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Teaching with Data: Company Inventory Data Analysis

Resources & Strategies for Faculty Teaching Undergraduates

Company Inventory Data Analysis

Faculty Author: Hiroshi Ochiumi

Course: BUAD 315x Basics of Project and Operations Management for non-­‐majors

Department or School: Marshall School of Business

Student Population: undergraduates, mostly seniors and juniors

Duration: 2 weeks


  • In-­class discussion
  • Word or pdf file of final assignment
  • Excel spreadsheet file (optional)

Keywords: business, financial data, inventory, trends, correlations, causal relations, company, performance

Summary: Students are asked to work in pairs or small groups to pick a publicly-­‐traded company, collect the last 20 years of financial data, collect and plot inventory data for the same time period, analyze any trends, and identify any correlations or causal relations between inventory and other company performance indexes. Finally, students choose 10 companies and collect their inventory and other performance measures for the last year to determine correlations.

Assignment Goals:  One of the major goals of the course is to become more comfortable using Excel, and doing some quick what-­‐if analysis using Excel. I asked students to specifically use Excel’s built-­‐in correl function for the assignment.
The topic is one of the major 4 subjects that we learn in the course. After completing this assignment, the instructor’s hope is that students don’t think inventory is trivial or unimportant.

  • Students learn to collect and summarize data.
  • Students learn to use some Excel functions to identify correlations.
  • Students work with other students with different backgrounds (Students are from various schools of USC, some of them are international students).

Recommended Tools:

  • Blackboard
  • Excel
  • Marshall Library Portal (through the MyMarshall system) or equivalent access to data from sources like JSTOR, RAND California, IMF, Gartner, Orbis, Factiva,  IBISWorld, etc.

Faculty Author Advice:  I would expand the scope of the project to become lengthy in duration, more than a 2-‐week homework, so maybe a one-­month assignment with a milestone in the middle using chunking or scaffolding to break it up (so a big project becomes several homework-­like assignments). I would not group like students together in a cross-discipline course such as this one for non-­majors.