Thursday, October 23, 2014

Elwood S. Buffa - Biography and Contribution

El Buffa was one of the founding fathers of the field of production and operations management. His very first book, Modern Production Management published in 1961, redefined the field. Its key contribution was to integrate ideas from industrial engineering and the then rather young discipline of operations research to suggest ways to improve efficiency in both the manufacturing and service sectors. The book became an instant success and was adopted as a basic text for introductory courses in production management throughout the country and around the world. The book has been translated into half a dozen languages and went through eight editions through 1987. Thousands of academics and practitioners learned about the field from this classic text and its distinguished 1963 sequel, Operations Management (whose exquisitely descriptive title was taken up quickly by business schools and remains ubiquitous unto the present day). El wrote 9 major texts and a total of 26 distinct editions, and is widely considered to be his field’s most influential textbook writer during the 1960s and 1970s.

I would like to specifically mention that Buff did not mention industrial engineering in  his book of  modern production management. If he correctly identified the role of industrial engineering discipline, he would have done a great service to industrial engineering. But by carefully avoiding even mention of industrial engineering in the index of the text he did a great disservice to industrial engineering.

Elwood Buffa was born on April 12, 1923 to an Italian father and an English mother in Beloit, Wisconsin. He married in February, 1945 just prior to being sent to Hawaii by the U.S. Navy, and remained happily wed until his death.

El finished his MBA in 1948 after completing his military service, after which the Eastman Kodak Company offered him a job in their Industrial Engineering Department. This was El’s first challenge to improve the cost, quality and efficiency of manufacturing operations. He found that he especially enjoyed training people in new ways to improve productivity.

El’s fondness of teaching led him in 1951 to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign as an assistant professor of industrial engineering, where he soon discovered that he needed a PhD to make a career in academia. So, with the strong support of Professor Ralph Barnes, then one of the most influential industrial engineers in the country, El enrolled in UCLA’s PhD program at the College of Engineering, and taught as a lecturer at the business school to support his family. He settled in Pacific Palisades where he raised his children, Carl, Jerry, and Linda.

In 1957, El received his PhD and was appointed as an associate professor at UCLA’s School of Business Administration. He was promoted to the rank of professor in 1961. He was a visiting professor at Harvard Business School from 1963 to 1964, but UCLA lured him back where he remained until retirement. El contributed to UCLA in many ways. His contributions as an educator and scholar are well recognized in the field, and he was known throughout the UCLA community for his distinguished service to the University. He was chairman of the Budget Committee, which reviewed all promotions and appointments for the entire campus. He was elected chairman of the UCLA Academic Senate from 1975 to 1976. He served as associate dean (1970-1974) of the Graduate School of Management and was the founding director of the Executive MBA Program (1981-1984), which went on to become a highly successful program at the UCLA Anderson School.

http://senate.universityofcalifornia.edu/inmemoriam/elwoodbuffa.html

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