Supply chain speaker talks Covid

Ava Rieger | Staff Photographer | Matthew Drake (left) and Chris Gawrych (right) talk about Covid disruptions on the small business supply chain. Supply Chain Counsel attended to hear Gawrych's 20 years of experience working in the field.

Max Marcello | Staff Writer

Managing a supply chain is a daunting task for any organization, regardless of size.

On Wednesday, students were presented with a glimpse as to how real-world companies navigate the tightrope of managing supply.

Matthew Drake and the Duquesne Supply Chain Council hosted Chris Gawrych, the production manager at Four Horsemen Productions and D13 toys. Gawrych addressed students on how the international supply chain impacts small businesses.

Four Horsemen Productions is a small New Jersey-based toy company that produces action figures for their original product line series Mythic Legions, Cosmic Legions and Fictura Obscura.

Gawrych, who also serves as the company’s factory liaison, has made over 45 trips overseas to China to ensure a smooth supply.

Four Horsemen Productions goes extra lengths to avoid large retailers such as Target or Walmart.

“We don’t have to deal with large retailers because they control a lot of production and take a large chunk out of your pocket,” Gawrych said.

The event was organized by Drake, a supply chain professor at the Palumbo Business School. A longtime fan of Four Horsemen Production action figures, Drake reached out to Gawrych for the event.

Drake got in contact because of his personal interests as well as a noticeable surge in curiosity in his classes around supply chain management in large part due to recent events.

Covid was a historic disruption to the international supply chain causing mass shortages of millions of goods.

“We saw that during the pandemic, when we had disruptions in one part of the world…sort of butterflying or mushrooming into disruptions. There were shortages of seemingly everything,” Drake said. “One action in one part of the world can really have major impact in other parts that affect whether or not you will have the ability to buy a car, soap to wash your hands and the toilet paper you need.”

Gawrych said that a small company he can leverage personal connections with the factory managers in addition to a flexible schedule. His greatest piece of advice was the importance of being adaptable to rapid changes in supply.

Covid proved to be both a blessing and a curse to the company as it increased the company’s demand and did not impede the supply of raw materials.

In addition to his role at Four Horsemen Productions, Gawrych is also an entrepreneur spearheading D13, a successful Kickstarter project that produces Biblical action figures. He advised students who are considering starting or participating in small businesses the common pitfalls of Kickstarter in addition to the importance of consistently producing quality products.

Nixon Barnes, a senior supply chain management major, was one of many students in attendance.

Barnes has been a member of the Supply Chain Council since his junior year and looks forward to events where he can learn.

“Gawrych explained the intricate details about production in China and how manufacturers can utilize profitable connections in China to deliver a lower-priced product to American consumers,” he said.

Barnes also explained how his personal experience with supply chain shortages during the pandemic reaffirmed his belief in the importance of a dynamic supply chain.

The speaking event focused on providing insight to students making their way into the field.

The council’s president, senior Olivia Greene, talked about the networking mission of the organization.

“We tend to bring in alumni that are still connected to the university that are local to Pittsburgh,” she said, “and oftentimes will also have people who are hiring managers that can hire Duquesne students and are looking for Duquesne talent.”

Secretary Jeremy Rawicz also noted the importance of giving students opportunities to network with smaller companies.

“One of the reasons we were excited to have Four Horsemen Productions and Chris Gawrych was so they could provide a different perspective on supply chain,” Rawicz said. “A lot of times we have large companies and miss out on this perspective.”

The Duquesne Supply Chain Council is sponsoring another event on Oct. 11 in the Power Center from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. fourteen businesses are attending to give students insight into real-world supply chain management and an opportunity to network.

Students interested in supply chain management are encouraged to attend.