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Indiana University Bloomington

Operations & Decision Technologies


Kyle Cattani
Associate Professor of Operations Management

Bringing the ‘Real World’ Into the Classroom

“One of the reasons you become a professor is because you like to interact with students. We have students here with experience in all kinds of disciplines, who are smart and have insights to share.”

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Some people collect stamps or do Sudoku puzzles.

Kyle Cattani tours factories.

“I love visiting companies, talking with the management team to see how they do their jobs, and figuring out how things work. It’s part of staying abreast of what’s current,” says Cattani, an associate professor of operations management who has toured more than 100 factories.

The factory visits enrich Cattani’s research in the areas of operations management and supply-chain management and infuse his MBA operations management courses with real-world examples.

Cattani and two colleagues have worked on supply chain design and mass-customization issues with Timbuk2, a bicycle messenger bag company that allows customers to design their own bags from a menu of options that include bag colors, logo color, handle, and zippered compartments.

During a Timbuk2 factory tour, Cattani and his colleagues learned that although the company charged customers for choosing a logo color, it could actually change the color at no extra cost. They ran their findings through a marketing model and discovered that in this case, the model suggested that profit should come from the price of the bag itself with options offered to the consumer at cost (in the case of the logo color, for free).

“It’s a counter-intuitive result, because charging for the logo colors seemed to add pure profit, but we realized that giving the customer the logo color at no extra charge increases the attractiveness of the overall product and makes the customer more likely to buy—which is what you really want,” he says. As a class exercise, Cattani and his operations management class order a custom bag from Timbuk2 and have it delivered in time for their next class session.

Cattani’s students frequently bring relevant topics to the table. “One of the reasons you become a professor is because you like to interact with students,” Cattani says. “We have students here with experience in all kinds of disciplines, who are smart and have insights to share. I can learn from them too.”

When Cattani joined the Department of Operations and Decision Technologies in 2005, he was impressed by the department’s collegiality and the level of research being conducted.

“It’s a group of very nice people who are outstanding scholars in both teaching and research. I’m surrounded by interesting people doing interesting things,” he says. “I can’t imagine that there’s a nicer place to work.”

In Brief
In my previous life, I … :
“Taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and worked for Hewlett Packard Company as a production planning manager.”
Web site I visit every day:
“My homepage is ‘My Yahoo.’ I look at stocks, the weather, and more sports scores than I probably should.”
Books I’m reading right now:
“I’ve been on a Civil War kick these last few months. I just finished a nine-volume series by Shelby Foote about the Civil War.”
Why I love Bloomington:
“I love college basketball, I love the arts and music here—and it’s a great place to raise my three kids.”
Published November 13, 2007