Points for the sharp end

Global Logistics Management - Manufacturing Strategy - Operations Management
March 2, 2001

The past decade saw a revolution in technical achievement and management practice. Education has become more relevant, reflecting new complexities of the management scene and the offer of unprecedented value in the form of improved texts.

Practising managers seldom find time for study. Jargon, trite panaceas, indigestible texts or sheer irrelevance may account for an aversion to the written word, but management schools can ameliorate the situation by advising on texts that reflect developments in good practice.

Each of the books reviewed here highlights the importance, development and functions of a key area of management.

Operations Management: Strategic Context and Managerial Analysis is worthy of detailed study. It offers a balanced, comprehensive and up-to-date account of the operations role, its dominance in the use of resources, in competitiveness and business success. Sound stuff and in presentation, material and currency, an advance on Terry Hill's earlier writings.

To oversimplify, the book is about doing the right things in the strategic role and doing things right in the operational one. In 700 pages the author elucidates these issues in refreshingly practical terms and in six parts covers day-to-day and strategic roles; product, service and process development; managing and controlling the operations system; improving operations; managing people (a resume pulling together related issues in other chapters) and 22 case studies from various sectors, worldwide. Operations Management is almost a course package in itself, with discussion questions and a disk that enables students to analyse and manipulate case data. A lecturer's manual on the use of case studies is also available.

Manufacturing Strategy: Text and Cases , now in its second edition and also by Hill, is an update with new material on issues and developments in the manufacturing sector. Hill adopts an analytical approach to change and shows how to avoid gaps in strategy formulation. He pursues two objectives: to help manufacturing executives analyse corporate issues and improve their contribution to strategy; and, importantly, to enable executives in other functions to understand manufacturing's strategic role in company success.

Hill begins with an approach to strategy development, shows what should be done at each stage, discussing, inter alia , the implications of manufacturing processes, product profiling and infrastructure.

Other useful chapters deal with focus, assigning plants to defined tasks, buying decisions, managing the supply chain and design that supports business needs. The final chapter touches on the complex area of the finance and data needed for strategic decisions. Again, 22 case studies provide a wealth of material for study and analysis.

These are no lightweight texts but excellent use is made of examples and the author's style is uncluttered by jargon or assumptions. They are better arranged than many other works on the subject and very rewarding for those who persevere. Both will be welcomed as core texts and seminar material by lecturers and management development specialists.

"I don't know what this logistics is, but I want some of it," so Admiral Earnest J. King, chief of US naval operations in 1942, once said. Logistics, a mix of functions crucial to competitive advantage and success, is a familiar term open to various interpretations. Global Logistics Management: A Competitive Advantage for the New Millennium is a comprehensive account of the modern perspective on logistics management.

Against a background of global competition, Gourdin discusses alternatives and opportunities arising from developments in such areas as transportation, communication, electronic data interchange and so on, and with real-life examples demonstrates how individual activities are woven together to form an integrated logistics system.

The book is structured around a simple model with chapters relating to customer service, inventory, transportation, warehousing, materials management information systems, the global logistics environment, improving performance, the development of high-quality logistics systems and so on. Examples and logistics profiles illustrate points and each chapter includes study questions.

As a comprehensive grounding or timely update, this book will be particularly useful to practising managers and graduate and postgraduate students.

Ralph Keeling is a consultant and the author of Project Management: An International Perspective .

Global Logistics Management: A Competitive Advantage for the New Millennium. First edition

Author - Kent N. Gourdin
ISBN - 1 55786 882 4 and 883 2
Publisher - Blackwell
Price - £55.00 and £19.99
Pages - 299

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