Why did I choose Humanitarian Logistics (HUMLOG) at Hanken?

In today’s blog, I would love to share with you guys about my interesting career choice – Humanitarian Logistics and how did I end up studying this major at Hanken School of Economics.

I bet that the term “Humanitarian Logistics” (HUMLOG) or “Humanitarian Supply Chain Management (HSCM)” causes a huge confusion among if not all, then most of you. Initially, many of my friends asked me whether if it is related to the human resources management (HRM) side of Logistics/SCM, and there are some others even wondered whether if it is a fancy term for “human trafficking”. Well, the answers are “no” and “absolutely no” to both questions since my field of study is much broader, more intriguing, and humane than what was being asked.

Alright, let me sort this out and browse you through the concept of HUMLOG in the simplest possible way from my understanding. Now, try to imagine: if your city has just been hit by a tsunami, most of shops, supermarkets, hospitals, and other critical infrastructures including electricity, telecommunication networks, and probably the clean water supply within the city are destroyed by the killer waves, even your home – your shelter is gone by the struck of this disaster. Then the questions here are: How are you going to sustain yourself without the supply of daily necessities? Where will you stay during this dark time when your home is not there anymore? How are you going to reach out to your relatives in neighboring areas when the communication network is down? Difficult to figure out on your own at this critical moment and time, isn’t it? Yet, this is exactly the case where humanitarian logistics comes to the rescue – when all regular supply chain networks and operations are paralyzed and grounded to halt. In technical terms, the processes of humanitarian logistics are fundamentally the planning, implementing, and controlling the efficient, cost-effective flow and storage of goods, material, information, and financial instruments (cash) from the point of origin to the point of consumption, or “in-and-out the affected area”, with the aim of relieving the suffering of affected people.

You see, it’s not at all perplexing, yet incredibly interesting, right?

During my first course of Supply Chain Management at bachelor study, the moment I realized that I am going down this career path was when those questions revolving around the movement of goods and information among multiple actors within the supply chain and the science behind this operation just kept lingering in my curious mind. On top of that, I have always been eager to contribute to a greater cause than myself. Therefore, the study of HUMLOG, which specializes more in the field of disaster relief rather than commercial purposes, has aroused my strong interests. Honestly speaking, HUMLOG grows on me tremendously and my interest increases substantially once I was exposed to the subject. If I did not choose to pursue this major, I would never know how difficult and challenging it actually is to rescue and alleviate an area under disastrous impacts. Furthermore, through the view lens of HUMLOG, I am profoundly grateful and appreciated of how privileged I am to live in such a peaceful and affluent society, where I have access to everything that I need while there are so many others around the globe are still suffering from the inaccessibility of basic demands such as food, clean water, clothes and shelter due to the  severe consequences of different disasters and conflicts. 

The one last point I would like to make is my overall experience at HUMLOG track over the past three months. Three adjectives that can describe most of my experience here are “passionate”, “insightful”, and “exciting”. Essentially, every course that I have attended so far, is very well-structured and establishes extremely solid theoretical foundations, yet, practical implications to real-world scenarios so that we – the students can have a better grasp of how to effectively apply theories into practices. Besides, huge contributors to my amazing studying experience are undoubtedly my professors at HUMLOG track. They are all at the forefront of their research field and passionate about what they are doing. More importantly, they can always make the lectures become more vivid and exciting by giving in so many thought-provoking examples and exclusive industry knowledge.


Attached below is some real footage of me and my life here at Hanken, let’s have a look 🙂

A super fun and bonding group work session at Hanken’s Forest
A super fun and bonding group work session at Hanken’s Forest
A hangout night with classmates
A hangout night with classmates

You can always feel the intimate atmosphere around Hanken once you are here, because we are a small community filled with joy and enthusiasm.

An insightful lecture with professor Anna Aminoff and Otto Sormunen from VR group about Supply Chain strategy for sustainability
An insightful lecture with professor Anna Aminoff and Otto Sormunen from VR group about Supply Chain strategy for sustainability

That’s it for today, guys! I hope that your view about HUMLOG has somewhat changed and your interest for HUMLOG has been captured after reading this post. If so, why don’t you join me on this meaningful journey of helping others and making the world a better place for everyone?

