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Operations management with Wikrom Jaruphongsa

Please notice this was first posted in the period 2012-2014 and can be outdated

Before each new class that we start there is always somebody who gets some inside information from the class of 2011 about what we can expect: how much participation is needed, how many people failed last year, and how much work needs to be done to get a decent grade. The reputation of professor Wikrom Jaruphongsa scared everybody who hoped for a relaxing environment and an easy course: we had to be on time for classes even though they start at an impossible 8:30AM, participation was required and would be graded, we would have group assignments, homework assignments, a presentation, 2 books and a reader, a midterm, and a final exam.

The first course at Sasin where we had 2 books to read for the exam; “The Goal” was a fictional story though describing the marriage problems of a guy who also happened to work at a plant.

The reputation of the professor did not do him justice, as we soon found out, since the material was not too hard to understand, the general principles behind the theory were more important than learning the formulas by heart, and all interim work was graded pretty “relaxed” since small errors did not have to cost you any points as long as you showed you understand what you are doing and can explain the results. On one hand this sounds all pretty good, downside of this is that everybody scores very well on each assignment meaning the difference between the people getting an A and the people getting a B will be based on the final exam where minimal differences from the perfect answer can have a large impact.

Apparently Sasin has the hardware (and software) installed to have people write on powerpoint presentations. It took about 6 months for us to see this since nobody used it so far.

What was interesting about this course is that it questioned some situations we come across on a daily basis and apparently the way it is solved in real life is not always the best way. Look for example at the queues at immigration at the airport or in some banks: in many cases the average waiting time can be limited very well with some basic changes in the structure of the lines like pooling the people waiting in time, planning capacity better at peak hours, and cross-training employees. Another, not unimportant, question which we tried to tackle was why girls always go to the bathroom together, but unfortunately this problem was too complex to answer in just 5 weeks of classes.

Experiencing bottlenecks in real-life…

Sometimes theory is just not enough and we had to experience it in practice; in our case we spend half a class building paper houses in teams to experience for ourselves how we could measure throughput, limit inventory, and detect bottlenecks. It all brought back some memories of the time I was working for a large investment management firm back in Holland and we experienced wide fluctuations in the number of requests we got from the front-office. Using the principles we were taught here would have made a lot of sense to streamline the operations back then.

No pics were allowed in the assembly plant, so lets stick with a picture of the outside.

And after doing a case analysis of Toyota producing cars in the US we got the chance to see what this would look like in real life with a company visit of the ISUZU assembly plant. This visit was the icing on the cake even though we had to be at Sasin at 7:30AM and the trip took way longer than expected. In about an hour we were allowed to see almost every part of the production process of pick-up trucks and many of the concepts thought in class were used in this factory making it more comprehendible. And besides that, it was just cool to see how efficient every step of the process was executed and how quick the welding robots could welt a pick-up together. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures in the production plant, probably because they are afraid we will build our own pick-up production line at home after seeing how it can be done.