Immersive Field Course: China and Global Supply Chains: Two Sides of the Taiwan Strait - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Immersive Field Course: China and Global Supply Chains: Two Sides of the Taiwan Strait

Course Number 6054

Professor of Management Practice Willy C. Shih
Eight on-campus sessions: Wednesdays from 5:30 - 6:50 pm - August 31 (shopping day), September 7 and 14, October 5 and 12, November 2, 16, and 30.
Dates: Arrival on Sunday, January 8, departure on Friday, January 20, 2017
Program fee & travel costs: See details on Course Credit and Fees
Credits: 3.0
Enrollment: 45

Career Focus

This course aims to provide students with an in depth understanding of key global supply chains for information and communications technology (ICT) products, as well as other consumer goods manufactured in greater China.

This course will be valuable to students who plan to work in the technology sector, and who would like to understand the design and production footprint of products such as smartphones, laptop computers, semiconductors, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and other consumer electronics like televisions. It will also be of great value to students interested in industrial competitiveness and competition policy at the national and global levels.

We will examine this area at a time of seismic change, with major implications not only for greater China but also for consuming nations everywhere, especially the United States. We expect rare opportunities to get an insider look at many of these production facilities - access that is difficult after students join the workforce.

Educational Objectives

Our modern world of computers, communications devices, and electronic sensors, displays, and other gadgets rely on a unique supply chain that spans the Taiwan Strait. Over 60% of world semiconductor foundry capacity is located within three science parks on the island of Taiwan, and the vast majority of the world’s supply of notebook computers are designed and manufactured by just a handful of Taiwanese companies. While much of the high value-add work is done on the island, Taiwanese companies were the pioneers in the mobilization of vast armies of Chinese workers on the mainland to perform assembly work for leading branded sellers such as Apple, Dell, HP, Nike, Sony, and countless others. Taiwanese companies historically have accounted for a substantial share of electronic device exports from China, and firms such as Hon Hai Precision Industries (Foxconn), Quanta Computer, and Pegatron are best known for manufacturing Apple iPhones, iPads, iMacs, and MacBooks.

The launch last year of “Made in China 2025” initiated a powerful force for change. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) initiative to cultivate its own domestic supply chain will lower the country’s dependence on imported parts and create a manufacturing revolution on the mainland as firms there build up the so called “red supply chain.” The Made In China 2025 plan envisions mainland firms mastering critical technologies in semiconductors ranging from IC design to wafer fabrication, IC packaging and testing - all areas where Taiwanese firms are currently the world leaders. The initiative is backed by an enormous (and virtually unlimited) government-funded war chest for technology acquisitions. This has led to calls for the Taiwanese government to establish its own “national team,” and it has created immense political and economic pressure on firms operating across the strait.

Our educational objective is to see the existing supply chain, and learn about the forces for change first hand from firms at multiple levels of these supply chains.

While the forces for change are barely noticed in the United States today, they promise to have major implications for firms like Apple, Amazon, Cisco, Dell, Google, HP Inc., and Microsoft, as well as a major influence on the competitive posture of the United States in numerous critical technologies. Students will finish the course with an in-depth understanding of the big picture supply chain landscape as well as develop a solid understanding of the issues at an operational level.

Course Content and Organization

Fall Sessions: The course includes case-based on-campus sessions during the Fall in order to familiarize students with the basics of semiconductor and ICT technology, common business models like OEM and ODM, and provide an introduction to some of the companies that students will work with. Due to the strong technology focus, students who do not have prior exposure in the area should be committed to devoting the necessary time in order to gain a solid baseline understanding of this material. We are also planning a number of class guests during the Fall.

Projects: Students will assemble into small teams based on interests and compatible skillsets in order to conduct fieldwork for projects with organizations whose supply chains span the Taiwan Strait. This work will begin in the Fall. During the immersion, students will work in Shenzhen, China and Hsinchu, Taiwan with a weekend stop in Hong Kong.

Tours: Students will have the opportunity to visit a wide range of state of the art manufacturing facilities in the Pearl River Delta of Southern China, and Taiwan.

Deliverables: Student teams will present their project recommendations to clients during a capstone event on January 19, 2017, and feedback will be incorporated into a package that summarizes the final recommendations and key insights. Final grades will take into account classroom participation during the Fall, project work in Taiwan and China, the final presentation, and a final reflection. Students who exhibit high overall engagement as evidenced by a high degree of intellectual curiosity and motivation to learn what they do not know will do well.

Course Information Session

The first class session will be held on Wednesday, August 31, 2016 (during shopping week). This will serve as an information session so that students can gauge their interest and willingness to commit to the expected workload. We expect to have project partners committed by the time of this session.

The Immersive Field Course Model

In contrast to FIELD 2, Immersive Field Courses are customized according to individual faculty research and are designed to enable students to take an active role in the construction of their learning. This course is built with a specific focus in mind and teams of students are called upon to collaborate directly with local company partners to scope projects, collect data and organize work plans before and during the immersion. Longer in duration than FIELD 2, these courses also tailor learning via field-based exercises, panel presentations, guest lectures, alumni events and plenary visits to relevant companies and organizations.

Course Credit and Fees

Students who successfully complete this course (including participation in all on-campus course sessions during the Fall and Spring terms) will earn 3.0 course credits.

HBS will provide land logistical components for this course (including accommodations, select meals, and local travel) but students will need to contribute a fee of $2,400  towards defraying a part of these costs. Students who have an existing financial aid application on file may apply for additional financial support to participate in this course. Please see the Financial Aid Website (login required) for more information on financial support for Immersive Field Courses.

For detailed information about what the course program fee includes and excludes, as well as information about student accommodations, please visit the GEO website.