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Podcast: The Evolution of Supply Chain Education – with Yossi Sheffi, Director, MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics

By Published On: October 17, 2023

Hosts: Rodney Apple and Mike Ogle

In This Episode:

We dive deep with Dr. Yossi Sheffi, an esteemed professor at MIT and Director of the Center for Transportation and Logistics. Tracing his journey from civil engineering to urban transportation and eventually to the broad realm of transportation system management, Dr. Sheffi underscores the importance of melding soft skills with technical expertise to craft and execute effective solutions. Highlighting the soaring demand for their onsite and online masters candidates, whether pursuing degrees or certificates, he sheds light on the rising interest in AI and its intersection with the evolving world of supply chain. A renowned author of 9 books, we talk about his latest one, “The Magic Conveyor Belt: Supply Chains, AI, and the Future of Work,” in which Dr. Sheffi explores the revolutionary shifts reshaping the supply chain landscape. As we wrap up, he shares invaluable insights on education, lifelong learning, and preparing the next generation to champion our supply chain systems.

Who is Yossi Sheffi?

Dr. Yossi Sheffi is the Elisha Gray II Prof. of Engineering Systems at MIT, where he serves as Director of the Center for Transportation and Logistics. He is an expert in systems optimization, risk analysis and supply chain management. Dr. Sheffi consults with leading enterprises and has founded or co-founded five successful companies. Additionally, Dr. Yossi Sheffi is an author to a text book Urban Transportation Networks: Equilibrium Analysis with Mathematical Programming Methods (1985) and six management books. For more information see:

[00:02:10] Mike Ogle: Yossi, welcome to the Supply Chain Careers Podcast.

[00:02:13] Yossi Sheffi: Thank you for having me.

[00:02:26] Mike Ogle: So how did you get started in supply chain and what were some of the greatest influences, the opportunities that you ran into, or had noticed the people that helped move your career forward?

[00:02:27] Yossi Sheffi: When I came to MIT, I got interested.

I did the, in Israel, very standard civil engineering curriculum. But when I came to MIT, I started to get fascinated by applied mathematics and operation research. And when I got my Ph. D. In this transportation systems, basically, I started working on urban transportation. In fact, my first book was on urban transportation networks.

And I got very frustrated with it because I thought I know how to do things better, but in cities, it’s a political process. It’s not a technical process. So I got very frustrated. Then, I had met several people and started applying some of the same mathematics, the same technology to trucking operations.

I worked with Ryder, with PIE, with several companies called IU International at the time, on several trucking companies, and started applying a lot of these optimization methods to trucking operations, and lo and behold, people actually implemented them. And engineers, we’re not scientists, we don’t do things for the sake of doing it.

I do things that can be sophisticated, can be interesting, but I want to see that people actually use it. So I started working with tracking company and from there started some companies and moved to how people are procuring tracking operations. So when it’s into procurement in general, and started getting involved with scheduling manufacturer operation, scheduling distribution.

That’s slowly but slowly got interested in entire supply chain issue contracting and then it’s just entire supply chain issue. It’s moved beyond from my original interest In the mathematical underpinning of network and operation to the some of the management, the operational issues

[00:04:17] Rodney Apple: As it relates to bridging your academic programs with industry. And I’ll make a quick comment on this. I’ve been on the talent recruitment side of supply chain for over two decades and, worked in corporate and I just remember back then common feedback. From the industry side was well, we’re not seeing the level of technical skills and proficiencies coming out of the gate when folks graduate and I’d say if you fast forward we’re hearing.

A little bit of the opposite these days with more so of the soft skills aren’t quite there, but would love to hear your perspective on what you have seen evolve there from the MIT lens and what matters most to industry these days.

[00:05:06] Yossi Sheffi: Okay, so first of all, historical note, we are part of the School of Engineering at MIT.

Our center is part of the School of Engineering. Our master program, Ph. D. program are part of the School of Engineering. So it’s not surprising that it started very technically. Originally, we were teaching students how, the mathematics behind inventory optimization and network optimization, sophisticated procurement anyway.

But we talk a lot to industry all the time. We do project with industry, we talk to industry, our students are supposed to do their master thesis only with industry, doing real data with real company. When students look for capstone project or thesis, we have what we call the so what question.

You did something, you find some algorithm that run 5 percent better, so what? Unless you find something that helps a company, help a process, help something to be done better. You solve the problem. It’s really we show very little interest in this, at least in our center at MIT. But years, since we deal with industry all the time and talk to industry all the time, they came to us and say, You know what?