Hanh Pham

HUMLOG at the Aidex2019 -conference

HUMLOG’s Postdoctoral Researcher Amin Maghsoudi participated in the Aidex2019 conference in Brussels last week, where he gave a presentation on cash assistance in humanitarian relief and met experts from across the international humanitarian community.

Day 1

I attended two important workshops. The first one was about Eco supply chain design. It was organized and co-facilitated by George Fenton from Humanitarian Logistics Association (HLA). The practical implementation of carbon free supply chains as well as the challenges, tasks, technical procedures and other issues were discussed. The second workshop I attended was about delivering healthcare in conflict, which was based on a particular case in Syria. I had the opportunity to network with people who have relief operations in a conflict in Syria.

During the day, I also met people from UNHCR; Nutriset, which is a food provider for children in Africa; NGOs such as Syria Relief and Development Aid; Barzani Foundation as well as some businesses working as emergency suppliers.

Day 2

During the Cash session, George Fenton stared the discussion by giving a brief introduction about the topic and its importance by providing some specific examples across countries based on his experience. Next, I started my presentation by introducing the HUMLOG Institute and myself. I presented the cash concept, its importance and growth of usage in the relief sector and potential interest by humanitarian organizations (HO). I then opened the discussion to the audience, who discussed the particular situational factors and challenges that need to be considered when HOs use cash transfer programs. We then narrowed the discussion and connected it to logistics and supply chain aspects.

The ending session was great and we had a final discussion about the potential outcomes and impact of cash assistance on both HO’s performance and beneficiaries.

Some raised questions from the audience and that may be interesting to look into for further research:

  • Is there any standard practices as a benchmark to adapt when we do use cash transfer?
  • How about accountability issues when we switch from in-kind to cash?
  • How can use technology such as blockchain in a transparent way to visibly monitor the money transfers from upstream to downstream? How to design and develop smart contract with financial institutes when use cash aid?
  • What are the procedures to differentiate between fake traders and the reliable traders for money transfer?
  • How to connect and coordinate with local government for the legalization of cash transfer programs in emergencies?
  • What are the available market assessment and supply chain assessment indicators and measurements when plan to apply cash aid? And whether can borrow and adapt from commercial supply chain?

It seems there are some factors and challenges that may have negative impacts on performance when delivering cash. There was also a debate about what will happen to invested resources such as warehouses, fleet and logisticians when we use cash instead of in-kind. Although cash is not a new issue, HOs are becoming more interested to invest on cash transfer programs. Its agreed by audience the future of humanitarian aid will shift more toward use of cash rather than in-kind.

There were also some other raised issues by audience such as the importance of digital literacy on use of cash aid, women protection through in-kind and cash, emergent need for training the humanitarian logistician on cash implementation and monitoring, and hybrid approach.

I guess, there are a lot of research questions and each can be project to propose. At the end, we seek for more collaboration with HOs, academia, and private sector with regard to this subject. HLA can lead and connect the actors. We seek for further collaboration.

At the end, I would say thank to HUMLOG for their generous support giving this chance to me to attend conference and meet people and present our work.

Amin Maghsoudipostdoctoral researcher

Journey of a visiting PhD student at HUMLOG

17.9.2019
By Jana Abiková, visiting researcher at HUMLOG and PhD student at the University of Economics in Prague.

 

Dear reader,

 

today, I would like to tell you few words about my research journey.

My name is Jana and I am PhD student at the University of Economics in Prague. I have been dreaming about visiting HUMLOG since the very first day of my PhD life and right now, I am finishing my research visit here in Helsinki.

 

Jana Abikova

 

My first research was related to siting problem of refugee camps. In 2016, I was volunteering in Serbia in two refugee camps. It was the place where I chose the specific topic of my doctoral thesis and my research life in general. Later, I have added the aspect of human resources in humanitarian logistics. This was more or less a consequence of the practical work experience I gained in various organizations (in the Czech Republic, I worked for Doctors Without Borders, People in Need and Amnesty International).

 

I chose the topic of humanitarian logistics when I was 18 years old. I wanted to work as a logistician for humanitarian organizations, so I started studying logistics. When I was finishing my bachelor studies, I knew students in different countries could have lectures related to this topic. But in the Czech Republic, this was impossible. Therefore, I decided to be the first person in my country doing a PhD focusing on humanitarian logistics.

