In 2018, the Tauber Institute for Global Operations celebrates its 25th anniversary. By combining business and engineering with leadership training, action-based learning, and Industry partnerships, the Tauber Institute has become a leader in Operations excellence.
Tauber Institute founder Joel D. Tauber grew up in Detroit, MI and received his B.A., M.B.A. and J.D. from the University of Michigan. He was then invited to take over a manufacturing business, where realization set in: “I had to develop my own training program, because what I learned at business school didn't prepare me to understand the whole organization. I worked with people in various parts of the organization - on the business side and on the manufacturing side - and I came to realize that a comprehensive approach was a crucial and much more effective way of preparing for this kind of business."
This is what attracted Joel Tauber to the Michigan Joint Manufacturing Initiative (MJMI), an interdisciplinary program administered by the College of Engineering and the School of Business created in 1993. The program was designed to address the acute shortage of broadly trained professionals who understand both the engineering and business aspects of manufacturing. Joel Tauber believed in the model so much that he made a $5 million pledge to ensure the efforts were sustainable. The University honored him by renaming the program the Joel D. Tauber Manufacturing Institute.
The Institute’s “first student,” Andrew Masterman, was in on the ground floor of what was to become the Tauber Institute for Global Operations. Back then, Masterman was studying three very diverse disciplines – engineering, business and international language. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was blazing a trail for thousands of business and manufacturing operations professionals at the University of Michigan and beyond.
“It was an exciting time,” Masterman remembers, “When the concept of an interdisciplinary program came up -- because I was doing both degrees, plus a Japanese degree and MBA -- they tapped me to be on an advisory board with the deans. I was providing the student voice on what the institute should be. It was really an amazing experience, being able to brainstorm on what the future of the institute should look like, what type of students we could attract and what the goals and direction should be.”
Because Masterman had already been in the work force, he could clearly see the benefit of an interdisciplinary program that combined hands-on manufacturing operations with business strategy. “It made complete sense to me. In essence, it was what I was trying to do on my own. There were other institutions out there focusing on international issues, and business and manufacturing, but none that combined it all together.”
Now the Tauber Institute for Global Operations is ranked as one of the premier multidisciplinary operations programs in the world. Since 1993, the Institute has addressed operations issues utilizing concepts from both engineering and business perspectives through a strong partnership between the College of Engineering and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.
As other programs have grown to appreciate the power of real world experiences for their students, the Tauber Institute for Global Operations has been recognized for its pioneering approach to action-based learning. The Institute was awarded the first UPS George D. Smith Prize for effective and innovative preparation of students to be good practitioners of operations research, management science, or analytics, and was a finalist for the Innovations in Curriculum Competition sponsored by the Institute of Industrial Engineers’ (IIE) Council of Industrial Engineering Academic Department Heads (CIEADH) in 2012.
The Tauber Institute’s partnership with Industry was part of its foundation; a Program Development Advisory Board consisting of industry executives from 27 corporation first met in the Spring of 1992 to discuss the possibilities of the new program. Today, regular input from Tauber’s 30 member Industry Advisory Board ensures that the Tauber Institute stays at the forefront of multidisciplinary operations and responds quickly to industry needs.
The Tauber Institute quickly became one of the top multidisciplinary programs in the country. In addition to normal degree requirements, all Tauber students completed an intensive leadership program in engineering and business that culminated into a team-based, 14-week paid internship with a high profile company. This system is still in place today.
The concept was controversial at the beginning, but the success of the Tauber Team Projects demonstrated that the Tauber Institute’s educational model was highly effective. More than just internships, Team Projects are at the heart of the Institute’s philosophy, focusing on teamwork, integration and measurable success. Usually comprised of two to three students from both the Business School and the College of Engineering, Team Projects test students’ collaborative skills. As engineers and business managers, teams work together to analyze a current problem at their sponsoring company, and design and implement a solution that improves performance. Once Michigan students, who were already aware that a cross-disciplinary education was the future, heard about the program’s details, they began gravitating toward the Institute. Companies looking for more well-rounded job candidates were also eager to participate. And soon, word of the impressive financial impact the student project recommendations were having enhanced the competition among sponsoring companies to stay involved.
Though traditional manufacturing companies were key players in the early days of the Institute, Tauber Team Projects now encompass a wide array of operations issues throughout Industry, including aerospace, internet commerce, high tech, health care, automotive, energy, and retail. As the Tauber Institute for Global Operations and its alumni base continues to grow, the Institute’s impact on operations excellence reverberates throughout Industry.