February 17, 2007

Whats Up!

Writing about web page http://www.wmccm.co.uk

Been a busy period since the last entry – a period of highs and lows.

Been busy with finding and turning away new students, not just for MSc and PhD study with me, but also for the University as a whole.
Spent four days in Jordon (Amman) typical piece of work – too busy before hand to fully check out The University of Jordon, the top rated institution in the country – we visited it and had an entaining five hours or so, discussing possible collaboration between WMG and UofJ, met some interesting University admin/academics. Great buildings and position. In the evening interviewed about 6 students wanting to study at Warwick – its amazing how little our agents know about what goes on here – maybe we should advertise the blogs more! Seemed to be really good quality students!
Also visited the University of Science and Technology Jordon, which was about one hours drive away from our Hotel. Again a very pleasant location and very friendly hosts. We did have a few hours free one afternoon whilst in Jordon, and thus had a long walk around the centre, and got a really good haircut in a barbershop in a side alley. Why are haircuts so much cheaper, less rushed, more friendly almost everywhere else I go in the world? (apart from Sweden, where they cost even more!)
We were invited to visit the University in the Lebanon, before travelling onto Jordon, luckily we declined – there where riots and several deaths centred on the University -just when we would have been there, and one of our colleagues was delayed getting to Jordon because all flights out of Lebanon were cancelled.
Nice and sunny in Jordon and we tried to soak up a bit of sunshine in the few moments outside between meetings. Then travelled onto Dubai – to meet up and discuss student recruitmet and collaboration with three more possible University partners. One of my current doctorate students is based in Abu Dhabi, he came and met us and hosted us for a couple of days, a highlight was a visit to the Dubai Global Village, a World Trade fair place combined with Disneyland. Fantastic music,laser and firework show – bought some Saudi Arabian perfume for Gunnel. (luckily she liked it!) I also bought yet another ticket for the Dubai airport raffle ( 1000 tickets at £80 a ticket) to win a Porsche 911, did not win again!
The University visits were very interesting, visited the Knowledge villiage (where a number of UK universities have offices) and also previously have visited Academic City where many of the Universities and colleges are located. Dubai (or even better Abu Dhabi) would be a good place for the Warwick to open a new campus. Hope WMG can partner with a local high quality institution. Going there on secondment would be good training for our PhDs and EngDs.
Got back to UK after 8 daYS AWAY, and then back into catching up on all the work I had missed whilst way, in particular, reading student PhD and MSc drafts as well as catching up on the WMCCM project progress. We were invited to bid fro a £221,000 grant by the IT cluster for support work to regional ICT companies, that application si still only half done! Aslo been busy designing and configuring a shop function for the WMCCM marketplace, looking at how WMG can better support and integrate its Alumin. More important than ever since over 70+ companies want to give preferential interviews and recruitment to our MSc and PhD students. The Hong Kong goverment is even giving them preferntial visas to live in Hong Kong! Have designed a new website – hope it will be up and running in a few weeks time.
Ran my MSc module on Business Information System Stragey last week. I like teaching and enjoy student interaction – but switching to it from mainly research means changing gear quite significantly! I do not think I managed that very well last week.
Still lots of student drafts to read and applications for funding to complete, plus I had also promised myself to write a conference/journal paper in February – so more hectic weeks to come!
The life of an academic hey! I did get offered a Professor post at another University last week, (to add to the one last year!), but WMG is such an exciting place to work!
So to carry on I have a work trip to India next month to sign a collaboration to develop SME relationships between the UK and India, should be interesting and fun – and I can see lots of potential for improving business in the West Midlands as a result.
bye for now.

January 03, 2007

Laser Eye Surgery and medical tourism

Writing about web page http://www.tajmedicalgroup.co.uk

Finally getting very fed up with wearing glasses! have tried contact lenses of all types, hard, soft, etc and never really managed to cope with them. So seriously considering laser eye surgery. Having investigated wavefront seems best (also most expensive!) as used by Tiger Woods (after which he went on to win his next 10 tournaments, would be happy to just win at football occasionally!