 

On the first day of my PhD, the vice-dean for research and science told us “if you want to finish your PhD studies, you have to love your topic”. I think very often about these words. Maybe you, reader, are also a PhD student or maybe you are thinking about this journey. In that case, these words are something you need to hear. For me, my research topic is far beyond being only my work.

 

At HUMLOG, I had the opportunity to work with the director, Dr. Piotrowicz. Our joint research is focused on transit migration and I hope you will have opportunity to read our paper soon. Visiting HUMLOG enables me to work with people who have much more experience than I do. At the same time, it was my first opportunity to work with people with the same research interest. These people are admirable researchers and most importantly, humans. The opportunity to be surrounded by people with the same mindset as I have has been unforgettable.

 

In the end, I would like to thank to all my colleagues for the time they gave to me during last six months. And also, to you, reader, for the time you spent with my words. I am sure you know the proper end of such post (just little hint, it is similar like the end of presentation at some conference).

 

If you have any further questions about my research, possibilities to visit HUMLOG, if you want to cooperate or just talk about logistics or migration, do not hesitate to catch me at jana.abikova@vse.cz

 

Jana Abiková

 

 

 

Logistics and its impact on society – A doctoral course at Hanken

28.8.2019
By Christian Fikar, Assistant Professor at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business & HUMLOG Research Associate

 

As highlighted in various posts here on the HUMLOG blog, logistics activities can have a substantial impact on societies. As a Visiting Researcher at Hanken who works with topics concerning decision support systems for time-critical logistics operations, I was invited to hold a doctoral course this fall at Hanken titled ‘Societal Logistics’. Therefore, various topics are discussed, each one focusing on one of the pillars of sustainability (economic, environment, social).

Transport disruptions: In my home country, Austria, we do not have as many lakes and shorelines as Finland, however, we do have many mountains. From a logistics perspective, this creates various challenges. Probably the center of public discussion in this context is the Brenner Pass, which connects Italy and Austria. Located on the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T), which coincidently starts here in Helsinki, it represents one of the heaviest utilized transit routes in Europe. This puts high strain on the local population and causes frequent delays for logistics providers, particularly due to extreme weather events. Such delays can have major consequences on supply chains and, consequently, require resilient operations.

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© Universität für Bodenkultur Wien (*) Source below

Food waste: Around one third of all food produced globally is wasted. While clearly major improvements can be made at the field and by altering customer behavior, logistics providers can further play a crucial role to facilitate more sustainable operations. For instance, by optimizing transport routes and storage decisions, quality losses during storage and transport can be reduced. Better planning and tailored inventory management further can lead to major improvements as shown in various works. As according to the Flash Eurobarometer 425 nearly two thirds of all European Union citizens see retailers responsible for preventing food waste, improving logistics operations does not only enable one to reduce costs, emission and food waste, it further creates new market opportunities.

Home health care operations: Aging populations and a decrease in informal care lead to a major increase in demand for home health care services. This may not seems to be a classical logistics topic at first sight; however, it highlights major obstacles currently faced in respect to social aspects, both in urban and rural areas. In rural areas, driving distances are long, highly complicating services for providers. Similarly, elderly persons often have difficulties to access basic services such as groceries in such areas as many local stores are closing. In contrast, urban areas struggle with congestion and limited parking spaces. However, health care services are highly time-critical, e.g., insulin needs to be administrated at approximately the same time each day, otherwise major health complications may occur. Lastly, it is difficult to find staff and many young nurses do not own driver’s permits, requiring innovative mobility concepts. As a result, considering societal impacts of logistics decisions is a key success factor in this field.

Consequently, logistics activities have a major impact on our society and there are various other examples that one can use to highlight such aspects. I am looking forward to see how the doctoral students link their work to these topics and will contribute to more sustainable operations in the future.    

If you are interested in more details about the course or any of the discussed topics, please contact me or visit my research webpage (https://www.christianfikar.com).

Registration for the doctoral course is open until 05 September 2019.

 

(*) Source of the picture: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/bokuwien/22617624661/in/photolist-AsDgQB-A…

 

The newest members of the HUMLOG team

14.8.2019
By Mikaela Gerkman and Mimmi Pöysti, Administrative Assistants at HUMLOG Institute.

 

Kristjana Adalgeirsdottir, Mikaela Gerkman and Mimmi Pöysti started their new positions at the HUMLOG Institute last week. Kristjana will work on project management and funding applications, whereas Mikaela and Mimmi will handle the administration of the institute.  

