Chris Tang

March 20, 2012

Chris Tang Named an INFORMS Lifetime Fellow

Honored for contributions to Operations Research and Management Science

Christopher Tang, Edward W. Carter Chair in Business Administration, has been named a Lifetime Fellow of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS). He was recognized by the most influencial society in this field for his many theoretical and practical contributions to supply chain and production management and for outstanding professional service. In receiving this honor, Professor Tang joins UCLA Anderson colleagues Arthur Geoffrion, James A. Collins Chair in Management Emeritus, Donald Morrison, William E. Leonhard Professor of Management and Dean Emeritus William Pierskalla.

In the mid-eighties, Professor Tang began his research and teaching in the area of "Just in Time Management" (JIT) and "Total Quality Management" (TQM). But his focus has changed with time and he recently completed a book with Mohan Sodhi entitled, Managing Supply Chain Risk. He is a pioneer in the field of supply chain risk management and, in 2009, delivered a keynote address on the topic at the INFORMS Annual Meeting. The address was instrumental in generating additional research on this emerging topic.

"I think the INFORMS society recognized that my work has remained relevant and helped push the boundaries of the field," he said. "They also recognized that my work is mathematically rigorous and that I promote awareness of Operations Research and Management Science to practitioners and researchers."

Using mathematical modeling techniques, Professor Tang has identified two power mechanisms for managing supply chain risks - redundancy and flexibility. Redundancy is capacity that you keep in reserve. "It's like the extra engine on a Boeing 747 that is only used when another fails," he said. Flexibility is like sourcing materials in several different countries at the same time and being able to shift from one country to another if needed.

Redundancy and flexibility are ways to mitigate risk. So the question becomes, how much of each do you need? "My research has shown that you don't need that much of either," he explained. "A little bit of redundancy and a little bit of flexibility go a long way."

To find out exactly how much of each a firm needs, Professor Tang has analyzed this issue at a number of firms including Hewlett-Packard and IBM. He believes there will be an increasing demand for people with these quantitative skills from firms developing in-house teams as well as consulting firms and insurance providers. "Consulting firms have focused on enterprise risk in the past in order to help firms avoid problems like those at Enron. Now they see the importance of managing risk outside the enterprise as well," he said.

Professor Tang has been equally dedicated in the classroom. This year, he received the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award, which is considered the highest attainment of academic and professional excellence at UCLA. "I love both research and teaching," he said. "I just finished reading a book about Aristotle who maintains you cannot just do one or the other. You have to do both because you cannot master a subject unless you are able to transmit your knowledge to others. Most of my teaching materials were adapted from my research work, and many research ideas were created from my teaching activities. Knowledge creation and knowledge dissemination are essential parts of the 'ecosystem' of learning."

Professor Tang concluded, "I am humbled to be named an INFORMS Fellow because it recognizes the work I've done in different areas of research, teaching and service over my entire career. I started in traditional operations management and my work has changed with time. In fact, I am now developing research and teaching materials on 'social innovations,' which is an untapped area in most business schools. You see, I really love research and teaching. Ultimately, I enjoy making others think creatively and critically so that we can all make the world a better place!"

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