M&SOM Review

Firms with prominent brands (e.g., Apple, Disney, Marks & Spencer, Zara) have recently been exposed as sourcing from suppliers that have caused major harm to workers or the environment. When a firm’s supplier is revealed as abusing workers (e.g., through hazardous working conditions leading to workplace injuries and deaths) or damaging the environment (e.g., through a major, illegal release of toxic chemicals) the ensuing scandal damages the brand of the buying firm.

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Rue La La is in the online fashion sample sales industry, where they offer extremely limited-time discounts (“flash sales”) on designer apparel and accessories. Upon visiting Rue La La’s website (www.ruelala.com), the customer sees several “events,” each representing a collection of for-sale products (“styles”) that are similar in some way.

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In a recently accepted paper in Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, we examine the impact wine tasting experts have when it comes to selling wine before it is bottled. The practice of selling wine prior to its bottling has been long been practiced by French winemakers; it is referred to as the “en primeur” campaign. In the US, it is known as “wine futures.”

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Humanitarian organizations depend on donor funding to manage their operations. While the total amount received in donations affects the efficacy of such operations, the funding timing and predictability are also important contributing factors. In fact, delay and uncertainty of donor funding are cited as the key drivers of inefficiencies in global health supply chains. A study conducted by the Brookings Institution noted that for every dollar received in aid funding by humanitarian organizations, between 7-28 cents of aid value is lost due to funding delays.

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These are the best of times for car buyers. Statistics on all aspects of performance and reliability are easily available, along with tools that suggest what a car is “really” worth relative to the manufacturers’ suggested retail price. Yet one key piece of information is usually overlooked, even though it affects the discounts that car companies offer.

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In business-to-business transactions, pricing decision making continues to be one of the least-understood levers influencing a company's ability to achieve high performance....The most sophisticated price optimization models mean little if they are not manifested in the decisions made by salespeople every day. (Cudahy et al. 2012, 893)

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So your company has decided to invest in renewal energy technology to supplement your firm’s energy needs and you have been assigned the task of figuring out how much renewable energy technology capacity to install. For this discussion, assume that the chosen renewable technology is solar panels although the same decision framework also applies to wind turbines. Thus, your decision involves determining how many solar panels to purchase and install. Simply relying on the solar panel contractor’s recommendations of how many panels to install may be problematic, since the contractor may have an incentive to sell you more capacity than you actually need. Thus, you need to perform an analysis to determine the most cost effective amount of capacity to purchase.

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Wide distribution of counterfeit goods is a big problem now and is only going to grow worse. Greed remains the why, but the how has been accelerated by the revolution in supply chain management that has dramatically transformed manufacturing and order fulfillment and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, the off-shoring and out-sourcing that has created so much value for firms and economies around the world, also make counterfeiting much easier by providing counterfeiters with easy access to modern production facilities. This has worsened the threat to companies that have built their brands into major assets and to consumers who rely on those brands as indicators of value, status, or both.

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Companies are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to solve their increasingly complex business challenges. Whether it’s a production problem, a scheduling glitch or distribution downtime, managers need to not only understand the source but also seek a timely and sustainable solution. That often requires a sensitivity analysis, which looks at how uncertainty in the output of a system can be measured against different sources of uncertainty in its inputs.

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Toyota Motor Corp. has been making automobiles since the 1930s, and has amassed a wealth of engineering expertise in producing more than 200 million vehicles in the past 80 years. Yet in the mid-1990s, when Toyota began developing the first commercially mass produced hybrid vehicle – the Prius – it faced a challenge in reconciling process design and product design. It decided to build the gasoline and electric-powered Prius in the same factories where it had long produced conventional (gas-powered) cars, so there was plenty of process design knowledge in place; but because the Prius needed a complex design of electric motors, sensors and other components, product design knowledge was limited. The daunting question faced by Toyota was how to communicate what needed to be done between product designers and their process counterparts to ensure a smooth launch? Should product design dictate the manufacturing process, or vice versa? How much should product design teams advance their development before they share knowledge and facts regarding the design details with their manufacturing process designers? Or should a more simultaneous approach be taken?

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