|Dr. Stanley Gershwin|
One of the aspects of the LGO community that our graduates and partner companies most appreciate is the continuing connection they have to MIT’s research and intellectual innovations. The online seminar series of talks by MIT faculty, alumni and industry partners is a major component of this ongoing exchange of new knowledge. The “webinars” attract an audience of participants from the LGO and SDM alumni groups, joining from all over the world for a lunchtime talk on Mondays.
Two weeks after Black Friday, we offered a timely seminar on “Inventory and Variability” by Dr. Stanley Gershwin of the MIT Laboratory for Manufacturing Productivity. Dr. Gershwin’s talk started by stating that “inventory is a necessary evil, and we do our best to minimize it.” However, variability makes inventory necessary—making variability the “enemy of manufacturing.” Using a series of illustrative models to demonstrate the impact of variability, he asserted the need for factories to be designed and operated in order to minimize “the creation, propagation, and amplification of uncertainty, variability, and randomness.” Then, based on data from his and his students’ research over the past years, he showed how inventory buffer space is needed at the points of greatest inventory variability.
45 participants joined Dr. Gershwin’s seminar from the USA, Brazil, and Ireland. Richard Howe, SDM ’00, of Xerox, said that he had enjoyed the talk for its application of the “thinking, techniques, and tools of system dynamics.”
Some wag on Twitter this week said he had added a macro to his email client to delete all messages with “webinar” in the subject line. This weblog entry on webinars must surely raise two red flags in that system. However, I was impressed by the level of participation and interest in Dr. Gershwin’s seminar, and by the desire of MIT faculty and alumni to give further seminars during 2011. Stay tuned for upcoming seminars this Spring by MIT faculty Leon Glicksman on “Energy Efficiency in Buildings,” and by Allan Myerson on “Crystallization Science and Technology in the Chemical, Food and Pharmaceutical Industry.” We also expect to have some alumni speakers.