Operations

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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.

Image courtesy of Flickr user H4NUM4N.

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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Free Article

“Let Me Come Right Out and Say It: You Cheat”

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”As long as we cheat by only a little bit, we can benefit from cheating and still view ourselves as marvelous human beings,” writes behavioral economist Dan Ariely in his new book “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie To Everyone — Especially Ourselves.”

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Inside the World of the Project Baron

In industrial sectors such as consulting, advertising, filmmaking, software, architecture, engineering and construction, most individual businesses, by definition, are “project-based firms.” This article proposes the term “baronies” to describe the organizational units that direct the projects within project-based firms, and highlights the roles that barons play in three basic types of project-based firms: dominions, tight federations and loose federations.

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Is It Time to Rethink Your Manufacturing Strategy?

Since the mid-1990s, many companies have outsourced or offshored their manufacturing operations. For most, one crucial enabling factor was cheap oil: Long supply lines were economically feasible because transportation costs were relatively low. Hence, companies emphasized reducing manufacturing costs through (1) offshoring or outsourcing; (2) plant rationalization; and (3) consolidating distribution centers and warehouses to reduce inventory levels and minimize fixed facility costs.

Image courtesy of Flickr user kenjonbro.

What Really Happened to Toyota?

Consumers were surprised in October 2009 by the first of a series of highly publicized recalls of Toyota vehicles in the United States. Citing a potential problem in which poorly placed or incorrect floor mats under the driver’s seat could lead to uncontrolled acceleration in a range of models, Toyota announced that it was recalling 3.8 million U.S. vehicles. The article discusses two root causes for Toyota’s quality problems.

Image courtesy of Flickr user eszter.

Why Every Project Needs a Brand (and How to Create One)

Project leaders should sequence and articulate messaging about their projects in the same way a marketing manager would organize an external branding effort to promote a company’s products and services. Just as product branding creates awareness and sustains value in the minds of an organization’s external customers, shareholders, and constituents, a brand mindset can empower a project leader to develop strategically-timed messages to create visibility and engagement among key targets.

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McAfee: ‘Customer Service in the Digital Age: The Eternal Lament’

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MIT Sloan’s Andrew McAfee reflects on “the amazingly bad design and execution of customer-facing processes among financial services firms.” He wonders if they’ll only get better “when competitors appear who take process design and execution seriously, and digitize them to the maximum extent possible.”

Image courtesy of Flickr user Linh_rOm.

What Great Projects Have in Common

From time to time a company’s project truly stands out, creating exceptional value and having an impact on the industry. IBM’s AS/400 development effort in the 80s was a game changer and gave IBM a competitive edge. Apple Inc.’s success in creating the iPod portable media player and iTunes online store is another more recent example of a great project — one that changed the way people listen to and buy music. Why are such projects so rare — and why can’t more projects be like them?

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Courtesy of IBM.

Putting It Together: How to Succeed in Distributed Product Development

The increase in outsourcing and offshoring of complex work has resulted in innovation efforts that require coordination across cultural, geographic and legal boundaries. If that coordination is mishandled, companies can find themselves needing to make multimillion- or even billion-dollar changes. The complexity of the task makes midcourse corrections likely. Managers must anticipate and adapt their processes in order to reduce risk and, ultimately, cost.

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Opportunism Knocks

Complex supply chains with many agents are more prone to problems, and on occasion, to spectacular collapse. Examples from the last few years include the subprime mortgage crisis; the failure of the Peanut Corporation of America; and dioxin-contaminated Irish pork. Without a doubt, today’s complex supply chains are vulnerable to opportunistic behavior leading to sometimes catastrophic failure. But there are five steps managers can take to protect their companies.

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The Trouble with Mass-Market Distribution

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Niche manufacturers often seek out mass-market distribution as a way to increase sales. But is that always wise?

Not according to professors Andrew R. Thomas, of the University of Akron, and Timothy J. Wilkinson, of Montana State University Billings.

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Bringing New Ideas to Fruition

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It's not always easy to bridge the gap between academic research and the business world. Two recent articles offer perspectives on different aspects of the process:

TURNING IDEAS INTO START-UPS. A recent New York Times article highlights university "idea incubators" -- such as MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation -- that help professors bring their innovations to market.  Notes The New York Times:

"M.I.T.

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