Lee Buddress is a professor in the Supply and Logistics program at PSU, and teaches the Operations Management course that MIM students are currently taking. In this interview he provides some background on the field of supply chain, the supply and logistics program at PSU, and also shares a little about his own business experience. This is the first of a two-part interview.
Can you tell us a little about your own business background, and what made you decide to begin teaching?
Before teaching full time I had 20 years work experience in virtually all aspects of supply chain management, with the majority of that time spent working for the biggest tugboat company on the West Coast. Throughout my career I worked in everything from running a production crew, to purchasing, to warehousing, to inventory control and production planning, as well as transportation and logistics. While I was doing that I began teaching at a community college, and the more I did it the better I liked it. I had one of those once in a lifetime opportunities to go back to Michigan State University and teach in what was arguably one of the best supply chain programs at the time, and get my PhD in supply chain management at the same time. I did that, then came here [PSU], and have been here ever since. The reason I came here was because this was the only place in the entire northwest where purchasing and supply chain was offered, and where it gave me an opportunity to teach those disciplines. So coming here was a no brainer.
I hear people say that Portland State University has a fairly robust Supply Chain program. What would you say to that?
Well, obviously I’m biased, but I think we have the most extensive, comprehensive supply chain program of any school in the country, and I’ll tell you why I think that. A number of years ago, Boeing, who recruits very heavily here, decided that they were recruiting at too many schools around the country for supply chain, so they put us all through a fairly rigorous analysis of our program and cut back to about 12 schools. They then sent me a spreadsheet of all the courses in all the schools where they recruit; Michigan State, Arizona State, Tennessee, Ohio State…Portland State; with the list of courses we offer we run right off the bottom of the page. We have the most extensive, comprehensive program of anyone in the country.
The reason it has been so successful is because there have been an incredible array of adjunct instructors who’ve been willing to come here and teach. The guys that teach the Logistics class in the MIM specialization, one is the former Vice President of Eagle Global Logistics. He was stationed in London for a long time and ran all of Eagle’s operations throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The guy that team teaches with him is director of logistics for Intel. The guy that teaches our Japanese Management class, Norman Bodek, is probably one of the half dozen leading experts on Japanese management in the entire world. He has made 81 trips to Japan to study Japanese management, he is on a first name basis with everybody who’s anybody, he has published over 400 books on Japanese management and he has written 7, and he comes over here and he teaches a class for us on Japanese management.
There is no place else in the country where people can go and get exposed to that kind of expertise. In part, because Portland State’s a little different than some of the more research oriented organizations. Other universities have professors that tend to be more academics, they come up through the academic ranks, but they haven’t had the feet on the ground experience that these sorts of people [at PSU] have so, it makes a big difference. When the recruiters come to me and they say, “The reason we like your students is because not only do they have the book learning but they have some street smarts…”, that’s exactly what I’m hoping for. Based on that, you guys get jobs. Whereas students from other universities might have to scramble a little more.
In the simplest terms possible, how would you define supply chains for someone who has never heard of them?
At its most fundamental, supply chain is really all about managing the flow of materials from suppliers to the organization, and on the the final customers. Purchasing, global contract negotiations, transportation, logistics, warehousing and inventory control, production planning and control, and then outbound distribution and finished product. You know, if you look in the finance books, they all say the fundamental objective of any organization is the maximization of shareholder value, to which I say, “prune juice!”. If you look at the maximization of shareholder value in another sense, it’s really an outcome. If we do our jobs really well in supply chain, if we pick world class suppliers, manage transportation and warehousing costs, are effective in managing our production processes and distribution processes, if we do that really well, it’s easy to sell product and make a good profit. If we do our jobs badly, it’s darned near impossible to sell our product and make a good profit. If we make a good profit our stock goes up, so the influence on the stock price is driven by the supply chain effectiveness.
You’ve mentioned before that supply chains are the only place in a business where value is truly created. Can you explain this a bit more?
Supply Chain is where you manufacture the products. This is where you devise and deliver the services. This is where you actually create the value that your company represents. It’s also the fun part of the business too! This is where the action is!
The second part of this interview will be posted next week.
Josh is a full-time student in the Master of International Management program. After graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in Japanese, he taught English in Tokyo for 3 years, before moving to China and teaching at a university in the city of Zhengzhou. Inspired by his experiences in Japan and China, he was drawn to the MIM program because of its regional focus on Asia, as well as for Portland State University’s reputation as a leader in the field of sustainable business. He is studying Chinese in the MIM program, but tries to keep up his Japanese whenever he can.