Happy New Year 2013!

Happy New Year 2013! May it bring joy, happiness and success in your lives! And good luck to current Vlerick MBA student, especially those who will graduate this year: the delivery is now closer (or the beginning of a new life!) :-)

Advertisements

I’m right! is now launched!

After some intense work and a group session, our Communication Skills assignment is finally launched! You saw the trailer previously, now you can discover the whole story here: http://imright.info.

framework-ABC

It is about (mis-)communication, the employee-boss relationship, frustration, unsaid things and lower performances. I had a lot of fun doing it with Sammy, Peter, Bart and Stijn. Thanks, guys!

Btw, Merry Christmas! :-)

The Saflex case

What I call the “Saflex case” is in fact the presentation Roger Bloemen did for us during the last course of Operations Management. I already mentioned that it was very good. I wanted to know more about the case that can be summarized as: “how to use operations to save and put back to profitability a company under chapter 11“.

You can find some sweet videos of the 80’s on Youtube:

(No animal were hurt during the shooting of this movie)

More interesting is the infomercial video made by Metascreen in which heads of Saflex were interviewed (Roger Bloemen did not appear). The emphasis on Saflex people is also there, in the end …

But when you dig further it is not that easy to find something about the Saflex case, even if you choose other names for this case. Because, if I’m right, there is no Saflex case per se. “Just” some academic papers on a MIT professor Yossi Sheffi’s website. You will find these papers by looking for Roberto Perez-Franco in Sheffi’s page about publications (ok, direct links here and here – they might break if Sheffi is changing his webpage). These paper deal with the evaluation of the supply chain strategy of companies. Already if companies had a supply chain strategy, it would be nice (and not the one you think of just in the middle of a crisis – the one you design and nurture for some time when times are good, forecasting maybe when times will be bad).

In fact Sheffi’s other publications are well worth reading (and could have been the source of inspiration for a group presentation if discovered earlier – a hint for next year students? ;-)).

I’m right!

It seems that some group are starting to seriously work on their Communication skills group assignments … http://imright.info/ Does that look familiar to you? Do you have other issues with your boss? Do you sometimes struggle to resolve them?

Sleep another 4 nights and you’ll soon know more :-)

Some thoughts about Santa Claus operations and supply chain

Son – Papa! What are you doing the whole evening at your desk? Can you play with me and Lightning McQueen?
Dad – I’m studying, son! Like you I go to school and as you’ll know soon enough, there are exams …
Son – What are exams, papa?
Dad – That’s when your teacher ask you questions to see if you understood correctly.
Son – Oh, like when Madame Danielle is asking if we read our book?
Dad – Mmmmm, kind of …
Son – And what are you reading?
Dad – Operations Management and supply chain
Son – And what is Operation supply chain?
Dad – Well, son, you see …

Damn, how to explain what you are studying to your 4-years-old son? Operations management? That’s when one try to optimise the delivery of goods to the supermarket where the family goes shopping on Saturday? Huh? Well, I tried and it doesn’t work. However as Saint-Nicholas came on December 6th, it was a good opportunity to explain how the real world works …

5176 Guess Whooo's coming to town! (My Number 1) All time as of  11/24/2012 - 2,419 ViewsSaint-Nicholas or Santa Claus are facing approximately the same issues in terms of operations, supply chains and logistics. However Saint-Nicholas chose to restrict his market focus to mainly the Benelux only. This made things easier for him. For instance he did not need to find a large warehouse (or at least not at large as Santa Claus’) as he only has to deliver to fewer children. This choice was very clever because such large warehouse would have immediately attracted attention in such crowded countries like Belgium. Another important difference is that nobody really knows who is working for Saint-Nicholas. For Santa Claus, it’s easy: elves are working for him. But maybe Saint-Nicholas choose to have a Triple A supply chain where he operates only the last segment (the warehouse) (or not even the warehouse!). There would then be nobody working for Saint-Nicholas – everything is outsourced! So let’s focus on Santa Claus (most of the discussion below also applies to Saint-Nicholas however).

There are two main features about Santa Claus: The Goal and inventory.

Santa Claus did indeed read Eliyahu Goldratt’s “The Goal” (you know, son: one of the thick books on papa’s desk). He must also have followed Prof. Boute‘s class as everybody can clearly see that his strategic position is on Time and Variety/Flexibility. He’s not really interested in price (neither his customers btw): he’s giving what children request to him (after all, he’s not the richest man on earth for nothing). And quality is not necessarily a major criteria for Father Christmas’ gifts: children (and people in general) are mostly happy because they receive something (it probably has something to do with the fact it prooves the world they were kind during the last 12 months). This allowed him to send gifts manufactured in China (althought I think now all toys are manufactured in China nowadays).

