Ramchandran Jaikumar

December 17, 1944 – February 10, 1998

Brief Biography

Ramchandran Jaikumar was a Franz Edelman laureate and Harvard University professor. Born in Madras (Chennai) in southern India, Jaikumar received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. During college, he worked as a mountain guide in the Himalayas and developed a lifelong passion for the sport. Jaikumar immigrated to the United States where he received graduate degrees from Oklahoma State University and the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Jaikumar was a pioneer in the study of flexible manufacturing systems. He joined the faculty at the Harvard Business School in 1980, teaching a number of courses in the university’s Masters of Business Administration program. In addition to his academic career, Jaikumar served on a number of National Research Council committees and was an adviser to the congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the United States Senate Subcommittee on Science and Technology.

Jaikumar maintained a close relationship with his colleagues from Wharton, especially with his doctoral advisor, Marshall L. Fisher. In the early 1980s, he was included in a collaborative effort between the University of Pennsylvania and Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. The team focused on improving the distribution of industrial gases with an on-line computerized routing and scheduling optimizer. They focused on inventory management of industrial gases at customer locations and designed a decision support system that included on-line data entry functions, customer usage forecasting, a mathematical optimization module to produce daily delivery schedules, and an interactive schedule change interface. The project saved the company upwards of ten percent of operating costs in the first year and received the top prize of the 1983 Franz Edelman Award competition for achievement in operations research and the management sciences.

Jaikumar and Fisher worked together on a number of other projects as well, developing a generalized assignment heuristic for vehicle routing and a computerized vehicle routing application in the early 1980s. The duo additionally co-authored an award-winning paper in 1984 on computing in transportation science.

In 1997, Jaikumar became the first man to successfully climb a previously unconquered mountain. He dubbed the peak “Minarjnik”, a combination of the names of his wife and two sons. He died the following year at fifty-three years old, suffering from a heart attack while mountain climbing in Ecuador.  Prior to his death, Jaikumar had been studying the “operating system” of how factories are organized, espousing a theory of “minimalist” factories designs to prevent costly disruptions.


Indian Institute of Technology, BME

Oklahoma State University, MS

University of Pennsylvania, PhD 


Academic Affiliations

Key Interests in OR/MS

Application Areas


Harvard University Gazette (1998) Business Professor R. Jaikumar Dies on Mountaineering Trip. February 19. (link)

New York Times (1998) Ramchandran Jaikumar, 53, Business Professor at Harvard. March 2. (link

The Harvard Crimson (1998) Jaikumar Dies While Climbing. February 18. (link

Awards and Honors

Second Place George Nicholson Student Paper Competition 1979

Franz Edelman Award 1983 and 1998

E. Grosvenor Plowman Award 1984

Selected Publications

Fisher M. L. & Jaikumar R. (1981) A generalized assignment heuristic for vehicle routing. Networks, 11(2): 109-124.

Fisher M. L., Greenfield A. J., Jaikumar R., & Lester III J. T. (1982) A computerized vehicle routing application. Interfaces, 12(4), 42-52.

Bell W. J., Dalberto L. M., Fisher M. L., Greenfield A. J., Jaikumar R., Kedia P., Mack R. G., & Prutzman, P. J. (1983) Improving the distribution of industrial gases with an on-line computerized routing and scheduling optimizer. Interfaces, 13(6): 4-23.

Jaikumar R. (1984) Flexible Manufacturing Systems: A Managerial Perspective. Division of Research, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University: Cambridge, MA.

Fisher M. L., Jaikumar R., & Van Wassenhove L. N. (1986) A multiplier adjustment method for the generalized assignment problem. Management Science, 32(9): 1095-1103.

Jaikumar R. (1986) Postindustrial manufacturing. Harvard Business Review, 64(6): 69-76.

Hayes R. B. & Jaikumar R. (1988) New technologies, obsolete organizations. Harvard Business Review, 66(5): 77-85.

Cohen M. A., Fisher M., & Jaikumar, R. (1989) International manufacturing and distribution networks: a normative model framework. Managing International Manufacturing, 13: 67-93.

Jaikumar R. & Van Wassenhove L. (1989) A production planning framework for flexible manufacturing systems. Journal of Manufacturing and Operations Management, 2(1): 52-79.

Jaikumar R. & Bohn R. E. (1992) A dynamic approach to operations management: An alternative to static optimization. International Journal of Production Economics, 27(3): 265-282.