IBM Corp. says it will work with top schools to research advanced supply-chain practices to help businesses respond to changing market conditions. The Armonk, N.Y.-based manufacturer said it will establish laboratories at the Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University, the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University and the Smurfit School of Business at University College Dublin, Ireland, which will mimic the workings of a complex supply chain. An additional laboratory opened earlier this year at the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University. "Business leaders today are dealing with an environment that is more volatile than anything that has preceded it," says Stu Reed, vice president, systems group manufacturing for IBM. "Institutions of all kinds need to be able to respond far more quickly to whatever the world throws at them. The supply chain is central to a company's ability to respond to market fluctuations, and the companies that will thrive in the on-demand era will be the ones that can use the supply chain to drive efficiency and make life easier for the customers." IBM says teachers and students at the laboratories will study, simulate and test key relationships in an end-to-end supply chain. When the four universities' laboratories are operational, they will work on joint research. Their work, says IBM, will help it and other firms build dynamic, responsive supply chains. Penn State's lab is expected to be the first of the newly announced labs to open.