Saturday, March 8, 2008

Conference to explore strategies for balancing risk, opportunity - SDM Pulse, Spring 2008

By Kathryn O’Neill, editor of the SDM Pulse

Industry leaders and experts from MIT will discuss ways to manage uncertainty at an upcoming MIT conference: Strategies for Balancing Risks and Opportunities in Global Product Delivery, to be held March 11-12, 2008.

“We’ve invited some of the best risk-based decision makers in several industries to describe how they use risk data to make good product decisions,” said Pat Hale, director of the SDM Fellows program. Speakers include leaders from such well-known companies as IBM, Velcro, Xerox, and the U.S. Navy.

The conference is cosponsored by MIT’s System Design and Management Program, Leaders for Manufacturing Program, Forum for Supply Chain Innovation, and Industrial Liaison Program.

Attendees will learn about the latest research in the field. “Our faculty speakers have deep expertise in quantitatively modeling risk and the effect it can have in every stage of product development,” Hale said. “They can help you move from intuition to data-based decisions that will help you make critical decisions for measurable reasons—and become far stronger in winning the product development race.”

The day-and-a-half-long conference will feature presentations addressing fundamental challenges of innovation, execution, and delivery. The emphasis is on achieving balance through a life-cycle approach to product development—one that encompasses the diverse requirements of manufacturing, supply chain, service, maintenance, and recycling. A networking reception and an SDM-LFM student poster session are also scheduled.

Managing risk from birth to earth

Conference presenters will offer specific remarks on managing risk and opportunities using a life-cycle approach. In the first keynote address, Joan B. Cullinane, president of Velcro USA Inc., will explain how Velcro balances risk and opportunity through a system of checks and balances that not only incorporates traditional business imperatives (like new product development and supply chain design), but also new imperatives (like the environment, geopolitics, and managing a diverse workforce).

Jeffrey D. Tew, a General Motors Technical Fellow and group manager at the GM Research and Development Center, will discuss key technologies and management practices that companies can employ to protect the supply chain, business performance, and the brand at every stage of product life. And, Alfred H. Ford Jr., deputy director of submarine safety and quality assurance for the Naval Sea Systems Command, will illustrate the benefits of life-cycle thinking with a detailed look at how the U.S. Navy ensures its submarine fleet’s safety.

Olivier de Weck, an MIT associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems, will explore the challenges and opportunities of incorporating new technologies into existing products. “You can do a perfect job designing the wrong thing,” he said, so companies need to think strategically, work to anticipate needs, and use that information in making design decisions.

Naturally, complex systems up the ante. Nancy Leveson, MIT professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems, will describe a new approach to risk analysis that is now being successfully applied in aerospace, defense, pharmaceuticals, energy, and reduction of corporate fraud.

A whole world of risk
In the second conference keynote, Nicholas M. Donofrio, executive vice president for innovation and technology at IBM Corporation, will discuss the importance of seamlessly linking operations to create a globally integrated enterprise.

David Simchi-Levi, MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering and engineering systems and director of the Forum for Supply Chain Innovation, will outline the sources of risks in the supply chain. He will then identify strategies that can be used to manage those risks and share case studies to illustrate their impact. University of Michigan Professor Wallace J. Hopp will share research findings and his perspectives on the risks inherent in managing a global supply chain.

The conference will conclude with a talk by Stephen P. Hoover, vice president and center manager at Xerox Research Center Webster, who will explain how large companies can become big innovators: the key is to establish a culture that couples risk with its associated opportunity and manages the pair intelligently.

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