Sunday, September 26, 2010

MBA Course Curriculum - Timbuk2 Operations Case Discussion

All first year students take a set of classes called the Core as a part of their MBA course curriculum during their first semester at the Kelley School of Business. The Core consists of 8 classes - Accounting, Critical Thinking, Economics, Finance, Management (Strategy), Marketing, Operations, and Quantitative Methods. Needless to say, it's a busy schedule. As one of the top full time MBA programs, it's imperative that we learn it all!

A large part of many of our Core classes consist of case discussions. All top ranked MBA schools utilize case discussions as a part of their curriculum, and I can see why. Case discussions are a great way for students to really learn important business concepts and how these concepts apply in the real world. It also prepares business school MBA students to "think on our toes" and be able to make decisions with limited information, since this is what we'll have to do in our future careers.

This week in Operations class, taught by Professor Kyle Cattani, we discussed a Timbuk2 case. Professor Cattani had set the stage for a lively and exciting discussion the previous class session, where he pulled up Timbuk2's company website and, in front of the class, customized and ordered a Timbuk2 bag. He selected the box for overnight shipping to, as he explained, see how efficient their operations were and ensure it arrived by our next class.

Tuesday came and Professor Cattani had the bag with him! He started by raffling off the bag. My name sadly was not the name chosen, but I'm happy to report that my classmate Stephanie has a brand new Timbuk2 bag!

After the raffle, we got into the case discussion. The question looming was whether or not Timbuk2, a company that had been very successful utilizing a mass customization manufacturing model, should pursue the option of offshoring its manufacturing to China. Although the cost savings appeared attractive, there were many other factor to take into account when making this decision, such as: How would Timbuk2's customers feel about moving a U.S. based operation from San Francisco to China? How would Timbuk2's customers react to the longer lead time between placing an order and delivery? How would Timbuk2 be able to ensure the quality of its product if management wasn't onsite to oversee it?

After some lively class debate about the pros and cons of each argument, and an introduction to a new operations term, spackling (a flexible factory produces custom products and fills any remaining capacity by producing standard products), the class came to a close. Professor Cattani ended the class by letting us know that the company did eventually offshore some of its operations to China, but has also continued to make customized bags in San Fransisco.

Lively case discussions happen several times a week during the Core here at the Kelley School of Business, and I enjoy participating in them. With engaging classes like these and excellent faculty to guide the discussions, I can tell why Kelley is a top ranked MBA program (I would argue the best MBA program in the USA)!


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