Honouring Professor Denis Towill of Cardiff Business School
Earlier this month I was delighted to give the Denis Towill Memorial Lecture at an alumni event for members of the Logistics Systems Dynamics Group (LSDG) of Cardiff Business School.
The event was attended by former PhD students and current members of the research unit. LSDG was founded by Professor Denis Towill, an aeronautical Control Engineer who turned his attention to problems in the supply chain. During the lecture, I reflected on the inherently messy nature of the supply chain.
Why are products airfreighted whilst some containers cross the seas half empty? Why do supply chain planners spend so much time re-scheduling, and why does this factory have so much work-in –progress? I discussed some of the ways that practicing managers approach these problems in the supply chain. Whilst pragmatism is important, a partial understanding of the problem may lead to a sub-optimal solution.
During a long and productive research career, Prof Towill collaborated with many people to develop analytical approaches to supply chain problems that have the potential to develop robust solutions. I reviewed the trajectory of his research from control engineering through systems dynamics to the development of a widely employed consulting methodology called The Quick Scan, and briefly revisited some joint and related research projects at Cardiff LSDG and Brighton Business School.
I was pleased to discuss Prof Towill’s engagement with general management research, including the use of analogy to describe complex scenarios and his development of the term Leagile (Lean and Agile) with Rachel Mason-Jones, who now runs the MSc in Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
The event was hosted by Prof Steve Disney (LSDG co-ordinator) and Prof Mohamed Naim (Deputy Dean), who gave an interesting presentation on the school’s strategy to be The Public Value Business School.
It was great to gather as a community of supply chain researchers and practitioners, and also to remember the work, mentoring and good humour of Prof Denis Towill, who sadly passed away in Aug 2015.