Your graduates are great. They really know the technology. happens is they’ll end up working from a student from Harvard who is half as smart and make twice as much money. So you have to start better teaching soft skills. And we did. We put a lot of effort into communication area, writing even exercise like giving an elevator pitch explaining what you’re doing.

We have an event in January, all the students, we have several international centers, all the students come to MIT and they stand in front of screens. They usually do the project in pairs and we have hundreds of industry professionals coming there’s a competition. We give prizes and but they have to explain, somebody stopped for a minute, two minutes in front of the screen, they have to explain what the project is about and what’s the utility of the project and why they’re doing it, we do a lot of these exercises, get student more comfortable, get student to understand. That it. It’s not enough to understand AI, just not. You have to understand how to use it. And furthermore, we’re not a, as we tell students, not at the PhD level, but at the master level, this is not a computer science master.

So we’re not going to teach you all the in and out of a blockchain and AI, but you have to know enough not to be snowed by it, to understand what it is and to understand where it works. And most importantly, where it doesn’t work. So we try to teach more of a management overview of the technology.

But by and large the program grew because really interesting. People did not complain about so much the content. They complain about the numbers. So we used to have, 30, 40 graduates every year, and people start complaining about it. So we start setting all this international center, and we are now graduating about 200, 250 with all the international center.

And people say, big companies come to us. This is still a joke. We need thousands of people, and you are graduating, 200. It’s nothing. So we started the online program, which was very successful. We had just our November. We had our one millionth registrant to the online. The online is not a degree giving program.

It’s just you get a certificate. It’s five courses plus exam. The final exam. A lot of very sophisticated program. It’s not just People speaking in front of a PowerPoint is very sophisticated, with the student being asked questions and the program starts seeing how, there’s a lot of data analysis about what the student does because we record every keystroke.

So we can then analyze it, if we use AI to analyze it. We know when students are not doing well, when they’re about to drop, when there are interventions. So it’s a sophisticated offering. So we start now. Now we’re graduating, in the thousands, and we even did something else since we told students that those the top of the program can come to MIT and get a master in one semester because they did basically one semester already online.

And and we were afraid, actually. Tens of thousands are finishing every year. We can get only 40, 50 students who just don’t have the capacity for more. But we had 20 some other universities who recognize this and we’ll give them a master in one semester. So it became, for those who actually want the master, most students don’t care for it.

They just want the knowledge. They don’t care for the degree. And we found out in companies, they now value the certificate.

So this is how the program kind of was changing over the year, both including some soft skill going online. And by the way, let me just make one statement. all the people who teach online. Love it. Why? Why do we love it? Because there’s so much appreciation from the students. We have picture of the logistics guy for Doctor Without Border in some hellhole in Africa with a AK 47 taking the course on his phone.

The people in refugee camp to taking the course. There are people every, it’s amazing people are so thankful to get his, we have email from people who got promoted and changed jobs and stuff like this.

Anyway, I gave you a longer answer than you asked for.

[00:10:11] Mike Ogle: No, that’s good. And actually, I was going to ask, when you mentioned those projects and the presentations that the students make and the awards, are any of those out on your website or do they go to YouTube or anything like that?

[00:10:24] Yossi Sheffi: Okay, so we have a program with about 50 companies that are members and they pay us.

They pay us tens of thousands of dollars every year just to be members, and those have access to everything, to all the theses. The theses themselves, of all of MIT, they’re online. MIT puts all the theses online, so we don’t have a, because for our partners, the corporate partners, we have a special website with summaries, for example, we prepare for everyone with the thesis, so they know if they want to read the full, the full document. But this is service that we offer to our members. And also our members are invited at the end of the year. Always a student make presentation. The student, by the way, make two types of presentation. They make one presentation when they go to the company who funded them, not funded, but mostly given them give them data and do the project with them and give the actual results.

And then there’s a also when we invited all the companies to MIT, they also describe what they do, but they mask the company, they mask the data, they, we are working with a consumer package company, and they don’t say consumer package company in Cincinnati, Ohio, they just say consumer package company.

And work on certain problems. For example, with a proctor and gamble, just a project on the phantom stock, when people think stock is really not there, even though the computer says it is. And so why come being able to identify this, being able to see what find trends in this and being able to mitigate it so that a lot of project like this and the members get to mostly they get to think when they’re, by the way, to the January thing, when all the people are coming, there are hundreds of people who invite everybody and people are very interested because.

