Tuesday, November 6, 2012

An OM Blog Worth Reading

Since many of the three readers of my blog come from the operations research community, perhaps I should start with a quick bit of terminology. Experts in the various areas will no doubt disagree. Fortunately, none of them read this blog.

"Operations management" (OM, also known in some quarters as either "production management" or "service management") generally refers to planning and managing the process of producing goods and services. "Logistics" generally refers to the process of transporting and distributing products (and services), either on the inbound side (from suppliers) or the outbound side (to customers). "Sourcing", "purchasing" and "procurement" are synonyms for the process of obtaining materials, components and services to support production and distribution. (Never trust an academic discipline that changes its name every few years.) Integrate these three and you have "supply chain management" (SCM).

I've had a somewhat uneasy coexistence with SCM in its various incarnations and manifestations over my academic career. On the one hand, I've taught a few courses in or related to SCM, and I've coauthored (with actual SCM faculty) a few papers in the area. On the other hand, the SCM program at Michigan State University basically crowded management science out of the curriculum, and one of the professional societies to which I belong has migrated from a focus on the decision sciences to dominance by the SCM crowd (with a commensurate shift in its annual conference). Fundamentally, my reaction when I see anything SCM-oriented is almost indistinguishable from my reaction to campaign ads.

Given that, when I recommend reading an operations management blog, you can insert the tag line "man bites dog". Barry Render and Jay Heizer have written a bunch of operations management textbooks that have been well received by the OM/SCM community. They also have a blog (the subject of this post) that ties business news to OM concepts, frequently with teaching tips to help integrate the news with content from their latest book. The blog features occasional guest posts related to teaching; but even if you have no interest in teaching OM (and, trust me, I have no interest in teaching OM ever again), the blog is worth reading for insights it provides into issues of business and global competitiveness. The writing is concise and crystal clear.

As with all blogs (movies, novels, ice cream flavors ...) individual tastes will vary. If you have any interest in manufacturing, logistics or business in general, I think their blog is at least worth a look.

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