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Kristjana was born and raised in Iceland and has experience of various project management tasks as well as international fieldwork related to emergency responses and reconstruction after disasters. She graduated as an architect in Norway and has been working on her doctoral theses at Aalto University, with research focuses on humanitarian construction, sustainable project management in emergencies and cultural sensitivity in reconstruction. 

For several years, Kristjana is also a member of the ShelterBox Emergency Response team as well as a Red Cross delegate. Earlier this year, she came back from an ICRC mission in Iraq on Cash for Shelter and Livelihood projects for returnees. With her foot currently set in Finland and at the HUMLOG Institute, Kristjana is excited to meet new colleagues from the humanitarian and research fields, share experiences and get involved in the institute’s interesting ongoing work.   

Mikaela first joined the HUMLOG Institute working as an assistant for the EurOMA 2019 conference and was inspired by its collaborative and down-to-earth spirit. “The HUMLOG Institute is an environment where you get to be your true self and where sharing – let it be knowledge, a helping hand, a new idea or an intriguing story – is a genuine act of care and interest for one another.”  

Mikaela is passionate about her master’s studies in Supply Chain Management and Social Responsibility at Hanken. She enjoys getting into the details of complex matters and will write her thesis about sustainability issues in coffee supply chains.  Mikaela’s interest in the humanitarian field and project management was strengthened by her volunteer work for the NGO Planet Drum Ecuador, which was set up to tackle the devastation caused by natural disasters in Bahía de Caráquez. Surrounded by the humanitarian community of the HUMLOG Institute, Mikaela hopes to gain new insights about research with a true societal impact.

Like her colleague, Mimmi is also a master’s student at Hanken, majoring in Supply Chain Management and Social Responsibility. When she is not working at HUMLOG, she’s writing on her thesis about logistical challenges in a conflict zone. Her interest in humanitarian logistics was sparked during her bachelor’s studies at Hanken and grew stronger as she interned for UNFPA in Cameroon. As a part of the Supply Chain and Family Planning team at UNFPA she supported the strengthening of the supply chain of sexual and reproductive health products in Cameroon. She’s now excited about being in a workplace that puts together a diverse group of researchers and practitioners in the humanitarian field. “I already feel very inspired by my colleagues and the doctoral students at HUMLOG – can’t wait to pick everyone’s brain and get involved in the work myself!

As an institute, we believe in that the best ideas are born when people with different backgrounds and experiences come together to share and exchange knowledge. We are therefore glad to have strengthened our team with Kristjana, Mikaela and Mimmi.

Interested in collaborating with us? We are on a continuous lookout for people with an interest in the humanitarian community so do not hesitate to contact us at humlog@hanken.fi! Working together, we can make an impact!

 

Designing Flexible Relief Distribution Networks for Sudden-onset Natural Disaster Response

25.6.2019
By Hossein Baharmand, winner of the Best HUMLOG Doctoral Thesis Award 2019

 

I had the opportunity to conduct my Ph.D. at the Department of Information and Communication Technology at the University of Agder. I had Prof. Tina Comes and Matthieu Lauras as my supervisors and I did my Ph.D. in the context of Centre for Integrated Emergency Management (CIEM). The overall objective of my Ph.D. was to support humanitarian organizations to recognize and improve the network flexibility of humanitarian supply chains to respond to sudden-onset natural disasters more effectively and efficiently. The title of my dissertation was ‘’Designing Flexible Relief Distribution Networks for Sudden-onset Natural Disaster Response’’.

A relief distribution network (RDN), as a key part of the larger humanitarian supply chain (HSC), comprises connected entities and components that try to deliver items such as blankets, water, food, shelter, etc. to the disaster-affected people. As the RDN is often activated in uncertain, volatile and chaotic disaster affected contexts, it can be easily disrupted. For example, a road can get blocked due to an aftershock in an earthquake-affected region, and food packages cannot be forwarded to isolated areas anymore. Network flexibility can provide a capacity to avoid/address such disruptions and I define it as a multi-dimensional ability to efficiently adapt to changing external and internal conditions in disasters to maintain or improve HSC performance.

