Exemplars 10

Streamlining

Opus College of Business

Dr. Sameer Kumar is a professor of operations and supply chain management, who holds the Qwest Endowed Chair in Global Communications and Technology Management

At the University of St. Thomas, I am a professor of operations and supply chain management and also hold the Qwest Endowed Chair in Global Communications and Technology Management. I was born in New Delhi, India. After my high school education, I enrolled at the University of Delhi where I graduated with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics, physics, and chemistry, and a master’s in pure mathematics. While working in the public sector for 4 years in India as Statistical and Systems Analyst, I became fascinated with the power and capabilities of computers. Computers were at their infancy in India in the ’70s and ’80s.  At the time, American graduate education in computer science was known to be the best in the world, which led me to pursue a master’s in computer science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1978.
   After graduating in 1980, I worked for Toro, the Thermo King corporation, and the Star Tribune newspaper as systems analyst, technical systems architect/project manager and technical advisor developing and managing small-, medium-, and large-scale manufacturing and logistics systems. This type of industrial experience led me to understand that industry is a laboratory where a variety of business phenomena occur. At the University of Minnesota, I went on to complete both a master’s in industrial engineering and operations research and a doctorate in industrial engineering.
   I am passionate about finding out how and why things work the way they do, and how to improve operations–whether in the manufacturing of a product, or the delivery of a health-care service. A common theme in my research has been the basic principle of the universality of a system. What makes a system unique is its environment. This finding has enabled me to categorize problems, designs, models, methodologies, and solution
techniques at macro and micro levels, and develop innovative solutions. Complex problems can be broken into smaller related problems and their solutions designed in a more focused and modular fashion. These solutions can be replicated across multiple domains. Thus, the research can be conducted in interdisciplinary and inter-organizational modes.
   My primary research interest is in developing optimal approaches to the design and operational management of supply chains where quality, costs, lead-time, flexibility, logistics, and risks are some of the business factors considered. More recently, my interests have shifted to learning more about various aspects of health-care enterprises, the health
care sector in general, and also operations and strategies that relate to global supply chain management, including critical factors such as costs, quality, innovation and technology. 
   The motivation to work on health-care systems applications stems from my research interest in public policy issues, particularly health-care systems and associated operations. In a major report published in 2001 by the Institute of Medicine–“Crossing the Quality Chasm”–the major conclusion stated that the current care system cannot do the job, that trying harder will not work, and that only changing systems of care will. The report lists the many systemic problems in the American personal health-care delivery system, including a highly fragmented system, rampant needless duplication, a system that lacks even rudimentary information systems, increasingly long wait times, an overuse of services, services being delivered when the risk of harm outweighs the benefits, and a system lack- ing “value” orientation. Many of these problems can be directly traced to a lack of a systemic approach to operations.
   Though the analytical approaches used by other industries have matured and software support has become more sophisticated, it is my understanding that very little of these advances are utilized in American hospitals today. Some useful tools and techniques can be identified for determining
optimal process changes and for applying broadly across the health-care supply chain. A few projects that I am currently working on involve system dynamics modeling and quality management tools to examine the following: potential Avian flu pandemic disruptions on global supply chains and continuity strategies for mitigation, medical tourism, modern hospital design, how RFID technology can improve efficiency and mitigate medical errors in hospitals, how the role of nurses can be expanded for long-term care during and post hospitalization, and how increased emphasis on preventive measures can reduce national health-care expenditures.
   My other area of interest is global supply chain operations with a focus on outsourcing. Adoption of outsourcing strategies among companies in industrialized economies is perhaps one of the most visible, albeit contentious, features of the global economy. Properly managed, companies can reap the benefits of outsourcing.
   As a professor, I strive to bring my findings from multidisciplinary research to the classes I teach. I hope that my knowledge and understanding in the growing field of supply chain management can help many businesses and organizations understand practical ways to improve the creation and delivery of products and services.

Sameer Kumar
“I am passionate about finding out how and why things work the way they do, and how to improve operations…”