And despite this Santa Claus still has a major issue regarding operations. He indeed still have a myopic view on value creation. As we will see below, he is only focusing on resource utilisation while he most probably completely forgets about sales growth and margin. There we come back to an element already mentioned: no financial incentive. Hence no real financial measures possible. How can you improve then? (another question is: does Santa Claus really need to improve his operations as kids receive their gifts on time and usually / sometimes what they requested so why bother?)

walmart distribution centerBut a major divergence from the course is about inventory! In Anupindi’s book, the first sentence of the summary on inventory is: “Inventory accumulates whenever there is a mismatch between supply and demand”. And the chapter goes on on how to reduce this mismatch (as part of Prof. Vereecke‘s classes). But actually Santa Claus needs this mismatch. Just because he only needs to deliver his goods during the overnight of December 24. Not before, not after (especially not for Easter!). In my opinion Santa Claus needs to accumulate this inventory during the year in order to be ready to distribute everything in one night. Then you can debate if he has a ultra-secret, ultra-large, ultra-modern warehouse next to the North Pole (which is nice because you can reach most US and European countries easily) or if he has a cloud of flexible warehouses dispatched around the world. Given the number of Santa Claus that we start to see at each corner of a street, I would favor this last option – these little Santa being responsible for a small subset of the delivery chain. I guess their performance is measured in terms of seconds being in advance / late for delivery or the number of children they delivered on time (again I guess no P&L responsibilities).

The content of this stock as well as the way it is built also depart from any classical business. Indeed although the product range is quite wide (and also varies from country to country), there are some broad categories that you can classify in the different types of inventories. For instance, you can classically think of perishable goods as obsolete stock (however why bother since Santa Claus would certainly not poison children with goods perished since last year). But you can fill Santa Claus’ safety stock with classical toys like Lego, Playmobil, Fisher-Price, puppets, cars, etc. And Santa Claus’ cycle stock would consist of toys like Buzz lightyear, Lightning McQueen (and other toys for girls that I’m not aware of). The build up of these different stocks could be schematically represented as the following:

121211-SantaClaus-InventoryTypes

If now we look at the little information we have about operations inside Santa Claus headquarters (see movie below), we see that he is indeed the jolly man we know.

Althought the first seconds show you a highly enthousiastic, qualified and kind of “clonable” workforce (the elves), the first step of the operation is a nightmare. Santa Claus is indeed reading each and every letter. This is a happy confirmation for all the kids. But from an operation perspective, this creates a huge bottleneck and this is clearly visible with the amount of letters on the floor! After this step, the work is fortunately segregated between several lines of production where the specialisation of each elf is well put forward. On top of that it seems elves worked very well to reduce waiting times to nearly nothing between each station. Did they apply the lean methodology? It is hard to say: it might as well be the result of years of refinements.

Then we realise there is again another bottleneck at QC/QA, done by Santa Claus himself. However, althought it seems the throughput of production of the different toys is quite fast, only a few of them arrive at QC per minute. What happened with the other toys? Are there other lines of QC but not managed by Santa Claus himself (so they did not dare to show them)? Of is the defect rate quite high that only a few reach the final QC?

The inventory management seems also to be quite disorganised. Fortunately every toy seems also to be aware of its role and its own destination. So they finally end up in Santa Claus’s big bag!

Finally given the lack of order in the bag but also given most children will apparently receive what they asked (talk about customer focus! – except for Billy Brown who will receive a cake of soap), DHL, UPS and other (fast) postal services might have some lessons to take from Santa Claus in terms of speed and reliability ;-) But how exactly Santa Claus does that is still highly debated amongst scientists in the world (others also tried to put numbers e.g.):

Anyway, have a Merry Christmas (a few days in advance) and enjoy the holidays break!

Photo credits: 5176 Guess Whooo’s coming to town! (My Number 1) All time as of  11/24/2012 – 2,419 Views by bsabarnowl, on Flickr (license CC-by) and walmart distribution center by Mr. Wright, on Flickr (licence CC-by-nc-sa)

Last Vlerick Apollo CPA, Gangnam style (강남스타일)

Following some requests, here is Mark’s happy holidays card featuring Fabian, our CPA!

 

At the next party, will we risk to see the following?

Vlerick programs now 14th in the FT European rankings – should I worry?

Yooohoo! After the (very) bad performance of the EMBA this year, a rebranding exercise and a new website, the whole schoool is back at the 14th position in the FT rankings for 2012! The Academic Dean can of course be very proud of his cursus. As usual let’s have a look at the numbers …

14So, Vlerick Business School is at the 14th position, a stable position on a 3 years average (up from 16th last year however). There are of course big names before Vlerick: HEC Paris (2nd), London Business School (3rd), INSEAD (4th), IMD (7th), etc. But there are also big names after Vlerick: Cranfield (16th), Imperial College (18th), ESSEC (19th), London School of Economics (27th), etc.