They’re mostly interested in finding out what other companies are interested in. It’s a that’s why we ask them why they come, that’s the main reason they come to look at, for the students, because it’s all working with companies. And, for the partners themselves, for the people who work with the students, at the end of the year, they look at all the presentations.

20 minutes, 30 minutes presentation. One after the other.

[00:12:28] Mike Ogle: Ah, good. I’m also curious when Often these conversations turn on, what is industry wanting, what kind of skills are they looking for, and you address the hard and soft skills, and then you think about it from the university viewpoint.

Of course, I’ve got a little bit of a bias, these days of being on that side of the fence again. So I’m asking a question about what’s the impact on the students themselves and the feedback that you’re getting of going through that kind of exercise. And then what does it take for the faculty, the university centers and the schools to support those kinds of industry interaction programs?

[00:13:06] Yossi Sheffi: Okay, that’s an interesting question. There’s no unified answer, even within MIT. I mean because people pay you money and you solve problems and people in mostly engineering and management who think that’s a role in life.

Let’s say why work? And there are people who do, let’s say, in the pure sciences who just work for the sake of creating knowledge. They don’t care that it’s not applicable at all. So they’re all parts of the of every university. Certainly at MIT, even though, you The good thing of my point of view, MIT, 80 percent of MIT is engineering and science.

So it’s it’s enough of us think that it’s important to do this kind of work. It’s okay. Of course, it’s true in the schools of management in general, and Sloan School at MIT too. People work with companies. So the question is not how does MIT support. As I mentioned before, we are part of the School of Engineering, which is a little odd.

Most program technicians are part of the School of Management, and it it would have been better, but I’m an engineer and I started it. I started the School of Engineering. I didn’t really start it originally. I took it over and changed it and moved it from urban planning to to the logistics.

But It stayed in engineering. It’s that’s the main reason in terms of the faculty, the engineering faculty does not quite understand what we’re doing, but we don’t need the support because we have so much support from corporations and foreign government. We have centers, call it offshoots or whatever, from in Colombia, Spain, Luxembourg, Malaysia and China. And each one helps support what we are doing. And companies are paying for research at MIT. It is expensive. A lot of research, both for government, National Science Foundation, but also mostly we work with industry. .

[00:14:51] Rodney Apple: So far we’ve heard that, you’ve increased you’re matching the demand. There’s an increased demand for folks that graduate from MIT you’ve added global centers

[00:15:02] Yossi Sheffi: Just to be centered, not only from MIT, we see this elsewhere. Other programs are also getting a lot of demand.

[00:15:08] Rodney Apple: That’s wonderful. And I think that probably has led to the popularity has increased and I read a interesting article in the Princeton Review that, you think about dream colleges, a lot of people have that your typical, you mentioned Harvard a minute ago, these typical big Ivy League schools on that list.

And I was surprised, pleasantly surprised to see MIT is now considered the dream college. Yeah, What are some of the characteristics from your perspective that has led this particular rise in popularity?

[00:15:44] Yossi Sheffi: It’s probably has to do with the rise of computer science, with the rise of AI and block, blockchain and IOTs and software is now and electronics is now in every product in every part of what we do.

And MIT is associated with this. So in that in, in that sense and you see it in. A lot of it, maybe not so much with what we do, but with the aura, the movie what is it? The movie with Matt Damon, but MIT, it’s in the popular culture. When you see some geek at some movie.

So he went to MIT. He has a degree from MIT. It’s the aura and to be fair for a long time I don’t think it’s true anymore, but MIT was the leading engineering school in the world other schools now stanford certainly as good stanford Caltec, Carnegie mellon in especially computer science.

So that’s cool at harvard is Putting more emphasis on science and engineering so There’s more of it is going on, but there were years that, MIT ruled supreme and I think it’s still going in the subconscious of society, MIT, you want to do some cool stuff, you come to MIT. And we do still a lot of cool stuff for sure.

But there are a lot of Quite a few other schools that are in it.

[00:16:02] Rodney Apple: What about from a supply chain perspective I would tell people what I do 15, 20 years ago, I’d get the deer in the headlight, like supply chain. Is that trucks and boxes? That’s a big part of it, right? But with the pandemic, it’s made the news on the 24 7 cycle for the last few years and so now everyone knows what supply chain is.

Do you think that has given any rise in popularity to those particular programs there at MIT?

[00:17:29] Yossi Sheffi: The answer is yes, but just tell you a story that I actually mentioned in my previous books wrote a book they knew abnormal about during the pandemic about supply chain during the pandemic.

Until January, 2020, people used to ask my wife, what’s your husband doing at m i t? She’s the research on supply chain management people, as I said during the headline, what’s that?

About four or five months later in I think it was May, she was going to Whole Foods and looking to buy something they didn’t have on the shelf. So we asked the kid, 17 year old kid clerk, where is oranges or something? And he said, ma’am, don’t you know we have supply chain problems? And she said, okay now everybody is in the know.

But it’s true. We see it in, we see it in many ways. by the way, the reason, one of the reasons I wrote the recent book, which was written, started last year just came out two weeks ago, is that because of the pandemic, people who never knew what supply chain asking, Hey, I understand you work in supply.

What is it? What is supply it? We think that everybody know it’s an amazing number of people have no clue, but they know the term so they start to get into. So the first part of the book, the first part of the last book, which I call the Magic Conveyor Belt. Explain what kind of in a simple way, it’s doesn’t go into all the complications and all the intricacy, but it’s what supply chain, why it’s big and complex and all over the world.

And why, in some sense, I rather why you should not be angry when the product that you’re looking for is not on the shelf on the other end. You should be amazed when you find it on the shelf, because if you understand what it takes to go from the mind, all the right. Thousands, tens of thousands of people and organization and government organization and carriers and shippers and warehouses and crane operators and truck, everybody was involved in just getting you this stuff, you start feeling, Oh, my God, I can’t believe that’s actually here.

So that’s what I tried to give some of the, that’s why I call it the magic conveyor belt, some of the wonder. So people will see that it’s actually cool. I think it’s cool, but it’s hard to convey. But it’s a. I give you a one example. This was 10 years ago. The president of M. I. T. At the time was 11 years ago.

Susan Hockfield visited Zaragoza, one of our center and Zaragoza has one of the main distribution from the main European distribution center of Zara. So I took her and her husband and to visit the Zara said, Okay, you’re here. It just happened to be in Spain. I said, Okay, you’re here. I’ll take you to a visit.

We went to the Zara distribution center. It’s all right. Thank you. Robotics and automated and stuff. It supplies all of Europe. So it’s a, and airplane coming 747 and trucks and, coming in, it’s all automated and goes automatically into them. Even fold the stuff, some of the garments automatically and it goes through a tunnel to an airplane.

Looks like sci fi. She stood there. Honestly, the first time I saw a person with a jaw drop, her jaw almost hit the floor. She said, I never realized it. Then she took, when we came back to Boston, she said, I must saw my daughter. So I took my daughter’s class in A local school in Boston to a U p S hub, just to show them what , to show them what distribution looks like.

When people understand what it takes, it’s a, as I say it’s a wonder and everything actually work. And it’s a right in the book. One of the big wonders if people think about it, understand what it take, is there’s no central control. There’s no czar that decides every company has to sell to this price at this quantity.

It just, It’s a chain of buyer seller, each one negotiating, each one does. And it works. So that’s it. If you come to think about it, it’s amazing. There’s no central planning. There’s no, it just works. And some of my young students who believe that we should go back to communism.

Said you never lived it. So you never lived in the period when we read about it So you think that our current regime is unfair and yeah, we can always fix stuff But you have no idea what central control looks like. It’s it doesn’t work. So anyway

[00:11:47] Mike Ogle: Capitalism is the worst system except for all the others wasn’t it?

I forget whose quote that was

[00:21:53] Yossi Sheffi: Churchill said it about democracy

[00:22:01] Mike Ogle: Okay. Demography is the worst system except of all the others. Yeah. I’ve always enjoyed that one.

[00:22:02] Yossi Sheffi: Yes, it’s true.

[00:22:45] Rodney Apple: So, Yossi, we’d love to hear more about this book the magic conveyor belt supply chains a I and the future of work which I that title alone is just Interesting. How did you come up with the title? What is the Magic Conveyor Belt, and how do you foresee work changing and evolving in the future within the field of supply chain?

[00:23:10] Yossi Sheffi: Okay, I’ll try not to take three hours to answer, but I call it the Magic Conveyor Belt just because of the explaining how supply chain work and

how we live in such a, an era of plenty, and we don’t realize that there were no eras like this in human history. There’s so much available of everything. So that’s the first part, the magic conveyor belt, bringing stuff across the globe from everywhere to everywhere. But as I started talking, the first part of the book just explained, then I started talking about the technology involved in supply chain.

And then it ran, so it led to, when you look about technological change, the first, second, third, fourth industrial revolution. Every time there was substantial fear of losing jobs and losing work. I actually have a quote from 1587, I think, when the name it’s in the book. Invented a machine that made stockings automatically, and he brought it to the Queen of England, and she shut him down, because she was afraid that if it would be done automatically by a machine, people are going to lose their jobs.

This was before any industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution, when the looms started to be mechanized, there was the huge disruptions. The so called Luddites, they were breaking machines and the police was shooting them. Then the police rounded up several hundred of them and sent them to Australia.

which at the time was a, penal colony. Now they are considered like the Mayflower people in here. Somebody who has, can trace himself to this group. Anyway during the Second Industrial Revolution, when Ford created the production line and There were huge labor disruption and police were shooting at the, it’s called the Detroit Massacre.

And there were several others. The U. S. actually brought about the rise of the creation of union and some of the labor regulation in the United States. So there was always fear of of losing. Doesn’t always lead to violence, but there’s always fear. Let me give you another example. You know what is have you ever ridden a cab in London?

A taxi? There’s something called the knowledge. If you want to be a taxi driver in London, there’s a four year study. Full of exams. And there’s a final exam. You have to know how to get from any point in London to any other point in London. You have to know the name and location of all restaurants, theatres, museums, everything.

And people say it’s the toughest exam in the world. So suddenly what happened? Uber comes in with an app. Everybody can do it. You don’t need to go for four years and all of this. Of course, the cabbies were worried about the job. So they started. They did something very clever. They sued the government.

These people, the gig workers, are not getting any benefit. Of course, there are chippers. And this was a big lawsuit between Transport for London, which is the regulator for cabs. And the and Uber. One won, another won. And the funny thing, Uber won, but then in the highest court, the equivalent of the Supreme Court, Uber won at the end.

But the Supreme Court also said, Yeah, Uber won, but you have to give them benefits. Actually, the cabbies won in the end getting the price higher so they can compete with them. But they’re always fear for jobs. But if you look historically, always, every technology eliminated some jobs.

But more jobs were created. And the toughest thing to predict is what jobs in what area. Give you an example. So when Ford started assembly line, the number of Ford word worker went from about a few hundred to 150, 000, the height of the model T. But what did the production line, the people think, okay, it increased the number of workers at Ford because it made more cars and all of these.

This is the smallest part of the impact. The biggest part of the impact was that cars became available. And we started having hotel motels all over the United States restaurants all over the United States. People started traveling. People’s a huge number of millions of new jobs and new businesses which are not in manufacturing cars, but in something that came out of one.

So now we’re looking at the new technology. We have no clue what the new jobs will be like. But I feel now I must admit that people on both sides of the fence here are people who are very worried. I’m not. I think that there will be a lot of new job. It will repeat historical patterns that there will be some dislocations for sure.

Some people lost their job. We don’t have any more, elevator operators. As an aside, you know why? In 1945 elevator operators in New York had a strike and people would not shut down New York. People would not go into an elevator without an operator. They’re just afraid. Guess what? A year later, Otis came up with an automated, they call it an automated elevator.

This is the elevator of today, basically, the basic design. So these jobs were lost. We don’t have any more telephone exchange when you call and say, let me get Mrs. Smith and somebody plug some and tell you where Mrs. Smith, oh, we just went to the supermarket or something. It’s all automated.

So these jobs, there are jobs that are being lost. But the economy, because of the economy, gets much more efficient, much more productive, and creates many more jobs. I look at things like ChatGBT. Of course, a lot of a lot of debate within university. How do you use it when students can write papers with ChatGPT?

I look at it as it’s just another tool, just like I compare it to spreadsheet. Before spreadsheet, managers had to, you want to build a financial model, you had to go to some, find some programmers to program it, get to the data. It was a huge chore. Now you can just download the data and build your own model on, on a spreadsheet.

But you have to know how to do it and you have to be trained to do it. I think it will be same thing with GGBT. We will and the other ilks of of generative AI. We will need to teach people how to write the queries well, how to know how to use to write the result. More importantly, even, we need to teach people how to scan the results and and know what’s right and wrong because LGBT and the other is.

Have what’s called hallucinations. They can get data that doesn’t exist. They can get results, give you reference, and papers and books. They don’t exist. It’s just that because the way they’re done. They’re trained on billions of synthesis all over the network, all over the internet.