There are several criteria that can affect the RDN flexibility, however, I focused on three main pillars, as shown in Figure 1, based on my findings from the 2015 Nepal earthquake case study. The first pillar concerned with developing a decision support system to help with the first critical HSC design problem that field-based decision-makers often face in the aftermath of a sudden-onset disaster; locating temporary distribution centers. The second pillar referred to the fact that supporting RDN design also implies considering multiple decision-makers and actors with different mandates and conflicting objectives. Finally, the third pillar indicated that studying in-country transportation risks can provide the capacity to respond to foreseen and unforeseen changes effectively and efficiently. 

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Figure 1. Network flexibility and three supporting pillars

To address my research questions, I followed an exploratory mixed-method abductive research approach. I used the findings of my field study (first qualitative part) to develop and inform my modeling and analysis (second quantitative part). The 2015 Nepal earthquake case was selected as a case study to validate the proposals made in my dissertation due to the timing of the incident, the opportunity to access several key informants, and the specific logistics challenges of Nepal (e.g., mountainous country).

The findings based on the 2015 Nepal case indicated that my proposals should support practitioners on the frontlines of humanitarian operations. First, my study helps assess RDN flexibility and develop an improvement strategy. Second, it supports locating temporary distribution centers to distribute relief items effectively as well as time- and cost- efficiently in the sudden-onset disasters response. Third, my proposed approach facilitates convergence to a decision in group decision-making more easily and quickly. Fourth, the study provides a better understanding of the high impact transportation risks in RDNs, whereby improving network flexibility can contribute to risk management.

My thesis won the HUMLOG Best Ph.D. Thesis Award 2019. I am honored and humbled to receive this award. Thank you the HUMLOG team for recognizing my work and for the prestigious award that is rewarded every second year to best thesis in humanitarian logistics. I would also like to thank my supervisors, Tina and Matthieu, for supporting me and putting their trust in my work when they nominated my thesis for the prize. Without their help and trust, such an achievement would have never been possible. I now pretty much look forward to applying for the HUMLOG fellowship program and getting the opportunity to work with HUMLOG colleagues on problems that really matter in today’s world.

 

Access to Hossein thesis here.

To know more about the Best HUMLOG theses award, click here!

Frequency Determination Policies for Mobile Healthcare Delivery

7.6.2019
By Lisa Swinkels, winner of the Best HUMLOG Master’s Thesis Award 2019

 

I had the great fortune to be able to write my master thesis at the INSEAD Humanitarianfoto_pasen.jpg Research Group. The group has over 20 years of experience in research in the humanitarian sector. Since 2016, we have been working with Marie Stopes International on research questions related to family planning. I got to continue this great work with my thesis with the aim to increase the effectiveness of mobile family planning units.

These mobile units that travel from village to village in developing countries to serve people with often no other access to family planning. Such results are now more important than ever. Contraception is still out of reach for 225 million women, while resources for mobile family planning teams are scarce and decreasing. This scarcity became even more pressing due to the reinstatement of the global gag rule by the US government in 2017. Consequently, family planning providers need to learn how to do more with less and this research can help with that.  

We developed guidelines for mobile units on how to divide the limited number of days available over the villages such that as many clients as possible can be reached. The effectiveness of policies in a practical context is illustrated by applying them to a case study for mobile teams of Marie Stopes Uganda. The analyses show that simple planning policies can increase the total number of clients reached by over 8%. Moreover, we estimate that such policies can also be effective under limited data availability. The results can assist policy makers in determining when to start basing the visit frequencies on data and which policies to use.

For my thesis I won the HUMLOG Best Master Thesis Award 2019. This prize reward is given each year to students who have been writing the best theses in Humanitarian Logistics. Thank you to the HUMLOG Institute for this great honour.

Lisa received her award at the EurOMA2019 conference in Helsinki from HUMLOG’s Chairman of the Board Hannu Kari.

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“Our first touch with real issues humanitarian organizations face” – Some words about Hanken CSR and Humanitarian Logistics course

20.5.2019
By Hanken students Claire Dubosc, Karoliina Ahtiainen, Sara Paananen and Juulia Orimus

 

During our first academic year, we (as Hanken’s Humanitarian Logistics students) had a project course included in our curricula. Our mission was to conduct a project for Finn Church Aid, which is focused on education in emergencies. The aim was to identify bottlenecks from the past to prevent repeating them in the future. We all agreed upon the fact that “the team makes the experience” and were very lucky with the cohesion both between us and with the organization. Within our core team we had trust, motivation and commitment with a bit of humour when it was needed. The project was effortless yet provided valuable insights about humanitarian activities at the field (and yield excellent grades from the course).

