Writing an operations management textbook

By Matt Drake

Author’s note:
Jay Heizer and Barry Render are co-authors of “Operations Management” (Pearson, 2014), now in its 11th edition and the top-selling book in its field with over one million copies in print. In this column, I asked them about their views of textbook writing and how it has changed since their first edition.
First off, how did you two meet?

Barry: We go back 40 wonderful years to when we were both teaching at Boston University in 1973.

Jay: It was 10 years later, when I was a professor at the University of Richmond and Barry was chair of Decision Sciences at George Mason University that we decided to write the first edition of “Production and Operations Management.”

Why did you write the book?

Barry: We wanted to make a clear, readable book that would excite and motivate students to take an interest in what so many of them view as a “dry” topic.

Jay: There were many POM texts back then, maybe three dozen texts and a dozen publishers, but none of them had the features we wanted. We felt the market needed a practical book full of real-world applications that students could relate to with a full array of examples from both manufacturing and service that was, in a word, teachable.

What did you do differently?

Barry: We were the first book to provide, free to students and profs, PC software that could solve most of the problems in the text. We wrote the very first versions in BASIC for the Apple 2 and the brand new (1982) IBM PC. The current (and vastly improved) software, written by Howard Weiss, is called POM for Windows, and we now also include an Excel version (Excel OM). These are great tools for students to carry into their jobs and use throughout their careers.

Jay: We actually had a lot of “firsts,” like ethical vignettes in each chapter. We also open each chapter with a two-page photo essay that explains to the student how and why that topic makes a difference in OM performance. We were also the first, and still are, the only book to theme each edition around one of the companies we featured in the video cases.

How has text writing changed in 30 years since your first edition?

Barry: I think it’s much more complicated today. The first edition was a killer and it took almost two years to write. However, today’s textbook is much more of a ‘teaching/learning’ package. So we spend much more of our time in production, dealing with all the ancillaries – the featured company videos, taping author aids for students (we call these 90 videos “Virtual Office Hours”), editing PowerPoint’s, Instructors Resource Manual, Solutions Manuals, Test Banks, software and our on-line assessment software called MyOMLab.

Jay: I agree. If we had not both recently “retired” from teaching full-time, it would be impossible to stay on top of the writing and production process. We are both very “hands-on” in every aspect and part of the total package. If there is one typo in a PowerPoint or Solutions Manual, we take full responsibility and expedite a fix.

Operations Management

What was your worst experience in your 30 years of writing?

Barry: I think it was with the 1st edition of our “Principles of OM” about 25 years ago (now in its 9th edition). We had completed final page proofing and were awaiting the final bound book. It arrived while we were all meeting at Pearson/Prentice Hall’s headquarters. But as we excitedly paged our way through the beautiful new book, we discovered all the division signs in equations (hundreds of them) had morphed into weird Greed symbols! All 10,000 copies in the press run had to be destroyed.

Jay: That was bad. But just a few months ago, with the 11th edition heading for the printing presses, we were told that dozens of photos we had selected were no longer accessible to Pearson. It was 10 days of around-the-clock work to find new photos, caption them and get permissions to make sure they were legal.

Tell me about your four-decade relationship.

Barry: Jay and I are very close. We talk on the phone four or five times a week (or four to five times a day when a book is in production!). I think Jay is one of the most brilliant experts on all aspects of OM, and I defer to his judgment on virtually all of the intellectual issues that arise in writing.

Jay: I don’t think I’m nearly as brilliant as my co-author and good friend says, but I do think Barry is an amazing writer and editor. When he finishes a sentence, paragraph or page, it is crystal clear and crisp. We believe we have the most readable book around because Barry knows how to write for a student audience.

How many hours do you spend on your texts over a week now that the new editions are out?

Barry: Probably 20 hours a week now. I write our “Jay and Barry’s OM Blog” for instructors almost every day ( I don’t know how we kept our heads above water when we were teaching. I think we almost drowned a few times.

Jay: That’s a good time estimate. I spend a lot of time making sure our MyOMLab assessment package is perfect. It is the future of learning and we have invested thousands of hours in creating it. And, of course, I am already at work on changes, updating and improving material for the next edition.

What advice do you have for aspiring text authors?

Barry: Plan on writing every day. It is a task that requires real discipline.

Jay: Textbook writing is a serious commitment to your publisher, your family and to your co-author. It takes a huge effort to make every sentence precise and clear.

After 30 years together, what does the future look like?

Barry: It looks great! Sales keep going up and we are already planning for the 12th edition. I think I have some good years left in me.

Jay: To ease into “real” retirement, we are adding a third co-author, Chuck Munson, at Washington State University, to help with the transition. Chuck’s scholarship, intellect and teaching ideas have already enriched the current edition.

Matt Drake ( is the director of International Business Programs and an associate professor of Supply Chain Management at Duquesne University, as well as editor of the “Issues in Education” column in OR/MS Today.

Contributors wanted

Authors interested in contributing articles to the Issues in Education column should contact the column editor, Matt Drake, associate professor of Supply Chain Management at Duquesne University:
Phone: (412)396-1959