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Shaping the future: researcher profiles

Benoît Montreuil: reinventing business
Twenty years ago, Benoît Montreuil left a professorship at Indiana’s prestigious Purdue University for a position at Laval University ( because he felt that Quebec was a better place to raise a family. Thanks to his expertise, Quebec City has become an international research centre for business restructuring in the age of the new economy.
  • Professor, Faculty of Administrative Sciences, Laval University
  • Founding member, Interuniversity Centre for Research on Business Networks, Logistics and Transportation (CIRRELT)
  • Holder, NSERC/Bell/Cisco Research Chair in Business Design
  • Holder, Canada Research Chair in Business Engineering
  • Bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, University of Quebec at Trois Rivières (1978) and master’s/doctorate in industrial engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta (1980/1982)

“I applied for a number of positions in Quebec and Laval’s offer most closely reflected my aspirations. I’ve never looked back,” says the father of four, now a professor in Laval University’s Faculty of Administrative Sciences.

Dr. Montreuil’s research skills are held in such high regard that he holds not one but two research chairs: the NSERC-Bell-Cisco Research Chair in Business Design and the Canada Research Chair in Business Engineering.

Combining aspects of management, engineering and information techniques, Dr. Montreuil’s research interests include the development of concepts, methodologies and technologies aimed at achieving success in a global economy that is increasingly digital, ultra-competitive and boom-and-bust. His goal is to challenge entrepreneurs to take their business to the next level.

With numerous scientific articles and international conference papers to his credit, Dr. Montreuil is a prolific researcher and the concepts he has pioneered have catapulted him into the highest echelons of his field. “I’ve always wanted to be a trailblazer,” he explains. He has also advised a wide variety of domestic and multinational companies, including Bombardier, Ford Motor Company and Exfo.

Leveraging the power of technology

After training as an industrial engineer, Dr. Montreuil studied business management at two top-rated institutions, Georgia Institute of Technology (1979-1982) and Purdue University (1986-1988), specializing in factory design.

Nowadays, Dr. Montreuil encourages businesses to reinvent themselves as they take on the challenges posed by emerging countries like India and China. In the wake of the Internet revolution, this acclaimed researcher has argued convincingly that the future belongs to businesses that can leverage the power of new information technologies.

Breaking new ground

“Today, a company can only survive if keeps its primary stakeholders happy. If there is discontent among clients, users, suppliers, financial partners, employees or community leaders, the whole structure can come tumbling down,” says Dr. Montreuil.

One recent example is that of Quebec City-based Regence Footwear. After decades of being solidly entrenched in the traditional manufacturing sector, the company recently transferred all of its production activities to Asia, giving up its distribution operations to concentrate on virtual marketing, innovation and logistics. “Regence’s radical transformation was actually a question of survival,” notes Dr. Montreuil.

“When we talked about virtual global networks 15 years ago, people saw us as wild-eyed visionaries,” he says. He goes on to describe a “perpetual revolution” in which adaptability is the key.

Excellent prospects

The business modelling, simulation and wealth creation labs at Laval University’s Palasis-Prince Pavilion have a NASA-like look to them, with rows of wall-mounted TV screens showing a variety of colourful graphics and schematic diagrams. In addition to conducting research activities, the facility has a teaching and training mission. Dr. Montreuil oversees nearly 50 master’s and doctoral students each year, a dozen of whom play a research role.

“Our graduates have excellent employment prospects – demand is that strong,” he says. “That’s because we’re multi-disciplinary and international in scope.”

Nurturing a dream

Dr. Montreuil hopes that his initiatives will contribute to the development of a more cooperative, efficient and congenial world some day, one in which our profligate waste of resources (as evidenced by our unworn clothing, uneaten food and endless traffic jams) is a thing of the past.

So does he see himself as an idealist? “I hope so. Fifteen years ago, almost no one had heard of new technologies like the Internet, cell phones and debit cards, or of concepts like mass customization, sustainable development and fair trade.”

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