Compared to other Belgian business school, Vlerick is better placed (than for the EMBA rankings e.g.):

  • Antwerp Management School is climbing from an average 52nd to the 40th rank;
  • Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management goes down from a 42nd to the 46th rank;
  • IAG-Louvain School of Management goes down from a 52nd to the 59th rank.

So if I take again my table from the previous “ranking” post (best of each row in bold):

Ranking Vlerick B.S. Antwerp M.S. Solvay B.S.E.M. IAG-L.S.M.
FT European Business School Rankings 2012 14 (=) 40 (↑ av. 52) 46 (↓ av. 42) 52 (↓ av. 59)
FT EMBA Ranking 2012 90 (↓ from 77) 50 (entry)
FT Global MBA Ranking 2012 70 (↓ from 71)
The Economist Full time MBA ranking 66
Aspen Institute Beyond Grey Pinstripes Vlerick

The methodology used by the FT is well explained. There you will learn that this ranking assesses the performances of 4 MBA programs in each school. And it looks at the breadth but also quality of these programmes. So indirectly it represents the aggregate of lots of parameters (see here for the list on Vlerick). But is seems to put some emphasis on the salaries (at program entry and after) as well as the number of female, international and PhD faculty.

So – back to the title – should I worry? ;-)

Well, just go to the previous post about rankings and read the conclusion ; I haven’t changed since. But congrats anyway to the Vlerick team for this good performance!

Photo credit: 14 by xiaming, on Flickr (licence CC-by-nc-sa)

Thank you, partners!

I have a confession to make: I never really believed in the MBTI profiling as a whole. Some parts of it can be very useful in order to understand some traits of personality (and act upon them). But definitely not the whole. IMHO. YMMV. But! (because there is alwaus a “but”) But I must admit that very organised people and very process-oriented people are great assets in a team. And I want to thank the very organised people I had the opportunity to work with recently for their relentless efforts to make our group papers a success. We all have strong and weak points. One of the strength very organised people bring is that they force the group to start to work early on the project, to have a clearly defined plan (even for a few pages or slides) and to stick to it. More “creative” people may find this annoying – but it works! So thanks for bringing this in the team!

A second category of people I want to thank are spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends. They first accepted we start this part-time MBA and they kept their anger quiet when they realised what meant “being absent 2 evenings a week (including Friday evening = no outings anymore) (and maybe more)”. They support us in case of doubts. For some they even support us financially (maybe not directly but 35k€ for an MBA is 35k€ you cannot spend on clothes, travels, outings, dinners, hi-tech gadgets, etc.). But they will anyway greet us with a smile when we come back after a whole evening (and part of the night) in class. And they also realise that if we started this MBA, it’s not to play the housewife/househusband after – with a fake smile they hint you they understood it will continue later. It may seems we are too preoccupied to notice but we are very well aware of all the sacrifices you are also doing and we thank you for your support and attention!

121201-businesswoman-5PM

Resuming operations

For someone who refused to accept the “no time” excuse in the past for not writing a blog, I have to admit I’ll have to use it now :-( Lots of things happened since last time I wrote about classes.

For instance we submitted our Statistics paper and got the results. These results are still composed of a grade from A to F (and as I wrote I will not post the grade distribution of the class) and an appreciation from the professor. If this appreciation was considered subjective in the previous years (independently of Statistics – this was valid for all courses), Vlerick tried to establish a grid where several criteria can be met or not in order to put some objectivity in the grade. It seems this grid disappeared – or at least it was not used for Statistics (as usual: it is not a complain, it’s just an observation).

Operation management classes ended with a bang materialised by 5 Pecha-Kucha group presentations. Some topics were more controversial than others. I also take as a key message that one absolutely has to test the presentation in a real setting before presenting. I personally also appreciated very much the very dynamic presentation of Roger Bloemen about the global supply chain strategy for Saflex at Solutia. IMHO this is the kind of presentation after which you tell yourself: “Damn! Maybe I should have done supply chain instead of ****** *********”.

remember to thank all the books you haven't read over the past three yearsSome other classes ended like EU business law (also with group presentation) or Communication Skills (maybe the most artistic “paper” we had to hand in – maybe the most confusing directions on what to do too, especially for people with scientific and engineering backgrounds).

And some other courses started. Like Innovation Management, EU integration, … An feeling that I have is that Vlerick has very young and dynamic professors. When they grow a bit older, they are less dynamic but very knowledgable and try to transmit their passion with more maturity. A third category of professors are older and teach us courses with less direct application (or do I have this feeling because I put Economics and EU professors in this category?).

We are now in December and there are still some nice milestones for the near future: an open-book exam for Operations, a video for Communication Skills. And then Christmas Party (for those who will attend) and holidays!

Photo credits: remember to thank all the books you haven’t read over the past three years by Natalia Osiatynska, under CC-by-nc-nd.

%d bloggers like this: