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Rethink Global: Shimon Nof

Shimon Nof developing theory & support for global teams

Developing theory and support for global teams

It can be difficult at times to get coworkers from various departments to sit down and talk about policy changes, new processes and production adjustments.

When those departments are in other countries or other parts of the world, the task can seem almost impossible. Purdue researchers, though, have been working with multinational firms to facilitate the process.

Shimon Y. Nof, professor of industrial engineering and director of the PRISM (Production, Robotics and Integration Software for Manufacturing and Management) Center at Purdue, says that for the past five years Purdue has worked with the Kimberly-Clark Corp. to connect its operations in Latin America.

Through PRISM’s work in Collaborative Control Theory (CCT) and Collaborations Support Systems (CSS), Purdue researchers have partnered with other researchers around the globe in helping to make the world smaller for international industries. This “smaller world” translates into improved customer service, more efficient operations and fewer backorders for companies.

“We developed the theory and support systems for collaborations over the past 15 years with Purdue projects with and national and international projects,” Nof says. “We have already collaborated with a network of centers and laboratories around the globe through the PRISM Global Research Network.”

Nof says Purdue’s work with Kimberly-Clark has been going on with the support of Juan Ernesto de Bedout, group president of Kimberly-Clark’s Latin American operations. De Bedout is a Purdue industrial engineering alumnus and chair of the College of Engineering’s Advisory Council.

Nof says Kimberly-Clark needs to know what’s happening at its various global locations in order to create policies and processes that will allow it to operate efficiently, yet have some consistency.

“Kimberly-Clark is in multiple locations in Latin America. Some are in production, some in distribution and all of them are points of sale,” Nof said. “They need to make supply network and customer relations decisions on a real-time basis.

“We have developed an Internet-based decision support network and collaboration support network for Kimberly-Clark based on collaborative control theory. This has been an extremely successful implementation by the company.”

Although operating efficiently and getting the right product to the right place at the right time are major goals for Kimberly-Clark, Nof said another major benefit is that workers don’t need to have a Ph.D. or be an engineer to use it. The system is widely accessible to employees.

“They have the normal training and don’t need a special degree,” Nof said. “We also know that the time will come when they will implement the system over a HUB, and we are working with Purdue HUBzero researchers to help make that a reality.”

HUBzero, developed by Purdue researchers, is a platform used to create websites for scientific research and educational activities. HUBzero provides the power to perform extensive analysis and allows access to a wide array of application tools. It also allows researchers to more easily publish research software and materials on the Web. The HUB has users in 172 countries, furthering Purdue’s international reach with its HUB technology.

Nof’s team is using this platform as a basis for HUB-CI (HUB for Collaborative Intelligence), which allows students, researchers and companies to actually collaborate through the website. They are able to view each other’s work, monitor progress and discuss projects in real time. Nof said he believes the HUB-CI will further integrate and enhance CCT and CSS technology.