Saturday, March 29, 2008

Consulting & Communication: Are you told what you think you are told?

In business schools, the professors cannot stress less about communication in business consulting engagements. I whole-heartedly agreed with it before, and now I had the chance to experience it first handedly.

As an Operations Research professional or student, what comes to mind when someone says
  • "we do cross docking"
  • "our system is a pull system"
  • "our system is 'just in time'"
Just when I thought, "wow, these guys are doing really well on their own", the answers I got after I asked them "what do you mean by..." the above statements usually left me with a surprised "Ooooh...THAT's what you meant!" - because the answers I got was completely different than what I understood were meant by those terms.

Communication - clarification - don't assume what you know, but always confirm what you think you know is true to make sure it is actually true - that is the lesson I learned.

As a Woman: the best time for having the first baby is...

Child bearing is one of the most important functions of being a woman. As women are becoming more and more career centred, and statistically women are having children later and later, many of us are wondering:

"What is the best time for me to have a child?"

Here, "best" refers to a trade off between emotional and physical health problems associated with having a child too late and the impact on career for having a child too early.

The answer? Mathematical models come to the rescue. A model developed by Ralph L. Keeney and Dinah A. Vernik from the Faqua School of Business in Duke University attempts to use decision analysis, one of the many operations research techniques out there, to help women decide the optimal time of bearing their first child.
In the case of a woman who does not feel that motherhood will be a significant barrier to her pursuit of a particular milestone, the model suggests attempting to conceive a first child at a younger age. Specifically, the model can calculate for any specific situation the level of anticipated negative career impact at which an individual woman may wish to postpone having a child.

The example of a 20-year-old college student illustrates the situation when a woman claims she does not want to have a child until she reaches a certain age, say 35 years old. The model suggests that, especially in cases where both family life and career are important to the woman, having a child much earlier may be a better long-term solution than waiting until she is more established in her career.

For more information on the model, please visit their website:

Friday, March 7, 2008

Supply Chain Excellence - Today's best driver of bottom-line performance

According to a recent report from Boston-based AMR Research Inc., companies that excel in supply-chain operations perform better in almost every financial measure of success. Where supply-chain excellence improves demand-forecast accuracy, companies have a 5% higher profit margin, 15% less inventory, up to 17% stronger “perfect order” ratings, and 35% shorter cash-to-cash cycle times than their peers. Companies with higher perfect-order performance have higher earnings per share, a better return on assets, and higher profit margins — roughly 1% higher for every three percentage-point improvement in perfect orders.

“The basis of competition for winning companies in today’s economy is supply-chain superiority,” says Kevin O’Marah, vice president of research at AMR Research. “These companies understand that value-chain performance translates to productivity and market-share leadership. They also understand that supply-chain leadership means more than just low costs and efficiency — it requires a superior ability to shape and respond to shifts in demand with innovative products and services.”

The above is a highlight of the supply chain importance in today's businesses, referenced from an article in BusinessWeek. Here's a link to the article.