01 Apr 1998

Professor Ramchandran Jaikumar Remembered


Ramchandran Jaikumar, the School's Daewoo Professor of Business Administration and a renowned authority on manufacturing management and technology, died on February 10 of a heart attack while mountain climbing in Quito, Ecuador. He was 53 years old.

A prolific researcher and writer, Jaikumar was a pioneer in the study of flexible manufacturing systems. A major component of his work was a comprehensive study of more than half of these systems in use worldwide. The project had a significant impact on improving the management of manufacturing in numerous organizations.

Jaikumar's more recent research on the integration of computers into the manufacturing process led to the development of a "minimalist" architecture for manufacturing. His framework emphasizes the elimination of process disruptions and the mini- mization of control systems.

HBS Dean Kim B. Clark called Jaikumar "an extraordinary researcher and a beloved teacher. His work epitomized the essence of our mission - to be close to practice and to deal with important problems. A person of wide-ranging interests and exceptional energy, Jai had a tremendous impact on students, executives, and manufacturers throughout this country and abroad. His premature death has robbed us of a world-class scholar and a valued friend and colleague."

Professor Marshall Fisher of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who worked closely with Jaikumar for nearly 25 years, noted, "Jai was a unique individual who could discuss high-level policy issues with senior executives or technical nuances of research with fellow academics. His influence on the academic field of operations management and on industrial practice has been profound."

Jaikumar was highly regarded by the hundreds of Harvard MBA students and Executive Education participants who took his courses. "Jai cared greatly about what students learned, and it showed every time he entered the classroom," commented HBS professor Roy Shapiro. "He set high standards. His students loved him."

A native of Madras, India, Jaikumar joined the HBS faculty in 1980. He was a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, where he received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. He also held an MA in industrial engineering from Oklahoma State University and a Ph.D. in decision sciences from the Wharton School.

Throughout his distinguished career, Jaikumar published widely in academic and professional journals and contributed to several books. He was a consultant to many companies and served on committees of the National Research Council and as an advisor to the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science and Technology.

Jaikumar earned numerous honors, including the Frederick Winslow Taylor Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Grosvenor Plowman Prize, awarded by the National Council for Physical Distribution Management. In addition, he twice won the Franz Edelman Prize for management science practice.

An avid and experienced climber, Jaikumar had been a mountain guide in the Himalayas during his years in college. In 1966, he was a member of a party that climbed a 23,000-foot peak in the Himalayas. Last year, Jaikumar climbed a previously unconquered mountain in Greenland, thereby earning the right to name it. He chose "Minarjnik," a contraction of the names of his wife, Mrinalini Mani, and two sons, Nikhil and Arjun.

A memorial service was held in February at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard. Donations in Jaikumar's memory may be sent to the Jaikumar Fellowship Fund, c/o Dean's Office, Morgan Hall 120, Harvard Business School, Boston, MA 02163.


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