Soumen Ghosh loves helping business leaders get better at running companies. That’s been a big part of his job for the past few years, as he’s served as faculty director of non-degree and custom programs for the Scheller College’s Huang Executive Education Center.
The opportunity to interact with these leaders has improved Ghosh’s career performance as well, says Ghosh, a professor of operations management. “You need to have a real-world check on your research ideas, and there’s no better way to get that than talking to business leaders in your field.”
At the Huang Center, Ghosh helps tailor leadership-oriented programs (often lasting two weeks) to meet the needs of a growing number of major companies, including Coca-Cola, Clorox, GE, NCR, and McCain Foods. Under the leadership of Ghosh and Brian Jennings, associate dean for executive education, these custom programs have grown exponentially over the last few years.
Reputation for Excellence
“We’re creating such a strong reputation in this area that Fortune 100 companies are now approaching us about customizing programs for them,” says Ghosh, who also fills the role of academic director of custom programs related to supply chain excellence. “We’re helping them enhance the capability and talent of managers rising into senior leadership roles.”
For example, since 2010, Coca-Cola has regularly sent their top technical and business leaders from across the company’s global bottling system to the Supply Chain eXcellence Leadership Development Program.
“Coke’s bottling system includes independent organizations all over the world that perform the actual manufacturing (bottling) for The Coca-Cola Company. Coke’s challenge is to manage its global supply chain effectively when it doesn’t have 100 percent control over all its manufacturing operations,” Ghosh explains. “Based on consistent feedback from them, Coke and its bottlers have benefited greatly from our programs.”
Managing the global supply chain for competitive advantage is Ghosh’s primary research focus, and he has published widely in this area in leading journals. He frequently travels around the world leading workshops and training on supply chain excellence.
He also has provided consulting for a host of leading companies, and is a frequent speaker at company events. In 2008, Ghosh and another Tech professor, Vinod Singhal, were approached by McKinsey & Co. to conduct a study to identify best practices in global supply chain management.
“The supply chain is a very complex function in an organization,” he says. “You have to look at the entire process of getting your product to consumers from beginning to end. How you organize and plan such a complex process in an integrated manner is a formidable challenge. Your supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
He points to Apple as a company that’s done an outstanding job of managing its supply chain from end to end, despite the fact that it depends entirely on other manufacturers to not only supply the components that go into such products as iPhones and iPads, but also the final products themselves.
“They’ve been a huge market success not only for their innovative ideas in their products, but also how effectively they manage their global supply chain,” Ghosh notes. “Their products are available everywhere and when consumers want them. If they weren’t, customers might get frustrated and buy competitors’ products.”
Effectively managing today’s complex supply chains (particularly for organizations which might have a complex product portfolio) requires an increasing degree of collaboration and agility, Ghosh explains. “Being agile means you have flexibility in your processes in all key areas, from sourcing and procurement to warehousing and distribution,” he says.
“This flexibility is important because customers are demanding more and more customized products and service, along with customized packaging and delivery requirements. You need to not only be responsive to customer requirements, but also maintain a low delivered cost. This is very challenging to accomplish unless your overall supply chain capability is high.”
Before expanding into broader supply chain issues, Ghosh’s research focused on manufacturing and operations as he began his academic career. He was influenced by his experience working in the auto industry for two years as a manufacturing engineer for the Tata Group in India after receiving his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology.
“Having that work experience really helps me relate to companies’ problems and explore solutions that might be useful through my research,” says Ghosh, a native of Calcutta, India.
After his time at Tata, he earned an MS in industrial and systems engineering from Ohio State University before delving into his PhD studies in business administration at the same institution. “By that time, I was more curious about management issues than engineering problems,” he notes.
Ghosh, who joined the Scheller College faculty in 1993 after six years at Michigan State University, adds: “Research is what attracted me to academics. However, I love translating that research into practice to help the business world.”
He had that opportunity for the eight years while he served as director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Quality and Change Leadership, funded by a grant from IBM and the National Science Foundation starting in 1994.
He says his current role at the Huang Executive Education Center is one of his most satisfying ever. “Through our custom executive education programs, we have a direct hand in how companies develop their capabilities and the talent of their employees,” he explains.
“We work closely with the senior leadership at our client companies to tailor these programs, so that the content we develop includes relevant examples from their business environment, coupled with the research expertise of the Scheller faculty. This is how we add value to our corporate customers and help them to get more competitive.”