Operations

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Remapping the Last Mile of the Urban Supply Chain

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 6 min 

There are many reasons to believe we are on the crest of substantial progress with even the most challenging of last mile deliveries. Innovative models such as smart locker systems, the use of electric vehicles, and on-demand fleet services such as UberRUSH are being explored. The MIT Megacity Lab is helping identify customer-specific insights about how supply chains deliver products to urban customers and finds that autonomous delivery vehicles, while still years from wide-scale implementation, hold game-changing promise.

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Leveraging Smart Data and Internet of Things to Realize Mass Customization

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 1 min 

In an on-demand webinar, Wolfgang Gruel and Frank Piller detail new experiments in personal transportation. Gruel and Piller say that transportation customers are on the cusp of having seamless travel experiences that synchronize all transit options: schedules, traffic conditions, and personal preferences. But making this vision a reality requires knitting together previously independent systems — in part through smart data and the Internet of Things.

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Mass Customization and the Do-It-Yourself Supply Chain

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  • Read Time: 5 min 

With the help of third-party developers, customization is shifting from the producer to the customer. While Industrial Age customization did enhance options for different customer preferences, those options were hardwired into a firm’s supply chain in ways that preserved efficient scale. Customers could choose only from those options that a firm had already programmed to deliver through established supply chains. Digital Age customization allows customers options outside the boundaries of a firm’s traditional supply chain.

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Building a Better Car Company With Analytics

Using data and analytics to understand the complexities of modern business has become not only common, but essential. Gahl Berkooz joined Ford Motor Co. in 2004, eventually becoming head of data and governance and a member of the company’s global data insights and analytics skill team. Berkooz became acutely aware of how important analytics is to the company’s ability to thrive in the global marketplace. “What it boils down to,” he told MIT SMR’s Michael Fitzgerald, “is that we know how to make decisions. It’s about finding the opportunities to bring data and analytics to make better decisions.”

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Tech Savvy: Is It Time to Build Your Own Platform?

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  • Read Time: 8 min 

If you really want to create value, forget about burning platforms and start building them. A platform, explain professors Geoffrey Parker and Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Choudary, founder and CEO of Platform Thinking Labs, in Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets are Transforming the Economy and How to Make Them Work for You, is a “business model that uses technology to connect people, organizations, and resources in an interactive ecosystem.”

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Where Digitization Is Failing to Deliver

  • Interview
  • Read Time: 8 min 

It has become a truism that the pace of work is faster than ever, as digital technologies speed up communication and operational processes in a story of unending progress. But increased speed has not translated into increased rates of productivity growth. Since 2004, growth rates have slowed not just in the US but across the world. Chad Syverson, J. Baum Harris Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, explains what the implications are, and why the benefits of new technologies are not straightforward.

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Why Learning Is Central to Sustained Innovation

Many managers think they can create better products just by improving the development process or adding new tools. But it’s skilled people, not processes, that create great products. So-called “lean” organizations invest heavily and continuously in the skills of product developers, and rather than developing single products, they think in terms of streams of products. By making people the backbone of the product development system, companies can achieve a triple win: increased innovation, faster time to market, and lower costs.

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Learning the Art of Business Improvisation

The ability to innovate and rapidly respond to changes in the business environment is critical to competitiveness and success. Improvisation and experimentation combined with focus and flexibility are needed to identify new business opportunities and effectively execute projects. But while improvisation may seem to be spontaneous, managers can foster it through the deliberate development of certain processes and capabilities in an organization’s culture, team structure, and management practices.

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Tech Savvy: February 26, 2016

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 4 min 

Peter Drucker defined the work of business leaders by three principal tasks: delivering financial results, making work and workers productive, and managing a company’s social impacts. Technological advances have transformed — and continue to transform — the world in myriad ways since Drucker published that definition in 1974. But technology hasn’t changed Drucker’s tasks. Instead, it is giving rise to new and better ways of executing them. This new column aims to help you identify big ideas and new tactics at the intersection of technology and management.