With this kind of large project, we felt we were able to learn many different things that influence all aspects of our daily life, such as new findings related to personal competences, team working and so on. Overall, we agree with the team that the most important learnings of the project are the practical things from the humanitarian field, which we had not explored to this extent until we started working with FCA.

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Already, during the very first project meeting with our FCA mentor back in January, we received a great deal of new information. New things popped out during each step of our project, as we got new sets of data from FCA until the last weeks of the project. The documents we received were sent in different languages, which enabled everybody to take part into the project and cooperate to get a full understanding of the direction we were taking.

Besides the literature review and data analysis, we conducted three in-depth interviews with organization’s representatives. They were very valuable for our project but also for our personal growth. Listening experiences from the field was inspiring and strengthened our will to work as a roster for some humanitarian aid organization in the future. We are aware that it is difficult to get the first change and experience as a newly graduated in the humanitarian aid industry. Therefore, we see this project and experience even more beneficial for us.

We all agree that the project with FCA was very interesting, practical and educational. FCA shared such a large number of documents for us and gave a lot of their time for the interviews. This enabled us to learn and proceed from the basics to more complex issues and understand the insights. Throughout the project, we had a feeling that the organization believed and trusted on us. FCA gave us the responsibility to form the final version of the project aim and therefore the implementation guide was truly a result of our own knowledge. We concluded data from various sources and turned it into practical tool. It helps professionals to establish operations post-crisis to overcome common setbacks. We believe that the learnings from this project are necessary for any humanitarian logistics graduate, so we are grateful for Hanken, but especially for FCA, for this opportunity.

The course was organised in spring 2019 for the seventh time, with a record number of 14 organisations taking part. Among the organizations were Danske Bank, Demos Helsinki, Fazer, Outotec, UNICEF and the Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce. To know more, read the article “Record number of organisations in CSR and Humanitarian Logistics course“.

More about the course can be found here.

Building a Nexus for Research – Technology, Policy, and Business

2.5.2019
By Prof Joseph Sarkis, PhD, Professor at Foisie School of Business, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA and HUMLOG International Research Fellow at Hanken School of Economics, Finland

 

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Solving problems and innovation requires creativity. Research requires problem solving and innovative ideas; that is, we seek to expand the body of knowledge.

 

I was watching a documentary called The Creative Brain.  It was produced by neuroscientist David Eagleman. The documentary offered ways for creativity to happen and some of lessons on creativity.  One creativity aspect that resonated is that creativity does not mean developing something out of nothing; that a new idea should never have existed before.

 

Creativity is using the known in unique ways. To be able to take existing concepts and bring them together through novel linkages.

 

Many of my studies seek to do this. This creativity element, from my perspective, is about interdisciplinarity. Acquiring concepts and ideas from various fields and areas of thought to advance the body of knowledge through yet unseen combinations is how creativity emerges.

 

This approach is what we did in our paper titled, “At the Nexus of Blockchain Technology, the Circular Economy, and Product Deletion” that just appeared in the open access journal Applied Sciences. We consider the nexus of Technology (blockchains), Society (a circular economy), and Business (product management).

 

We three co-authors work significantly in one of the three fields at this nexus. For Blockchain Technology, Mahtab Kouhizadeh has written a number of articles and is continuing to work on this emergent field. Qingyun Serena Zhu, a new faculty member at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is most familiar with the Product Deletion topic. My background in circular economy is brought into this mix.

 

So we sat down, over many meetings, and outlined the structure, relationships, and conceptual framework of our paper.

 

We did realize that all the topics were emergent in the research and practitioner communities. Each issue, in their own way, has substantial room for investigation, knowledge building, and growth. In fact, we viewed this as an opportunity to contribute to three fields, not typically associated with each other, in a new way.

 

This process was not easy; we had to think carefully. Initially our model was that each can influence the other in multiple ways. Eventually we settled down on the issue that Product Deletion — the idea that organizations need to rationalize their product offerings by culling the product portfolio for competitive advantages — can influence Circular Economy practices. We then brought in Blockchain Technology, a distributed ledger information technology, that can influence each of these areas directly and as a moderator in the relationship between Product Deletion and the Circular Economy.

