His research interests include Product and Service Variety, Coordination in Supply Chains, Inventory Management, Transportation Management, New Product and Service Introduction and he is currently working on various projects such as Building A Better Electric Vehicle Considering Logistics Costs, Fat Tails in Demand, and New Energy Vehicle.
Professor Rodrigo Britto, Director of the Undergraduate Program in Management at Universidad de los Andes School of Management and member of the Supply Chain & Technology academic area, tells us about why he invited professor Wan to the School:
- How did you get to know the professor? What are the main research links?
Xiang was my PhD classmate, and I recently published a paper with him in the International Journal of Production Economics, which had an impact factor of 4.998.
- What is the main purpose of the professor’s visit?
To discuss some research ideas that he can collaborate with the area and with other faculty of the School of Management. Professor Wan comes from a renowned university in the field of Supply Chain Management, which is of interest of the School’s academic area.
- Why is it important to have this professor visit the School?
He is a tenured professor at Fisher Business School one of the best schools in Logistics in the world and we have already worked in collaboration with other professors at the School. Professor Wan’s visit will help to enhance the collaboration (Thomas Goldsby, faculty at Haslam College of Business, was keynote speaker at a conference organized by the Supply Chain Management & Technology area).
- What are the expectations in terms of his research contribution to the academic area?
We have already published a paper together and I hope to publish many more.
In this interview, professor Wan told us about his academic life, future aspirations and his first-time impressions of Bogotá and the School of Management.
- During your visit, what has surprised you about Colombia?
One thing I found interesting is that I have been told that traffic is not very good here, and I see that some streets a kind of narrow and they are one way and it’s interesting to see that in a capital city there are still many streets like that. That’s probably why there is so much congestion every day.
- What would you highlight from your visit to Universidad de los Andes School of Management?
- When and why did you decide to pursue an academic career?
Many years ago, I got my BA and MA in China and then I worked in the industry for a year. During that year, I realized that to do international business normally you have to hold an inventory in case the supplier has a shortage or in case demand changes. So during my work, I always asked myself, what is the best way to manage inventories? What is the best way to manage international logistics? And when I talked to my colleagues in the company ,it seemed that no one had the answer and we still see a lot of waste in the supply chain management so that’s the reason why I wanted to do more. My BA is in computer science and my MA is in economics, so nothing to do with supply chain management and inventory optimization, and so I applied for a PhD in the US in order to specialize in that.
- What are the most satisfying aspects of being a scholar?
That’s interesting because I have talked to some of my colleagues about this. Many of the come from completely different backgrounds, but one thing we all have in common is that in the academic world, we have our freedom to focus on something we are interested in. If you work in a company, you are basically told what you have to do. If you are a lawyer for example, you don’t have much of a choice; you basically serve your client. But in the academic world we have the freedom to focus on the questions and topics we are interested in, and we enjoy the process to find answers to those questions.
- What other research areas would you like to develop in the future?
- How does your work contribute to society as a whole?
Sure, for example, I’ll take one topic: Product variety. Normally, you would think that product variety is a good thing because you would provide a variety of products for customers and so that they can be free to choose what they like, but once you have more products they your inventory suffers because you have to have more products to satisfy all the customers and there is a cost to that. Also, demand forecasting becomes difficult. I wrote an article on the negative side of product variety, and soon after, began to receive phone calls from lots of different companies. Even though I had never worked with them, once they read the paper, they realized that that was exactly what their company was going through. And so, they wanted to talk to me to see if the solutions I offered other companies could also help them. So, I find it very encouraging that my research actually helped those companies to overcome their problems.
- How would you describe your teaching philosophy?
- What is the most important thing you learn from your interaction with your students?
I learn a lot from my MBA students because every individual has completely different questions. They run their own company or lead their own departments, and sometimes there are common questions but the solutions change from company to company. That’s where I learn the most. Through talking with them I can modify my suggestions and also modify my research findings from one company to another.