This interest has been re-ignited by a recent research grant from the department of extremely clever things (run by EB) to build a self help medical portal (we are currently calling it medigate). The idea being that with the NHS they insist on doing everything for you, but I generally believe people are more confortable when they are in control, and in the same way supermarkets are more efiicient because they make you collect you own goods, and internet sites make you do everything apart from take it home, medigate will help you with your own medical treatment arrangement, taking some load of the health system staff. There are lots of medical portal already that help with diagnosis and advice, but none (that we know about) that help you find providers and make arrangements. There was some recent research showing that googling your symtoms correctly identified the problem in approx 60+% of cases, and was partcularly good for unusual symtoms or diseases which your GP is unlikely to be familiar with. I would recomend googling before you visit your GP anyway.

There are many physical Medical Tourism providers, but it is very difficult for them to be efficient, because of the huge volume of enquiries but low coversion rates. For our project we are partnered with the Taj Medical Group, the largest and most successful provider of medical tourism to India.
(see video )
Anyway for the less than the cost of treating one eye in the UK, I can go to India and have wavfront eye surgery by the Prime Ministers surgeon. I am still slightly disturbed by the fact that they have to cut and lift a flap off my eyeball before the laser zapping!
Anyway some time in the coming year I will be getting it done.

Not sure what the effect will be – I have been wearing glasses since I was 10! will keep you informed.

January 02, 2007

Supply Chain Visibiliy

Recently I have designing and building a supply chain visibility enabling software for our WMCCM marketplace We will be more fully testing and evaluating the system in the coming year, but some of the background is introduced first. (suggest that unless you are actually interested in this background, you skip it!)

Today, globalization and intense competition are increasingly forcing corporations to reconsider their business strategies. Monopoly and centralization in the marketplace are outdated and collaborative working environments are preferred and adopted. Downsizing and Rightsizing are the new developments and strategies being followed by many organizations. Firms now prefer generally to concentrate on their core competencies and outsource other non core business functions. One method for making these judgements is by comparing the transaction cost of doing it internally and externally. Rapid developments in information technology and systems have impacted hugely on reducing the transaction cost of dealing with external firms. [1] As a result, outsourcing has now become a trend which has made the supply chain complicated and its management more critical for organizational success.

Also, customer’s demands are continuously increasing as they always want more in terms of quality and delivery, but at a less price (Kotler, 2004). So, organizations are under tremendous market pressure to reduce the costs by improving the operating efficiency. It can be argued that the internal functional improvement initiatives like Lean Management, Six Sigma, etc. across the whole supply chain are not sufficient to have a fully optimized supply chain; in fact it may sometimes hinder other member’s performance too. As supported by Ross et al. (2005) that it is necessary for the organizations to take a supply chain view of what is optimum rather than managing a collection of optimised individual functions which together may deliver a sub-optimal supply chain. Like for example, reducing inventory holdings at the customer end may require the supplier to keep extra buffer stocks, hence the overall supply chain inventory remains the same. Hence, it becomes necessary to align functional objectives with the overall supply chain objective which requires tighter integration and visibility of the supply chain operations. However, there are several problems associated with integrating and visualising the supply chain which are outlined in the following section.

1.2 Introduction to Problems

The various problems associated with supply chain integration and its visibility, are discussed in brief as follows:

1.2.1 Uncertainty of Events

On-time delivery is very important for the success of the business. However, it is highly impeded by the uncertainty of events whether it is demand uncertainty or operation uncertainty. The occurrence of the uncertain events is necessary to be communicated across the supply chain immediately so that appropriate timely actions can be taken by the supply chain members to avoid the problem or at least be prepared in advance for it. This is however difficult to achieve in most supply chains due to traditional method of information flow which is slow as it passes from OEM to 1st tier suppliers then to 2nd tier and so on. There is also insufficient visibility among the members of the supply chain regarding who to inform, when to inform, and how to inform in case of unexpected events.

1.2.2 Incompatible IT systems

Information and data sharing across supply chain is very important for integration. A typical supply chain may consist of many businesses having their own internal application systems. These different systems across the supply chain may not be compatible with each other. Hence, they may not be able to communicate with each other that efficiently which is essential for gaining deep visibility into supply chain operations.

1.2.3 Temporary Nature of Supply Chain

Large companies are increasingly outsourcing some short-term projects which require different capabilities, not present in a single company. Group of companies, mostly SME’s doing such short term projects operate by forming temporary supply chain which needs to be integrated to work efficiently. Setting up the integration and visibility system across the supply chain in such a short period is difficult and also the Return on Investment (ROI) might not be there as the supply chain members will not get the benefit from the system in short time.

