Photo of Dr. Keah-Choon Tan
Dec. 12, 2022

We had the opportunity of chatting with Dr. KC Tan, Professor of Operations Management at UNLV, for a brief faculty highlight interview.

Dr. Tan received his Ph.D. degree in Operations Management from Michigan State University. He was a Certified Purchasing Manager (C.P.M.) from the Institute for Supply Management and was also certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) from APICS.

“Work hard, be motivated, honest, and perseverant. Don’t be afraid of failure but be resilient.”

Dr. Tan came to UNLV in 1998 as an assistant professor and progressed through the ranks to associate professor, and then full professor. He also spent seven years serving as a department chair and then associate dean.

“I’m proud to be a part of UNLV and seeing how the business school progressed from a relatively unknown business school to the current LEE Business School today. UNLV is not simply a place to work, but it is a  common space that I share with my like-minded colleagues.”

Q: What do you hope your students take away from the classes that you teach?

Operations management is the art and science of converting materials and labor into goods and services efficiently. Operations management plans, executes, and controls the process to create and deliver goods and services to customers. Every student should understand the core operations management concepts and how they are used in the manufacturing and service organizations to build core competencies that lead to competitive advantages over their competitors. At the most fundamental level, operations management concepts help organizations operate smoothly on a daily basis. Also, I want students to believe in themselves, be motivated, confident, and work hard to achieve their career goals.

Q: Prior to academia, you were a hospital administrator at a private specialist hospital, what connections from your time there can you make with the subject matter you are now teaching?

When I was a hospital administrator in Malaysia, my responsibilities could be separated into two parts—strategic and operations roles. At the business strategy level, I worked with the investors to refine our market segments and competitive priorities. Our market segments focused on the upper middle-class families because basic healthcare needs were provided by the government and our competitive priorities focused on delivering high quality healthcare at an affordable cost. At the operations strategy level, I helped to design the process and internal control systems and managed the daily operations of the specialist hospital.

In my SCM 352 Operations Management course, I start each semester by covering the roles of business strategy and competitive priorities of an organization. Next, I move on to operations strategy and cover the tools and techniques of operations management. Since SCM 352 is an introductory operations management course, two-third of the semester is devoted to learning the tools and techniques of operations management.

Besides working as a hospital administrator, I have also worked as the account comptroller of a manufacturing firm. My industry work experience in both the manufacturing and service sectors allows me to better understand operations management and how it is used in the business world. This work experience makes it easier to explain each topic that I cover in class. Also, drawing from my industry work experience and using contemporary business cases and examples, I hope to be able to convince students that the knowledge that they learn in class is not only applicable to the tests, but it is also relevant in the business world.

Q: What is something that the MIB department offers that you believe is key to the success of UNLV grads?

Though we may not have the financial resources like the private universities, the dedication of our faculty and leaders, quality and diversity of our students, and the programs are the keys to the success of UNLV grads. I believe these three components—faculty, students, and programs—must go hand-in-hand for the success of UNLV grads.