A successful industrialist who went on to become an academic expert on operations management has died.
Alan Harrison was born in Oxfordshire on 25 November 1944 and educated at Abingdon School before studying chemistry at Jesus College, Oxford (1964-68). He started his career as an industrial engineer and liquid products manager with Procter and Gamble, and spent almost 20 years in industry, including positions at British Leyland and General Electric.
Such high-level practical experience proved invaluable when Professor Harrison shifted track into the academy as a senior research fellow and then lecturer in operations management at Warwick Business School, with a particular interest in the application of Japanese management methods to British manufacturing.
At the start of 1996 he moved to the Cranfield School of Management as professor of operations and logistics. He was to remain there until he retired (gaining emeritus status at the end of 2011). In 1998 he became director of research at what is now the Supply Chain Research Centre. He also directed the school's executive doctoral programme from 2007.
Besides more than 100 journal articles, Professor Harrison authored or co-authored many of the standard texts in his field.
He wrote Just-in-Time Manufacturing in Perspective (1992), contributed to early editions of the major textbook Operations Management (second edition, 1998), and was part of the teams responsible for Cases in Operations Management (third edition, 2003) and Logistics Management and Strategy: Competing through the Supply Chain (fourth edition, 2011). The last of these has been translated into many languages.
Professor Harrison played a pivotal role in building the Supply Chain Research Centre into a leading international institution. He recently coordinated the formation of a team of academic and business partners to secure a large tranche of European funding for the centre.
For Mark Jenkins, director of research at the Cranfield School of Management, Professor Harrison was notable for the "energy and drive" he brought to his discipline and institution, and for his "passionate commitment to the development of his students and colleagues".
He was equally energetic in a range of adventurous pursuits, including skydiving. He also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and went dogsledding in Finland. And he was widely admired for the courage, tenacity and commitment to fundraising he showed when facing cancer in his final years.
Professor Harrison died on 6 October 2012 and is survived by his wife Catherine, a son and a daughter.