1.2.4 Information Unavailability

Information sharing among the supply chain members is very important for integration. However, to make the right information available to the right person at right time and in the correct form is the key to the integration success. Information sharing is sometimes difficult to achieve across the supply chain due to various reasons like lack of infrastructural support required for information exchange or sometimes supply chain members may not like to share their internal information with the outsiders.

1.2.5 Identifying Supply Chain Inefficiencies

It is very important to have visibility to find out where exactly the inefficiency in the supply chain come from so that informed improvement decisions can be taken accordingly. Also, one member’s inefficiency may affect other members in the supply chain too, so identifying the root cause of the problem is important and difficult too.

1.2.6 Developing and Maintaining Supply Chain Relationships

Managing interpersonal relationships with other organizations can be considered as the most difficult part of the business. Successful integration requires efficient communication, coordination and more importantly co-operation among the supply chain members. This requires good business and personal relationships among people across the supply chain which is difficult to develop and maintain as different kinds of people having different objectives are involved in communication. Poor communication and improper coordination between supply chain members may fail the integration initiatives.

1.2.7 Adversarial Blockages

Supply Chain Integration involves a major change in the ways of doing business. Earlier, companies in the same supply chain were competing to get maximum benefit from other members and so had adversarial kind of relationships. While now integration asks for collaboration and co-operation among its members so as to have Win-Win relationship. However, getting this change in the relationship is difficult to achieve as dominant partners sometimes find it hard to lose some of the benefits to others due to cooperation.

1.3 Ways to Tackle the Problems

Increased importance is been given by many companies to visualise the entire supply chain because of the benefits associated with it. Also, the dynamic market environment and the globalization of business have made the supply chain very complex to manage. Hence, companies are using different and improved ways to better manage the supply chain integration and visibility problems. The following mentions some of the ways to tackle the problems mentioned in the previous section.

1.3.1 Information Exchange Systems

For better integration, members in the supply chain can use common information exchange systems like Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), CORBA, Sabre, etc. which facilitate business data and information transactions across the supply chain. Mostly large companies use these systems as they are expensive and can be used for fast and reliable information sharing among supply chain members.

1.3.2 Software Solutions

Many ERP software vendors like SAP (www.sap,com), SSA Global (www.ssaglobal.com), PeopleSoft (www.peoplesoft.com), etc. provide Supply Chain Management (SCM) solutions as a part of the total EIS package. Mostly big companies like the OEM’s buy the SCM solution to have better integration with their suppliers. Another advantage of buying this as a part of the EIS package is that it integrates well with the other internal application system. SME’s normally don’t buy these solutions as they are expensive and requires high technical capability and resources to use it.

1.3.3. Web-based Solutions

Due to extensive use of internet by the businesses, web-based supply chain integration solutions have recently gained increased acceptance as a cheaper alternative to other ways. Vendors like WeSupply (www.wesupply.com) provide web-based solutions to help their customers solve the supply chain problems.

1.3.4 E-Marketplaces

E-marketplace serves as a platform for the firms to interact and communicate over the web. It also provides various web based collaborative services which can be used to solve the supply chain problems. It is an easy and cheaper way for the SME’s to integrate and co-ordinate their activities.

Thus, there are various ways in which the supply chain problems can be solved. However, the selection of a particular way depends upon the individual supply chain requirements. Based on this, the project aims to develop a visibility application to have better integration and coordination of the supply chain activities for the Small and Medium sized Enterprises.

The best Networked Organisation buidling tool in the world?

Writing about web page http://www.wmccm.co.uk

For the past few years we have been working on the use of ebusiness to help small and medium size companies, and engineering ones in particular! Over the last year I have made an speciall attempt to find out what is happening in EU funded research in this area, guess what? lost of well written papers, but the state of actual practice appears to be very patchy. I am particularly frustrated by the EU ECOLEAD project (type that in your google search bar!). Some really good ideas, such as
“In ten years, in response to fast changing market conditions, most enterprises and specially the SMEs will be part of some sustainable collaborative networks that will act as breeding environments for the formation of dynamic virtual organizations.”
but the actual practice is that a spec for a breeding environment has only recently been listed. Why am I anoyed! because we have had such a breeding environment for the past three years! WMCCM has over 3300 company members, over 40,000 tenders adn has created oover £4m of new business for our region.
More on this subject later, but this rant to start off with.

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