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Design for Postponement

Today, I would like to draw your attention to one of my favorite articles in the field of supply chain management: Design for Postponement by Swaminathan & Lee (2003). The article identifies three key postponement enablers: First, process standardization, where the initial steps of a process are standardized across a product line and distinct personalities are added at a later stage (e.g., localized manuals or power supply modules of a printer). Second, process resequencing, where more common components are added at the beginning of a process (e.g., cut of clothes), whereas components that create product differentiation are added later (e.g., color of clothes). Finally, component standardization, where key components are standardized to postpone decisions. The article also explains interesting concepts like “vanilla boxes” and “partial postponement”. I believe that postponement should be a key element of a supply chain management curriculum and that this classic article is really helpful to teach it.

Swaminathan, J.M., & Lee, H.L. (2003). Design for Postponement. Handbooks in Operations Research and Management Science, 11 (Supply Chain Management: Design, Coordination and Operation), 199-226 https://doi.org/10.1016/S0927-0507(03)11005-5

Supply Chain Process Modeling

Are you planning to integrate process modeling in your supply chain curricula? I am currently teaching a new course about supply chain process re-engineering at Copenhagen Business School. As part of a group work, the task of the students is to model processes between supply chain partners using the standard Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN). Initially, I thought about letting the students model the processes using PowerPoint or Visio, but then I realized that this isn’t the most appropriate way for such a group task. Then, I found a web-based process modeling platform that turns out to be ideal for my course. It is part of the BPM Academic Initiative of Signavio. I use the BPMN teaching packages in my course and offer my students the possibility of practical training with Signavio’s Process Editor. I have opened up a collaborative workspace and invited my students by sending an invitation link. No installation is required, it is free of charge.

Supply Chain Textbooks in German

If you speak German, today’s post might be particularly interesting for you. Once a year, the German Academic Association for Business Research (VHB), an internationally oriented association representing more than 2,100 mostly German-speaking members, awards its Textbook Award. The award aims to “[encourage] members of the association to expand their activities in the field of teaching” and to “highlight and acknowledge the importance of scientifically founded teaching in business research”. This year, the prize was awarded to a book related to SCM for the first time. It is concisely titled “Supply Chain Management” and was written by Michael Eßig, Erik Hofmann, and Wolfgang Stölzle. Another SCM book, a German translation of the 5th edition of Chopra and Meindl’s classic textbook, has been published this year. In a recent survey, the English version was selected as the most important academic SCM book. Not only will these two books help German-speaking SCM students to get in touch with our field, these textbooks will also help lecturers to prepare and teach their SCM modules.

Chopra, S. & Meindl, P. (2014). Supply Chain Management: Strategie, Planung und Umsetzung. 5. Aufl. ISBN 3868941886

Eßig, M., Hofmann, E. & Stölzle, W. (2013). Supply Chain Management. ISBN 3800634783

Ranking Master’s Programs in Supply Chain Management

Finding the right Master’s program can be a difficult exercise. In spite of their sometimes oversimplifying nature, rankings can provide a first indication to make this exercise a bit easier. One of such rankings is the 2013/2014 Eduniversal Best Masters Ranking, provided by SMBG, a French consulting company, and based on a global survey of recruiters, students and representatives of academic institutions. And here comes the Top 5 of Master’s programs in supply chain management: (5) Copenhagen Business School, Denmark: MSc in Economics and Business Administration – Supply Chain Management, (4) Purdue University, United States: MBA in Global Supply Chain and Logistics, (3) KEDGE Business School, France: MSc Global Supply Chain Management – ISLI, (2) Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria: Master of Science in Supply Chain Management, (1) Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands: MSc in Supply Chain Management. The full list can be found on the webpage of Eduniversal Best Masters Ranking in Supply Chain and Logistics. But be careful: Always keep in mind that there are both intended and unintended consequences of such rankings.

Update (2015-02-01): Eduniversal updated their list, but only the order of the Top 5 programs changed slightly.

What Are the Best Business Schools?