And then they look, okay, you wrote this, five words, what’s likely the next word? Then the next word, then the next sentence, and the next sentence. And they can go off tongue. With no problem, because there’s no logic to this. It’s just following structures. So sometimes it works many times to work enough time.

It doesn’t work. How do we teach people to be critics of what comes out of this? How do we teach people to work? With technology, with robotics that they actually people in I was in a plant in Germany, automotive plant and see worker walking around with a iPad, basically iPad like devices control the robots.

But we also have to remember, in addition to this general growth in the economy, there will be jobs that humans are simply better than machines. And one of the main issue is when supervising machine. People have context. So the machine may want to do something, but you know that there’s a bad weather coming.

There’s a recession coming. There’s a fire next door. There’s some workers didn’t show up. Some material didn’t get the machine doesn’t know it. So the machine will keep doing what is doing. We’ll keep doing it repetitively and and accurately. If the context is changing, the machine will have would have problem.

We saw it, for example, most Large companies have automated ordering the automated ordering is based to look at point of sale and but they look at the historical data We had covered the historical data. You could throw it out the window It meant nothing and people have to go back and do it by hand another example when?

2017 when the Russian attack the cyber attack on Ukraine Maersk and other company came to a grinding halt. Maersk started people with the good thing that Maersk still enough people who know how to write a manifest by hand and how to fax it and where to fax it. Because, in 20 years we will have this.

We have to make sure that we do. We have to make sure that there are people who understand the underlying process. So there are clearly some, challenges. on the way. How do we keep these people? What do we do? How do we train them? But the good thing is that there are training is not available for very low cost online training for a lot of stuff.

There are even episodic training. You want to do a certain task and you say, where are these magic glasses? And it beams into you two minutes video on how to do the next task. There are lots of technology aided. ways to risk to upgrade people’s skills. And the question is, will companies invest in this?

And some do, of course, many do, I should say. There’s one flying the ointment. People say, okay, this time is different as opposed to history. I don’t think it’s different, but there’s different in one aspect. The speed of technological change is unprecedented. So the government, it is something for the government that has to be ready for periods when they’ll have to support a lot more people who will be thrown out of job or while they are upskilling.

And government has to start thinking about it and be ready for it. The good thing that we see, unlike, let’s say, when the when the internet was just being developed, people didn’t worry about the downside of the internet. The developers always thought that it will bring more communication and harmony to the globe and all this.

We didn’t think that there’ll be terrorists who will be using it to, to plan terror attack or there’ll be identity theft or people stealing stealing that. So there’s always downside to technology. A lot of people are not worried about the downside of AI and how to put guardrails around it.

The EU is working, but China, the most strict regulator of AI development is China. One would be surprised. You know why they do it? Because the new AI emergent property. It can train itself and go in directions that you didn’t expect. They are worried about the Communist Party. They are worried about, they cannot allow people to question the Communist Party.

So they want to make sure that the AI doesn’t go in directions. So they have the most strict regulations of AI development. EU is trying, the United States is talking about it, but we’ll see. The technology is developing. Much faster than any political process, unless you’re China, when the political process is just making a decision and that’s it.

But in democracies, it takes time. As we said before, as churches say, democracy is the worst form of government, excluding all the others. Anyway.

[00:34:43] Mike Ogle: Absolutely. One of the things I wanted to ask about was you talked about, I think it’s five countries where you have MIT presence. And. What are you seeing as far as how international students are being prepared in supply chain versus U.S. Students, whether they’re coming to the original MIT or what you’re seeing at other sites.

[00:35:10] Yossi Sheffi: The other sites are not, don’t get MIT degrees, MIT supported. We allow them because the idea is to be local capabilities, not to create a long term dependence on us. So we we give them a lot of intellectual property.

We train professors, we help them get students and all of this, but. It’s a 10 year contract, after 10 years they’re supposed to be independent. Some of them sign up for longer just to keep the relationship, but the idea is to make them independent of us, basically. Now in terms of students, for many years, you wanted to study supply chain, you had to come to the United States.

The United States was far ahead of Both teaching, education, and processes in companies. It’s not true anymore. It’s now, schools, management schools all over the world are teaching supply chain management. it became part of teaching operations, manufacturing, and supply chain management.

It’s part of the curriculum now. In the last, I don’t know, five, ten years, it is being globalized. There are good and, The IP, the teaching, the cases, the method, the teaching, it’s also now everything is on the internet. It’s not hard to get. So there’s more and more people all over the world are getting reasonably good education and training in supply chain management.

