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Eric Rozier, representing Honeywell, which co-sponsored the conference, with one of the student co-chairs Kim Matthews '04.

Innovation as advantage

Kellogg School MMM conference showcases manufacturing leadership

4/11/2003 - The Kellogg School of Management hosted its 8th Annual Manufacturing Business Conference on April 24. Organized by first-year Master of Management and Manufacturing (MMM) students, the event attracted nearly 400 attendees from a cross section of business professionals, including several dozen Northwestern University alumni, Kellogg MBA students, and graduate students from peer universities.

This year's conference theme was "Innovation: Gaining & Sustaining Competitive Advantage." Organizers designed the conference to showcase the impact that thoughtful leadership can have in manufacturing sectors as diverse as automotive and biotechnology. Event sponsors included Honeywell, Deloitte & Touche and John Deere, who provided one of their company's modern tractors which served as a great conversation piece outside the James L. Allen Center where the conference took place.

Kellogg School Dean Dipak C. Jain along with Dean John Birge of Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering opened the conference with a joint address welcoming participants. Keynote speakers Robert W. Lane, chairman and CEO of John Deere, and Xavier Flinois, executive vice president of SchlumbergerSema, engaged attendees with their leadership insights and experiences.

Mr. Lane spoke about the tremendous heritage of John Deere, of the firm's success in recent years and of what he perceives as the promising future of the American corporate icon. One highlight of Lane's speech occurred when he asked members of his executive leadership team to participate in a question and answer session, putting into practice his team-based leadership style. Mr. Flinois focused his presentation specifically on factors that inspire innovation at Schlumberger - including "people, process and purpose." Exemplifying SchlumbergerSema's innovation, Mr. Flinois related the development of Smart Card technology, including planned advances in Smart Card "spontaneous networking" and biometric compatibility.

Six moderated panel discussions, spanning a range of issues, including funding manufacturing acquisitions, pricing strategies, outsourcing, IT in product development, creative leadership, and risk in biotech manufacturing, offered a wealth of insights. Search Funds panelists agreed on many acquisition funding considerations, one example of which included the belief that using company search brokers often fails to provide value for the service price, which can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Outsourcing panel concluded, among other points, that just because a company can outsource doesn't mean it necessarily should do so before considering partnership at all levels to manage the relationship and align incentives with outsourcers for measurable results. Panelists noted that companies can essentially outsource any function, including those that appear "strategic" to their business, such as designing consumer electronics or medical devices, R&D, customer service and field sales.

The Creative Leadership panelists focused on the key social skills they employed in their successful careers to gain initial credibility, before next developing the abilities to inspire motivation in others and ultimately sponsor interdepartmental collaboration.

The MMM is a dual-degree program between Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and the Kellogg School of Management. For more information about this program, visit their Web site.