Monday, January 30, 2012

How the US Can Compete and Win in Global Supply Chains

I was delighted to read Thomas L. Friedman's Op-Ed column Made in the World in yesterday's New York Times that quoted Yossi Sheffi of MIT.

Sheffi was my host at MIT when I held an NSF Visiting Professorship for Women.

Yossi Sheffi is the author of Urban Transportation Networks in which many of the papers of my dissertation advisor, Stella Dafermos, are cited, and one of my papers as well, although it was published just shortly after I received my PhD from Brown. He has graciously made this book available for download.

Of course, he is also the author of The Resilient Enterprise, which focuses on supply chains and how to minimize and respond to disruptions. I refer to his books in various courses that I teach at the Isenberg School from my Transportation & Logistics course to the new Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare course that I am presently teaching.

According to Friedman's column: But America can thrive in this world, explained Yossi Sheffi, the M.I.T. logistics expert, if it empowers “as many of our workers as possible to participate” in different links of these global supply chains — either imagining products, designing products, marketing products, orchestrating the supply chain for products, manufacturing high-end products and retailing products. If we get our share, we’ll do fine.

And here’s the good news: We have a huge natural advantage to compete in this kind of world, if we just get our act together.

One of my primary areas of research is supply chain networks, and I fully concur with Friedman's ending paragraph:

If only — if only — we could come together on a national strategy to enhance and expand all of our natural advantages: more immigration, most post-secondary education, better infrastructure, more government research, smart incentives for spurring millions of start-ups — and a long-term plan to really fix our long-term debt problems — nobody could touch us. We’re that close.

Our approach to supply chains focuses on the network system as described in my Supply Chain Network Economics: Dynamics of Prices, Flows, and Profits book.

Information on some of our latest research on supply chains, from medical nuclear ones to pharmaceutical and even fashion ones, can be accessed on the Virtual Center for Supernetworks website.