Operations

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What It Takes to Reshore Manufacturing Successfully

The process of bringing assembly work back to U.S. factories from abroad is more challenging than the economics would predict. In the United States, many key resources, including the manufacturing workforce,
have atrophied. Author Willy C. Shih (Harvard Business School) recommends that to reduce turnover, companies that embrace reshoring — bringing assembly work back from abroad — encourage workers to complete training and certification.

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How to Compensate For Overoptimistic Project Leaders

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Would you know if a project was heading off the rails? Too often, members of project teams are crossing their fingers and providing only the most hopeful updates. After reviewing 14 studies into the ways in which individuals report (and misreport) the status of information technology or software projects, the authors identified five specific areas for leaders to look out for to avoid being blindsided.

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Creating More Resilient Supply Chains

Global supply chains bring increased risks of disruption from events such as natural disasters. But by understanding and planning for such risks, Cisco Systems improved its own supply chain resilience. Its five-step process: identify strategic priorities; map the vulnerabilities of supply chain design; integrate risk awareness into the product and value chain; monitor resiliency; and watch for events. John Chambers, Cisco chairman and CEO, calls this type of risk management “a key differentiator.”

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What to Expect From a Corporate Lean Program

“Lean” programs help many manufacturers boost productivity. But misplaced expectations of how quickly these programs can improve performance can make their implementation difficult. Better understanding of the rates at which lean programs produce improvements would make implementation go more smoothly — and lead to more increases in productivity. Managers should set targets that are appropriate to specific plants and be careful not to derail progress by using initial gains to lay off workers.

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Should Your Business Be Less Productive?

Research suggests that productivity improvements can have counterproductive results in a service business. Productivity gains are not always easy to make without sacrificing perceptions of quality, and unlike on the assembly line, increased productivity may not always lead to increased profitability. Instead, in a service business, productivity must be treated as a strategic decision variable.

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Reducing the Risk of Supply Chain Disruptions

Most managers know that they should protect their supply chains from serious and costly disruptions — but comparatively few take action. The dilemma is that solutions to reduce risk mean little unless they are evaluated against their impact on cost efficiency. To protect their supply chains from major disruptions, companies can build resilience by segmenting or regionalizing supply chains, and limit losses in performance by avoiding too much centralization of resources.

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Reading Global Clients’ Signals

How can geographically distributed companies monitor large clients’ attitudes about their services? Traditional customer satisfaction surveys can lack sufficient timeliness and detail. But taking a big data approach to analyzing collaborations lets companies gain valuable and timely insights into client satisfaction. Examining the structural properties of email communication patterns and correlating them with external performance metrics can offer managers helpful insights.

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Rewriting the Playbook for Corporate Partnerships

In fast-changing markets, some companies are developing flexible, adaptive strategic partnerships to leverage the resources of both customers and suppliers. Incentive arrangements focus partners on joint value creation, and companies are sharing information extensively to solve problems together. These partnerships make the most sense when the product or service is of strategic importance to the customer, when the vendor has superior expertise and when there is uncertainty in the relationship.

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Three Things Retailers Must Do To Compete

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Companies looking to build a satisfied and loyal customer base need to understand what drives satisfaction for their particular group of customers. Grocer Trader Joe’s, for instance, typically carries only about 4,000 carefully selected items, in contrast the the 50,000 found in many other grocery stores.

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The Question Every Project Team Should Answer

Many projects fail because they are launched without a clearly articulated reason why they’re being pursued. Without a clear vision, a project team can become overwhelmed by conflict and confusion. Exploring the four dimensions of a compelling “why statement” can improve a project’s chances of success. Karen A. Brown, Nancy Lea Hyer and Richard Ettenson explain those four dimensions.

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Five Steps to Digitally Transforming City Government

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Boston Mayor Tom Menino is almost radically tech averse, yet he’s led a revamp of a customer relationship management system that has transformed the way the city, its workers, and its citizens interact. Starting with its Citizens Connect app (initially for better pothole reporting), Boston has expanded its data interface to allow faster turnaround times for repair, and has even held a competition across departments to reward the quickest response to citizen requests.

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Does Data Have a Shelf Life?

Recent research out of the Department of Operations and Information Systems at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and the Department of Management Information Systems, Eller School of Management at the University of Arizona, Tucson, asks a seemingly simple question about organizations’ data collection and usage that could have some big implications on your own data techniques.

The question: When is the right time to refresh data to support organizational decision-making?

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Outsourcing Business Processes for Innovation

Although many organizations initiate business process outsourcing to reduce costs or acquire new skills, it can evolve into much more. Sometimes, service providers deliver substantial long-term improvements to the client’s operating efficiency and strategic performance. But these improvements seldom happen unless clients and providers implement a process that combines acculturation across organizations, a method for generating ideas, adequate funding and a system for managing change.

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When One Size Does Not Fit All

Although executives understand the difference between efficiency and responsiveness, many are confused about when to apply each strategy. In recent years, companies have been caught in the bind in which Dell Inc. found itself in 2008, when it needed to transform its supply chain to serve new customers in new channels. The question was: how to do that? Dell decided to create multiple supply chains, configured so that the company could reduce complexity and benefit from economies of scale.

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What You Can Learn From Your Customer’s Customer

Innovative companies fund internal research and development to gain an edge in the marketplace. They also work closely with suppliers to offer greater functionality and performance for their customers. However, some critical new product insights don’t come from suppliers and customers working together but from the customer’s customers. Drawing on numerous examples from technology companies, this article explores the various ways parties can collaborate so that everyone benefits.

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Driving Growth and Employment Through Logistics

Logistics clusters are local networks of businesses that provide a wide array of services, including transportation carriers, warehousing companies, and freight forwarders. Logistics clusters address several challenges that economies face, including the need for good jobs. In addition to helping companies navigate global supply networks, logistics clusters are contributing to the efficiency of global supply chains and, in the process, increasing international trade and global trade flows.

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The Benefits of Combining Data With Empathy

Everyone has experienced the frustration of having to repeat voice commands multiple times before finally asking to speak to a service representative. Many large companies have become so focused on optimizing their business processes and systems that they have become all too willing to forget about cultivating emotional connections with customers. But in order to detect and respond to shifting customer needs, companies need to show more, not less, empathy with their customers.

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