You are looking for a business school and you do not know where to enroll? A ranking might help. One of these rankings is from Bloomberg Businessweek. As part of their 2013 Best Undergraduate Business Schools ranking, they have now published the top 10 business schools in the area of operations management, an area that focuses on “the processes involved in production and everyday business operations, whether on an assembly line, a supply chain, or even something as common as a movie theater queue”. And these are the top 10 undergraduate business schools for operations management in the U.S.: (1) Pennsylvania (Wharton), (2) Washington (Olin), (3) Carnegie Mellon (Tepper), (4) Worcester Polytechnic, (5) Michigan (Ross), (6) North Carolina State (Poole), (7) North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler), (8) Boston U., (9) Georgia Tech (Scheller), (10) Buffalo. As I have discussed for the case of journal rankings some weeks ago, rankings always have advantages and disadvantages and should, therefore, be handled with care. However, Bloomberg Businessweek’s ranking can, at least, provide some indications.

NC State’s Supply Chain Resource Cooperative

I spent the last couple of days at North Carolina State University to work on a joint research project with my good friend Robert Handfield. I was very impressed by NC State’s Supply Chain Resource Cooperative, an “industry–university partnership dedicated to the development of future supply chain professionals”. Robert and two of his colleagues have published an article to describe how this cooperative works: NC State’s Supply Chain Resource Cooperative educates in the real world (published in Interfaces in 2011). Essentially, it integrates “field-based student course projects with real problems that companies are facing”. The projects are identified by the company, but NCSU narrows the scope and assigns the projects to students. The SCRC’s organizational structure enables projects to be jointly led by SCRC directors and supply chain managers that financially support the SCRC. I believe that this cooperative might become a role model for other industry–university partnerships, as it perfectly combines supply chain theory and practice.

Handfield, R., Edwards, S., & Stonebraker, J. (2011). NC State’s Supply Chain Resource Cooperative Educates in the Real World Interfaces, 41 (6), 548-563 DOI: 10.1287/inte.1110.0584

An Introduction to Logistics and SCM Principles and Concepts

Being part of Apple’s iTunes Store, iTunes U contains educational audio and video files shared by institutions worldwide. It enables lecturers to create own courses for iPad to be accessed by students. Richard Wilding, Professor of Supply Chain Strategy at the Centre for Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Cranfield School of Management, has provided the iTunes U course Supply Chain Management & Logistics: An Introduction to Principles and Concepts. “This course is a collection of enhanced podcasts and videos which provide an introduction to the principles and concepts of logistics and supply chain management. By utilising the material all users will be provided with a foundation of terminology and concepts enabling them to move forward and investigate the topics in more depth.” So, the next time you will see students “playing” with their Apple devices, be sympathetic to them. Maybe they are just accessing a supply chain management course.

Africa Logistics Initiative

International Certificate in Humanitarian Logistics

The Kühne Foundation invited me to support its Africa Logistics Initiative. Consequently, I have spent the last weeks teaching in logistics and supply chain management at the National Institute of Transport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It has been a great experience.

What is Supply Chain Management?

This is the first installment in Arizona State University’s twelve-part introduction to supply chain management video series.

Is a Good Presentation a Good Teaching Lesson?

Students may not need to learn from PowerPoint slides, if they own a good textbook. But what happens, if a lecture doesn’t follow a textbook? When I was an undergraduate, we were fobbed off by some lecturers with buzzwords and sentence fragments on their PowerPoint slides. We had to learn the 7 advantages and the 6 disadvantages of outsourcing. Sometimes, I even strung together the initial letters of the advantages to memorize all of them for the examination. Sustainable learning? A didactic catastrophe! But how much content should ideally be on slides, if they are used in SCM teaching lessons? One of my former lecturers gave the following answer: “My slides are jam-packed with text. For sure, this is way too much text for a good presentation. But my slides are a hybrid between presentation slides and a textbook. You will like my slides when preparing for the examination.” The lecturer was right. Instead of memorizing disconnected keywords, the slides enabled us to really understand the topic.