Professor participates in major Chinese research project

A professor in SUNY Oswego’s School of Business is participating in a major research project in China that aims to reduce inefficiencies in the process of manufacturing, distributing and selling products.

Dr. Ding Zhang, associate professor of marketing and management, became involved during his 2003 sabbatical at Fudan University’s School of Management in Shanghai, where he worked with Dr. Daoli Zhu and others on the project proposal.

Earlier this semester he learned that the National Science Foundation of China has funded the $900,000 project for three years. The agency funded one major research project in each of a dozen critical subject areas, he said, and this is the project funded in the area of supply chain management.

After the three-year first phase, the research team can apply for two more years of funding.
Zhang will work on the project when he returns to Fudan University each summer, with the grant covering many of his expenses, he said.

With economic globalization and the development of information technology, Zhang said, supply chain management has become a critical issue all over the world. Raw materials often come from one continent and labor for manufacture from another, with sale and delivery occurring on yet another, he explained.

If too many products are ordered or if they are ordered at the wrong time, they may go to waste or, for products with a long life, incur onerous warehousing costs.

Zhang described the global market as a huge system or network of suppliers, manufacturers, sellers and buyers, all connected by the flow of materials, capital and information.

The researchers are using computer technology and mathematical models to determine how to coordinate the system and advise the Chinese government on setting policy that will increase the system’s efficiency. “We are proposing a general model that can be applied to many different products,” Zhang said.

Whereas the United States has a relatively well-developed logistical system for supply chain management where each problem can often be solved as it arises, he said, all the problems are exploding at once in China, which has experienced tremendous economic growth and investment from outside in the past two decades. China’s centralized form of government can be an advantage in dealing with problems from a systems perspective, he noted.

Zhang has published many journal articles and book chapters in the field of operations management and research, is co-author of a widely cited book on projected dynamical systems, and received SUNY Oswego’s Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity in 2003.

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(Posted: Dec 01, 2004)