 

This relationship is shown in our Figure 1.

 

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In our team discussions we did encounter a number of issues. I touch on two of them. First, these three emergent topics are ‘Essentially Contested Concepts’. This issue is very common in academia and research. We attempted to provide a clear characterization of each concept. Whether we completely succeeded is up to the reader; especially those who have studied any or all of these areas.

 

Our second major issue was that, given the practice nature of these topics, it is not easy to find exemplars; actual cases, where all three aspects were covered.  We had to stitch together a number of actual partial implementations and practices. Much of what we wrote were thought experiments to help expand the boundaries of understanding and knowledge within each of these areas.

 

It brings us back to the originality and creativity involved in this sort of conceptual work. We were lucky to find supportive editors and reviewers who found the nexus of interest to current and future readers.

 

The paper appears as part of a special issue on “Advances in Blockchain Technology and Applications” in the journal. Given the special issue topic, a blockchain perspective, probably the most emergent of the three topics, is premier in this article.

 

Our structure of the body of the paper does utilize a hierarchical circular economy categorization from most broad (macro) to most specific (micro) dimensions. We provide a number of practices at each of these levels that influence or are influenced by product deletion and how blockchain plays a role.

 

As one example, you need to read the paper for many other examples, consider reverse logistics as a central element of a circular, meso-level, supply chain. Reverse logistics operations are dependent on end-of-life returns of materials and products. Blockchain technology can help trace these products and materials throughout their life for eventual return. A product or component that is deleted, where the decision may be based on data from the blockchain, will influence the availability of material for efficient reverse logistics. Additionally, because of the need for materials for reverse logistics purposes a product’s deletion may be delayed.

 

Just in this one example a number of questions, research and practice questions arise. We identified a few dozen issues at the nexus. Each can generate many more questions and research directions. Our goal was to plant the seeds for more creativity and originality.

 

We hoped that this work would motivate many other creative thinkers and doers to make our world a better place to live.

 

We hope you have a chance to read this article and create new thoughts and ideas.

Safely securing humanitarians and humanitarian aid deliveries in conflict zones

29.4.2019
By David Grant, Professor in Supply Chain Management and Social Responsibility, Hanken; Hlekiwe Kachali, Project Leader and Gyöngyi Kovács, Erkko Professor in Humanitarian Logistics, Hanken

 

#NotATarget is more than just a hashtag, it is the result of numerous attacks on humanitarians and humanitarian aid deliveries. Looking at the statistics of Aid in Danger illustrates the case: in 2018 alone 155 aid workers were killed, 171 were kidnapped, and 184 were arrested. Most of these incidents happen in conflict zones such as Syria, South Sudan, and Afghanistan.

The European Union H2020-funded iTRACK research project, of which the HUMLOG Institute was a consortium partner, developed technologies to ensure the safety and security of humanitarians and humanitarian aid deliveries in conflict zones. The conditions are dire enough from the conflict affecting people’s lives and livelihoods in these areas; seeing that humanitarian aid gets through to beneficiaries is very important and thus the safety and security of the personnel providing that aid is likewise important.

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At the same time, deliveries in conflict zones are organised in a rather complex fashion. A common misunderstanding is that humanitarian organisations deliver everything by themselves all the way to the beneficiaries. They do in a way, but it is much more complex than that. The delivery process includes an array of options from humanitarian convoys with the humanitarian organisations’ own vehicles, to the use of numerous logistics service providers, the addition of even more vehicles at border crossings including loading and reloading, and entire supply chains of humanitarian organisations and their implementing partners on regional, national, and community levels. Understanding these logistical complexities is key to safely securing them.

 

So how did the HUMLOG Institute contribute to iTRACK? We investigated the users’ requirements for technologies to safely secure humanitarians, the workflows of humanitarian aid deliveries, and the complexities behind it all. Our great consortium partners in the project took on tasks from setting the specs for information flows to the ethics of the technologies, to in fact developing the tech.

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Do you want to see how it worked? This is a clip from our first simulation and a short report of the last demo earlier this April.

Interested in the project? Apart from waiting for the publications to come out (yes, they are in review, but that always takes time), get in touch either with us at the HUMLOG Institute or with the project leader Tina Comes at the University of Agder.

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