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Enough Health Care Data for an Army: The Million Veteran Program

The holy grail of medicine is therapy that is customized for the patient. But to get there, health care researchers need huge amounts of data to help identify which genes affect health. The Million Veteran Program has tapped one of the largest cohorts available — U.S. military personnel — to obtain the dataset, but managing the security of this sensitive data is a challenge. In a Q&A, two of the project’s lead scientists, J. Michael Gaziano and Saiju Pyarajan, explain the process.

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What’s Your Strategy for Supply Chain Disclosure?

How much information should a company disclose about its supply chain? In addition to having to be lean, agile, and sustainable, today’s supply chains are increasingly the focus of growing attention from a variety of external stakeholders. These stakeholders often want information beyond what the company is legally obliged to disclose. But many companies have limited visibility of their supply chain information and have not fully considered their disclosure strategy.

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The Long-Tail Strategy for IT Outsourcing

No longer just a cost-saving measure, IT outsourcing has emerged as an important strategic tool for acquiring cutting-edge ideas. Many companies are expanding their portfolios of IT suppliers to include smaller, highly innovative companies. But this expansion increases the complexity of managing supplier portfolios. To take full advantage of the innovations that diverse suppliers provide, organizations need to reimagine their strategies to be dynamic, diversified, and still disciplined.

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How Well Does Your Company Integrate Demand and Supply?

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  • Read Time: 1 min 

An online questionnaire by the authors of the MIT Sloan Management Review article “Integrating Supply and Demand” helps users assess how well their company’s supply chains are helping meet product demand — and serve key customers. The self-assessment lets users rate their companies in five areas in the demand and supply integration spectrum: relevant value focus, integrated knowledge sharing, strategic resource allocation, integrated behavior, and capacity and demand balance.

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Flourishing in the Face of Supply Chain Disruption

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 1 min 

In a webinar, Joseph Fiksel and Keely Croxton of The Ohio State University explain how proactive managers create innovative, dynamic organizations that can prosper under any circumstances. “We define resilience as the capacity to survive, adapt, and flourish in the face of turbulent change and uncertainty,” Fiskel said. Their research-based methodology identifies important supply chain vulnerabilities and sets priorities for strengthening capabilities.

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Secrets in the Age of Data

Secrets may be an unexpected casualty of increasing analytical prowess — just ask Volkswagen. Companies often have information they’d rather keep under wraps; sometimes it’s innocuous, like the timing of a new product launch, but other times it’s embarrassing details about unethical or even criminal behavior. But as data analytics becomes more broadly available, the chances of keeping secrets out of public view grow slimmer every day. Will this result in a change in how companies do business?

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Free Article

Webinar: Flourishing in the Face of Supply Chain Disruption

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The webinar speakers explain how proactive managers create innovative, dynamic organizations that survive and prosper under any circumstances. They show how resilient enterprises adapt successfully to turbulence and design resilient assets, products and processes, highlighting companies that have improved shareholder value in turbulent times. And, they demonstrate a research-based methodology to identify important supply chain vulnerabilities and set priorities for strengthening capabilities.

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How to Avoid Platform Traps

Many of today’s most successful technology businesses— including Apple, Facebook, and Uber — are built on a platform-based business model. But the increasing popularity of platform strategies masks a difficult truth: Such strategies are hard to execute well, and they are prone to several common pitfalls. Those platform traps include growth with no strategic focus, pursuing an intermediate approach between the mass market and a niche, and overlooking the value proposition of partners.

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Should Your Company Embrace Coworking?

Coworking spaces can open the door to serendipitous encounters that inspire innovation, new products, and different ways of thinking. The coworking movement developed to provide community and a collaborative working environment for independent and remote workers. Now some large, traditional companies are adopting certain aspects of coworking as part of their overall workplace strategies. They see sharing space as a way to tap into new ideas and to provide flexibility and autonomy to employees.

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Preparing for Disruptions Through Early Detection

In an adaption from his new book The Power of Resilience, MIT’s Yossi Sheffi explains how companies are learning to more quickly detect unanticipated problems that can interfere with their global operations. Sheffi looks at how leading companies are using an array of detection and response techniques, from sensors to supply chain control towers. These tools are helping companies become more resilient to disruptions such as hurricanes, the discovery of product contamination, and political events.

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