[00:36:27] Rodney Apple: Yossi, as it relates to leadership skills, collaboration skills, I would even argue influencing change. If anything is constant in supply chain, it’s. It’s change. Absolutely. How are we, how are you developing those soft skills at MIT?

[00:36:42] Yossi Sheffi: Look, this is something that is the true answer is not as well as we should, because you get somebody for a master’s degree for a year, let’s say, our degree is one year.

There’s, and you want to teach them both the technology and some self skill. It’s limited what you can do. You give them examples and case studies and but if the people come without empathy, without some innate qualities, you’re not going to instill it in them. You give them example, you hope some training, we do it.

But fundamentally change, human nature. You cannot do it in a year of graduate school. This has to be done between age four and six. It’s not when you’re 25 years old or 30 years old. So it’s it’s limited. We do have a lot of CEOs coming and talking about leadership and how to lead.

And we hope that people by example will see how successful leaders are doing this. And we try even the way we manage the center, giving people freedom to make mistakes, giving them honest feedback. Just trying to show how you can manage an organization and manage people.

To be honest, at the end of the day, it’s much easier to teach the technology because it’s facts. Okay, this is how you optimize a network. This is how you get The best inventory location that you get here are the parameters and here is how you optimize it.

Let’s say, and this is the method is how it works. And this is the pros and cons, the limitation. This is relatively easy. And it’s easy to test results because they do a test and you get the answer is either right or wrong. When you talk about leadership, there’s no right and wrong. It’s all grey.

You talk about all the soft skills. They’re actually harder to teach and harder to make sure that the students are on board with it and we try to impart to them important it is. We do also something else. We don’t take students right after undergrad. They have to have usually three to eight years of experience.

So in some sense the people that we get into the program, we can look at the resume. and see if somebody did, five years and was growing in the corporation or did five times one year job. Just to see if they have it. Some clue, you don’t know for sure, but of course they have in them some if the workplace was recognizing them and allow them to grow.

So we do all of this in order to try to get the product that can be Technologically savvy, but be able to lead and grow in whatever company or government or whatever organization then.

[00:39:27] Mike Ogle: So I’m going to go back to another academic related question and going to be focused on what if you had the power to be able to change how the education is set up these days, because education is probably one of the spots where change is the slowest.

To what’s happening out in industry, what advice would you have for other faculty, department chairs, college deans, other universities about how it may be better to structure supply chain programs going forward.

[00:40:01] Yossi Sheffi: So I’m going to talk not only about supply chain, but in general, especially the United States, we have way too many people going to college.

Funny sounding from an MIT professor, from a university professor, way too many people. In fact, in my book, I devote some time to the German model, when people go to and work for several years, half time in a company, half time in a university. It’s funded by the German government, they are, they recognize 360 some approximately professions that people get.

The nice thing is that they come out of this program three, four years, sometimes even five. They know what they’re doing, they work in the profession, so they learn the background, they learn the theory, but they also do the work. And they come out and they are, many times they are hired by the company who did this kind of internship with them.

Even then, no, they are hot product when they come out. Guess what? Half the college age population in Germany goes to these programs, over half. So this is one thing that I, we don’t do it in the United, they’re here and there are programs that they try to do it, but not on the same grand scale. Especially things like supply chain, once you work in procurement, in distribution, in transportation, in warehousing, you understand what’s going on, you understand what’s involved, how to do it.

You actually try your hand in new technology, not just the professor telling you in class about, new technology. So I think it’s a better model. As I said, make distinction between pure science and people do it. Some of my colleagues work in astrophysics and discover some stars.

God bless them. It said that some of them get price Nobel for this, but engineers like to do something that’s end up improving society, improving company, improving government process, whatever, improving structure. Having education that is leading for this is important and it’s Germany is not doing too badly.

There have been, and interestingly, when you look at ranking of university, Germany does not have any leading university. Leading universities are Around the world, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, Cambridge

you don’t find German university in the top ranking. And my answer is that, so what? Every university in top ranking is not an end to it, end all and be all. Universities are like anything else, they have to support the economy, have to support students getting jobs, have to improve processes, improve product.

So and create new knowledge for sure. And that’s government can fund it if it’s worth doing. Okay. No problem.

[00:42:45] Mike Ogle: So we tend to manage What we measure. Yes. And in that kind of standpoint, is there something in the education side, if they don’t show up in the rankings, it’s probably because the metrics don’t match up with what they want to do.

