Published 12/14/11

A head for the brewing business

SMITHFIELD, R.I.  (Dec. 14, 2011) –  Should Narragansett Beer build a Rhode Island brewery?

An award-winning case study developed by two Bryant University management professors helps students explore this scenario and three others in order to learn about supply chain management and operations management.

"Narragansett Brewing Company: The Rebirth of a Brand," written by Christopher J. Roethlein and John K. Visich, associate professors of management in the College of Business, grew out of research conducted in 2009 by four Bryant MBA students*. Working with Roethlein and Visich, the students collected information on the founding of the original Narragansett Brewing Company in Cranston, R.I., in 1890; the company's rise in popularity as the official beer of the Boston Braves and Boston Red Sox; its subsequent decline in the 1970s; and its closure in 1983. They also interviewed the company's current CEO, Mark Hellendrung, who in 2005 purchased the rights and licenses to Narragansett Beer and revitalized the brand.

The company has since expanded rapidly, which, along with other issues, makes predicting supply and demand complex and difficult.

Based on that research, Roethlein and Visich created a case study in which students examine the qualitative and quantitative aspects of four real-world options facing Narragansett Beer:

  • continue with the current outsourced brewing and logistics system;
  • continue with the current outsourced brewing, but change the distribution system;
  • switch production to a large national brewer;
  • build a brewery in Rhode Island.

Case study wins international teaching award

The case study and the teaching note that accompanies it recently won the 2011 Best Teaching Case Award from the Decision Sciences Institute. Selection of the winning case study is based on several factors, according to the organization's website:

  • It addresses an important and timely business or managerial issue;
  • It engages students in an intellectually challenging way;
  • It integrates scientific approaches to real-world decision making;
  • It is likely to receive widespread and effective use.

Roethlein and Visich use the case in undergraduate and graduate courses that focus on operations management, supply chain management and logistics. Visich says the case also is an effective tool for teaching:

  • management and customer loyalty in a marketing course;
  • in a business strategy course discussing whether to remain a niche player or become a part of a larger company;
  • in a management or entrepreneurship course focusing on effective leadership or creative management styles.

The case and teaching note are available through Operations Management Education Review.

(* The MBA students — Joelle Fontana, Joseph Vigliotti, Harish Mahadevan and Ian Poole — graduated in 2010.)