Q&A WITH PHIL KAMINSKY

Phil Kaminsky is Chancellor’s Professor and department chair in the Department of Industrial and Operations Research at the University of California, Berkeley. He also serves as faculty director of the university’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology and the director of the Initiative for Research in Biopharmaceutical Operations. He will be giving a keynote presentation at the IIE Annual Conference & Expo 2016 on Monday, May 23. 

IISE: What is the most exciting development or, conversely, the most pressing challenge in the field of industrial and systems engineering today?

Kaminsky: You could view this as either an exciting development or a pressing challenge: We’ve become so good at making supply chains efficient that in some sense we’ve become too good, and we’ve introduced new risks that weren’t an issue when the supply chains weren’t so efficient. When there was extra inventory lying all over the place, and all kinds of other buffers, it didn’t matter so much. Now, we have to explicitly plan for risk because we’ve made the supply chains so efficient.

So [an example is] when you’re running your supply chain with a lot of inventory, and you put in lots of slack time in because you never know how long things are going to take -- it’s an expensive way to run your supply chain, but you can survive through all kinds of problems. If there’s a storm, a strike, somebody’s out for the day, if there’s traffic somewhere, who cares because [there are built in buffers]. As we’ve worked for years to make supply chains efficient, we’ve eliminated much of this built-in slack. So now there’s risk that wasn’t there when we weren’t so good at running [the system]. So this is a pressing issue.

And then another pressing issue facing the field is that – and this is maybe from my perspective as an academic – we believe we have so many great and innovative ways to solve problems, and in many cases, depressingly few of them are actually making it into practice. The good thing is there are lots of innovative research and lots of innovative ideas, and the challenge is getting firms to use these ideas in the real world.

IISE: What do you plan to discuss in your keynote presentation?

Kaminsky: At a broad level, what I want to talk about is what’s happening now in supply chain management – what’s new, what’s exciting, what people are talking about – and a lot of that is around risk management, specifically for the reasons that I just discussed. There is a lot of interest in more agile, more dynamic, more responsive supply chains and managing risk in these supply chains. And the other thing I’m going to try to work in is some of the things we’ve learned along the way about how to effectively and maybe not so effectively work with industry as academics.

IISE: What would you like attendees to take away from your presentation?

Kaminsky: The nature of problems we’re addressing in supply chain management has changed, and we need to make many more advances to address these problems, and these advances will probably lead to more challenges. Also, I strongly believe that industry and academia working together is the way that we’re going to address these challenges.

For more information about Phil Kaminsky and the other IIE Annual Conference 2016 keynote speakers, go to the Keynote Speakers page at www.iise.org/annual. 

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