[00:42:57] Yossi Sheffi: Yeah, it’s, oh, they don’t care about it. It’s just don’t care. German universities seem not to particularly care about the ranking. And I do, I’ve taught in German university. I have friends, they’re good universities and they know what they’re doing. Yeah. But the structure is such that they do not produce PhDs just with a lot of scientific knowledge, but they produce PhDs, even PhDs.

A lot of the PhDs are done working in a company. That’s why, if you look at every big German company, the CEO has a doctor next to the name. They value education, but it’s this kind of education. It’s industry together with a funded by government, industry university collaboration that works very well.

So you ask about how I, if I would… And the power to change education. That’s what we do in the United States.

[00:43:50] Rodney Apple: Sounds great. So Yasi, this has been very enlightening and we appreciate you sharing. Your perspectives and insights today would love to close out with career advice.

I know you’ve seen a lot throughout your esteemed career and just would love to hear what you may want to offer to our audience as it relates to career advice. Whether it be students or those that are already practitioners working in supply chain.

[00:44:14] Yossi Sheffi: Depending on what career you think. But the idea, the main thing is a standard advice.

Make sure that You work in something that you’re passionate about. You work something that you like to go to work and enjoy what you’re doing also have a purpose to what you’re doing and the purpose can be, you can find global warming or urban decay or or companies that can work better or get the economy working because.

Everybody can benefit from this. Working on peace and peace in the world. Whatever you want to do. First of all, follow a passion. Then find out what do you need in order to work in this area. What kind of method, technology, knowledge history, you need to understand in order to work in this area.

And that’s why I like so much, I go back to the German model, because you get to experience what it will be like. And you don’t like it after six months change and people do change if they don’t like it after six months because you get the taste of what it is like, you get even a taste of what it’s like in a particular company.

Do you like the structure? Do you like the management? You like the, whatever other goodies they give or not give you. So I was laughing when the people in the Google and Microsoft, all these tech companies. We’re suddenly saying there are no baristas anymore and, taking back some of the goodies and people were shocked that there’ll be, people don’t live in the real world when they work at some of these very profitable companies, but now they do because they say, Oh my God, they actually fire people when they run into trouble.

Yes. What did you think that’s subject to the economic forces? Yeah, but it was easy to delude yourself. Google or anybody on Facebook, we never fire people, we never take away some of the goodies. So anyway, coming back to the job to career advice. I think the number one career advice that I would give is never stop learning, never stop upgrading yourself.

Don’t let everybody else understand, how to use Chat GPT and you don’t know how to spell it. You have to learn to stay with the time, whether it’s a JGPT or accounting or God knows what. Whatever it is that you want to do, keep improving yourself, keep getting better and better. because at the end of the day, especially in the United States, it will get elsewhere.

There’s no job security. The main security is what you know, because then you can move between jobs. Then you can change as long as the main brand is you. Invest in your own brand. Invest in even make a YouTube video, write blogs, do, advertise yourself. But keep learning. The main important thing is keep learning, keep upgrading yourself.

That’s my number one career advice.

[00:47:13] Rodney Apple: I like to call it the maintaining a growth mindset and yes, you just can’t stop learning. I think so many people get stuck in the comfort zone and they just get comfortable and then they start rotting and decaying and the world continues to change and evolve and they don’t change and evolve with it.

[00:47:35] Yossi Sheffi: And this statement is more frustrating. It’s true for people. It’s also true for organizations. They don’t keep renewing themselves. That’s right. Excellent.

[00:47:43] Mike Ogle: Excellent. So Yossi, thank you for a great conversation and for sharing your experiences and advice with us today.

Do you have a website or social media links or something that somebody can follow?

[00:47:52] Yossi Sheffi: Yes. If you go to sheffy. mit. edu or just look for me, Google Yossi Sheffy, you’ll find books. You go to Amazon, you’ll find the. The latest book was my ninth, you’ll find most of my books on Amazon. You can go to, if you are outside the United States, the book has been translated to many other languages.

So you’ll find it in Chinese and Korean and Russian, Hungarian, Spanish, lots of languages. So if you are so inclined. You can buy most of the book, especially the older book, because it takes time to translate. And books from two or three years ago are the latest. This is now have a lot of translation.

We’re now in the process of translating the current book, The Magic Conveyor Belt, to Korean, Chinese, and Spanish, right now. These are usually the first three that go off the bed. I say another career advice is make sure to buy my books.

[00:48:50] Rodney Apple: Thank you for your time, it was so nice to meet you.

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