMSL supply chain graduates to the Cass team full-time.

Li is grateful for the efforts of Chris Spilling, the vice chancellor for research and economic and community development, as well as Tamara Wilgers, the director of UMSL’s Office of Intellectual Property Management and Commercialization, for their efforts to work through the details of the formal agreement with Cass so that students and faculty will have the opportunity to benefit from the collaboration.

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