Interview with Operations Management Legend: Barry Render
Barry Render has over 35 years in the management field and 10 operations management books (including 41 editions) published and used by MBA and college students all across the USA and the world. He also served for five years as editor of the New York Times Special Operations Management editions. In 2005, he received the Rollins MBA Student Award for Best Overall Course and in 2009 was voted MBA Professor of the Year. He has served on the Board of Directors of many organizations, including one publicly traded. Dr. Render retired from Rollins College in April 2009. You will find more information on Mr. Render at the end of the interview.
Mr. Render is now retired and you can no longer take his class or get his insights on he topic of operations management. That makes this interview so much more interesting for all of us. We had to find him. We went on a search for this great man and after swimming rough seas and climbing precarious mountains, we got in touch with him. Generously he agreed to sit down with us and give an exclusive interview on various topics in operations management. Lets get started.
AM: We get a lot of emails from people who are interested in going into the OM industry but are confused about the value of an Operations Manager. In fact, a lot of people are completely unaware of what an Operations Manager does. Mr.Render, what do you think about it?
BR: They are right to be confused! Unlike a title like Marketing or Brand Manager, which is pretty clear to most people, the title Operations Manager can mean many different things. The Operations Manager at a bank has totally different responsibilities than one at an airline, in a hospital, or in a manufacturing firm. I think of the Operations manager as the person in an organization who runs every aspect of the business except Finance/Accounting and Marketing. Having said that, there is a wide variety of job titles that managers in operations carry. Many firms have Director of Quality Control, Head of Production, Head of Purchasing (also called Supply Chain Management in some firms), Head of Logistics, Director of Product Development, Director of Inventory Control, and so on. Each of these requires different skill sets and backgrounds.
AM: With your extensive experience in operations management, can you tell us how you got into the management field?
BR: Since I am a college professor who has taught in the Operations field for 35 years, let me give a slightly different answer. I started out as a design engineer at McDonnell Douglas, working on the DC-10 jumbo jet. My next job was with GE, working on the engines for the DC-10. GE put me through a masters degree program in Operations Research. Then I decided to get a Ph.D. in Quantitative Business Analysis, mainly to raise my salary and promotion potential . In almost all doctoral programs, Ph.D. students are required to teach a few courses. And it was there that I finally discovered what I was meant to do in life…be a professor! Along the way, I also came to see that professors have exciting and lucrative consulting opportunities available all the time. I started a firm that did management consulting only a year after finishing school. I ended up with some major clients, including NASA, the FBI, the US Navy, and Fairfax County, VA. What a great experience those jobs gave me, all of which I brought into the classroom to share with students.
AM: How important is an Operations Manager to a company? and why?
BR:I really think the OM guy is the most important person in the firm! If you can’t come up with new products or services, create them with quality, using motivated and well-trained employees, produce them efficiently, and get them to your customers when they need them, you won’t last in business for a year.
AM: How do you see the operations management profession developing in the future? Any specific fields that will be affected by the change more than others?
BR: If a nation wishes to maintain and increase the quality of life for its citizens, it must create new products and services that consumers seek. If it loses its manufacturing capability, which many believe we in the US are in danger of doing, our standard of living will not go up. So the success of any country depends on its brightest minds going into Operations. The hot fields will be Supply Chain Management, Quality, and a new one, Sustainability, in the coming decade. I was excited to see that Johns Hopkins University has just started up a new BS in Sustainability this year. I would jump at the chance to take course in that field if I were back in college.
AM: Do you see any change in being an Operations Manager now, compared to 10, 20,30 years ago? Do you think there are additional skills that an Ops Manager has to bring to the table today?
BR: The best skills have always been the same and will not change. A good manager needs to be a good, open communicator. She needs to have great presentation skills, and have great analytic ability. So much of being in OM is being able to think analytically, take data and make decisions.
AM:What is your advice to grad students or managers from other fields, who want to get into the operations management field?
BR: I would take some basic course in OM, like TQM, Supply Chains or Project Management to see if I like what I am learning. I personally think getting into Quality opens up a lot of options and doors. Think outside the box and question every procedure a company uses. Try to improve everything, even if its not your responsibility. Help others with positive suggestions for better operations.
AM:From your experience, what are some traits that a person needs to have to be a successful operations manager? BR: Not to repeat myself, for I listed some of the traits above, I think that to be a manager of anything, whether it’s marketing, OM or Finance, you have to like people. If you don’t, you will make your employees miserable. As Tom Peters, the famous consultant once said, if you don’t like dealing with people, stay away from management , and go into consulting!
AM: Thank you very much Mr.Render for sitting down with us and giving us your insights on what’s happening in operations management and what Operations Managers are doing today.
B.S. Roosevelt University, Mathematics & Physics M.S. University of Cincinnati, Operations Research Ph.D. University of Cincinnati, Quantitative Business Analysis & Mathematics Dr. Render, holder of the first endowed chair at the Rollins College Graduate School of Business (Winter Park, FL), is author of over 100 articles in leading business journals and 10 textbooks in 42 editions. His books include Operations Management (now in its 10th Ed. and the leading text in the US and global markets), Quantitative Analysis for Management (entering its 11th Ed.), Introduction to Management Science, Decision Modeling, and Service Management.
He has taught at George Washington University, George Mason University, Boston University, and the University of New Orleans, and was Senior Fulbright Scholar in the Kingdom of Nepal in 1982 and 1993. At George Mason, he held the Mason Foundation Professorship and was chairman of the Department of Decision Sciences.
He was named an AACSB Fellow in 1978 and has worked in the aerospace industry for McDonnell Douglas, G.E., and NASA. From 1984 to 1993, Dr. Render was also President of Management Science Associates of Virginia, Inc., whose technology consulting clients included the U.S. Navy, NASA, Fairfax County Virginia, the FBI, and C & P Phone. He also served for five years as editor of the New York Times Special Operations Management editions. In 1996, Dr. Render was selected by Roosevelt University to receive the St. Clair Drake Award for Outstanding Scholarship.
In 2005, he received the Rollins MBA Student Award for Best Overall Course and in 2009 was voted MBA Professor of the Year. He has served on the Board of Directors of many organizations, including one publicly traded. Dr. Render retired from Rollins College in April 2009.