Improving management everywhere

In India’s Karnataka state, many small farmers usually sell their produce to consultants – wholesalers turn around and sell the goods quickly for profit. Most of the communication between farmers and those traders took place locally, and farmers did not know what the “fair” price for their produce should be.

Realizing that these farmers are not getting a fair share of their produce, many are still living in poverty, and the Karnataka state government wants to create a more transparent market. They previously set up a new digital marketing platform to connect and integrate more than 150 isolated physical markets. To further improve the platform, the government is working with MIT Associate Professor Karen Zheng, an operations management scholar, who often relies on field research to create new ideas based on information, especially on supply chains.

The first step in the partnership was a strong assessment of how much the forum has added value to farmers. Analysis shows that prices for some products have risen sharply, while others have been in practice. So Zheng worked with many colleagues and students to find solutions to increase prices for these products. Finally, they designed a new round of two bids, and from the second round of bidding, the first round of bidding for the new lentil market was added.

The result? In the first three months of the 2019 spring season, average prices increased by about 5 percent, benefiting more than 10,000 farmers under the new bidding system.

“Two-tier bidding has led to significant improvements,” said Zheng, an associate professor of George M. Bunker at MIT Sloan School of Management. It is also interesting to note that similar improvements continue until next season.

Agricultural markets are not the only subject of Zing studies. She examines a wide range of supply chain issues, including corporate social responsibility issues. But the Karnataka project is a reflection of what it does on a large scale, because its research is multifaceted, based on extensive field work and intended to have an impact.

“This whole process is very important to me as a researcher and reflects my point of view,” says Zheng. To understand what is happening in the real world, I want to know how to model a problem correctly and figure out how to shape my research. And then they bring practical solutions to the field and evaluate their results. I really enjoy the whole cycle of research. ”

She was promoted to MIT last year for her research and teaching.

Driving changes

Zheng, who grew up in China, appreciates parent credits for developing an education-oriented environment.

“They put a lot of pressure on me, but not in a very positive way,” says Zheng. She holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in automotive from computer science, electrical engineering and control concepts at Singing University in Beijing.

Henng then earned a PhD in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University, fulfilling his long-term desire to study abroad.

“At that time, I did not decide to go to the academy and become a professor,” said Zhang. I always wanted the experience.

Zheng may have finally entered the private sector, but she became more interested in research tests and operations in Stanford.

“I love practical mathematics – to solve practical challenges, to develop intelligent mathematical models and then to solve them to create real-life solutions,” says Zheng. “I think that’s why I focus on operations management. I like to apply for math to see how we can improve the world.

Zheng She received her PhD in 2011 from Stanford and joined the MIT faculty later that year. He has been in the facility ever since. “They appreciate their openness,” he said, adding that she now has a difficult track record at MIT. [her senior colleagues] He gave me everything in the process, and repeated feedback on what I was doing. Thank you for all your support. ”

Visibility, transparency and responsibility

Zheng’s current and future research has many threads. She continues to explore supply chain efficiency and logistics in agriculture and other sectors, and will continue to pursue environmental and social responsibility projects within the local chain.

“Most of my work involves social responsibility, especially in labor practices,” says Zheng. A.D. In 2013, he described the collapse of the Dhaka garment factory in Bangladesh and the suicide bombing at the Foxconn plant in China.

Zheng says that the basis for her research in this field is the lack of transparency in the global supply chain. Even national brands are often unable to keep track of the many products and components in their products.

“Not only are consumers lack visibility, but companies often don’t know where the products come from or how things work,” says Zheng. Normally, they know the first level of suppliers better, and beyond that they have little knowledge.

Henng has been using companies ‘models, behavioral tests, surveys and land surveys to study the potential benefits of companies’ global supply chains. For one thing, her research has shown transparency in social networking practices in the chains: Patagonia, a well-known outdoor company, pays some obvious profits.

If I am Patagania and I tell you that 80% of my suppliers are obedient and want another 20% job, what is the response of the stakeholders who have made the same request to another company with no history of supply chain monitoring? Says Zheng. We see differences in the supply chain because companies with more visibility gain more trust than their shareholders.

Finally, the purpose of this Zing research environment is to inspire organizations and their suppliers to develop transparency in the supply chain and to take actions that are more responsive to the environment and the people.

“You need a concerted effort from all the companies,” Zheng said. “Look at it from a supplier point of view. If I work with 100 companies and have only one change of experience, 99 will not change as much as I should. The biggest challenge is how to organize that integrated industry-level, and even industry-level, effort.

That is a big goal, but as Zheng knows, creating work that can make a difference is a long-term effort that combines theory, field experimentation and action.

“We have a theory of change,” says Zheng. “Can we create a value-added system for all? Although not a simple yes, I believe the answer is yes, and I am happy to be a member of the MIT family to contribute to that effort.


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