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Yossi Sheffi Honored With Logistics Award

Courtesy of Yossi Sheffi
Professor Yossi Sheffi '77

By May K. Tse
News Editor

Director of the Center for Transportation Studies Yossi Sheffi PhD '77 was recently awarded the Distinguished Service Award of the Council of Logistics Management, becoming the first winner associated with MIT.

"I was sky-high, very gratified, more than anything because I knew what it takesŠ Isimply felt in some sense humbled knowing how many people were involved in this. It's a very nice feeling,"Sheffi said.

The CLMis the biggest professional logistics organization in the world, with about 14,000 members, from academia and industry. Every year hundreds of candidates for the award are nominated by the members. Only a single winner is selected.

Past winners include James Heskett, professor of business logistics at Harvard University, as well as Frederick Smith, chief executive officer and chairman of Federal Express.

"It's the highest honor you can get in this field, but the truth is, you don't work for a prize. All my work continuesŠ I love what I do, it's fun, it continues to be fun,"Sheffi said.

"Yossi is a ŒRenaissance man' of logistics. He's done a lot of academic work but has also gone out and applied it in a real world environment; he's able to mix the theoretical and practical," said James B. Rice Jr., Director of the Integrated Supply Chain Management program of the CTS.

Sheffi involved in industry

In addition to his academic work and publications, Sheffi has helped to develop two logistics companies, Logicorp and the Princeton Transportation Consulting Group.

"No one else who is highly recognized has started companies. It's part of the culture at MIT, it's not unusual to start companies here," Rice said.

"When Logicorp was started in 1988, it was one of the first of a new breed of companies: contract logistic providers. Today there are hundreds of companies like this,"Sheffi said.

The company managed the logistics operations for retailers, managers, and others, becoming one of the first examples of outsourcing. "It was very successful; beyond anyone's wildest dreams, a Microsoft kind of success," Sheffi said. Logicorp was later sold off to Ryder in 1994.

Sheffi founded PTCG with three other partners in 1987, and became the sole owner in 1992. He later sold the company to AMR, the owner of American Airlines, which now calls the company the Sabre Group.

"PTCGmakes very innovative software tied more to my research at MIT. It deals with the optimization of large scale systems for automatic dispatching and routing for a huge fleet of trucks. It solves optimization problems, including tens of millions of variables, constants, etc., and the programs work in real time. It's quite amazing," Sheffi said.

Logistics a growing field

Sheffi's award follows the recent addition of a new nine-month Masters of Engineering degree in Logistics. It is the first interdisciplinary MEng degree at the Institute, and will start accepting its first students next fall.

About ten students will be accepted to the new degree program next year, with approximately 60 students per year in the future.

"This field is exploding because of globalization, deregulation, and advanced information systems. Companies now have to start thinking about taking back the product, such as recycling. Logistics has become very important. We believe there's a market for it,"Sheffi said.

Rice, who is the vice-president of the New England Roundtable, the local CLM chapter, noted that attendance numbers at meetings have doubled from five years ago, indicating the growing popularity of logistics.

"There's a demand for qualified and capable people in logistics but not enough in supply,"Rice said.