The HUMLOG Challenge solutions presented


Today starts a blog series including 5 articles presenting the results of the science competition organised by the Global Business School Network and the HUMLOG Institute at Hanken School of Economics: The HUMLOG Challenge. Each of the posts will be published in Friday afternoon weekly. Below you find the first post from a team representing The Goa Institute of Management in India. They performed within the top 5 presentations in the contest.

Cut to crush delay in sugarcane supply chain in India

By Mohamed Irfan M, Navya Khurana, Nipun Allurwar, Sartyaki Manna, Seemakshi Agarwal, PGDM – Big Data Analytics 2020-2022, Goa Institute of Management, India

Farmers of India face lot of issues starting from cultivating the crop till receiving proper monetary returns for their cultivated crops. The existing agricultural economy with various flaws and unexpected climatic changes pose major threat to farmers from receiving proper return on investment. This has made many farmers to leave farming and move to other employment opportunities. Here we have discussed one of the issues faced by Sugarcane farmers and have proposed a supply chain solution to it.

Sugarcane is a perishable crop and once it is harvested, the sugar content of crop starts reducing, leading to overall reduction in the weight of the crop. Hence it is necessary to crush the crop and extract the juice from it immediately in the nearby Sugar mill. The time taken between cutting the crop in farmland and crushing it in sugar mill is called ‘Cut to Crush’ delay. The ideal acceptable Cut to Crush delay is 24 hours and further delay reduces the crop’s sugar content at faster rate and thereby reducing the quantity of sugar produced in the sugar mill.  Based on our analysis the cut to crush delay was more than 48 hours. Sugarcane farmers receive payments from sugar mills on basis of weight of the sugarcane delivered. The reduction in weight of sugarcane reduces the amount of money that is paid to farmers. Additionally, mills keep the payments to farmers in due for more than 2 years as they enjoy monopoly in this economy. The overall monetary value lost because of cut to crush delay is huge. Generally, in India, 115 kgs of sugar is extracted from one tonne of sugarcane and researchers have estimated that there is loss of 5-10 kgs of sugar per tonne of sugarcane because of cut to crush delay and loss is higher during summer. India being the second largest producer of Sugar, the issue of cut to crush delay is widely present and our team was focused to find a feasible supply chain solution to reduce the cut to crush delay so that sugarcanes are delivered to sugar mill within less time and crushed immediately.

We chose the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu as our primary ground of research to understand the existing supply chain functionalities. Our primary research involved telephonic interviews and surveys with farmers and field experts especially who are in social media, analysing published papers, studying articles related to industry and following the current news related to industry. From our primary research, we found that the Sugarcane crop goes through 4 important stages in the entire supply chain HARVESTING -> TRANSPORTATION -> WEIGHING -> CRUSHING. The time delay in each stage is combined to cause Cut to Crush delay and each stage has its own one or many micro components which are responsible for causing delay. Below are the issues we found during our research.

Harvesting• Poor labour management and lack of machinery results in longer harvest time
• Non-adherence to pre-booked crushing time slot
Transportation• Non-availability of timely logistic services from mill or third-party service providers
Weighing• Huge queue of vehicles outside mill to weigh the sugarcane
• Poor cane delivery scheduling and communication between farmers and mills
Crushing• Poor maintenance and operations management by mill
• Unexpected Shutdowns and delay in cane procurement
• Mills do not operate with optimum capacity

 Through our secondary research we identified that there is no scarcity of resources for better functioning of supply chain but the resources available are not properly utilized and managed. we identified that the main reason which is causing the issues in each stage is the improper collaboration and poor communication between various stakeholders like farmers, mill management and other third-party service providers involved in the supply chain and then the poor management when it comes to functioning of sugar mills.

Hence, as a part of solution to reduce cut to crush delay, we designed and proposed a development of a software application called ‘Industry Resource Planning’ (term coined by us) in short it is IRP. IRP will be an integrated digital platform and it will be an advanced level of ‘Enterprise Resource Planning’ software which is in generally practise. All the stakeholder, service providers involved in the supply chain will be made to register in the digital platform and platform will be designed in such a way that it will bring transparency in the system and increase collaboration between stakeholders by establishing proper communication between them and also provide platform to schedule activities like sugarcane delivery to mills. All necessary services that each stakeholder wants to avail will be made readily available through IRP and make them aware of the status. All movements in the supply chain will be monitored by IRP to identify where are things getting halted and who is responsible for it and necessary steps will be initiated to quickly resume the flow. IRP will also bring mills operation under radar and will monitor their operations like sugarcane procurement and their payments to farmers to stop them from taking any advantage of monopoly.  Apart from these, IRP will help to capture huge data which can be used by Government authorities to take strategic and policy decisions for the welfare of farmers and also to bring improvements in the industry.

We proposed that Government must take steps to build the IT infrastructure of this solution as the number of people involved in the industry are high. Low digital literacy among uneducated farmers can be a hurdle for proper implementation and necessary step have to be taken to address the issue. Successful implementation of this solution will have a positive impact on the farmers income and sugar and ethanol production of the country. As India is moving towards digitalization, this project will increase the digital literacy of farmers and will encourage them to adopt new and emerging technologies to their benefit.


When Staying at Home is No Longer an Option: Forced Displacement Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic


By Russell Harpring, PhD Candidate at the HUMLOG Institute

“Quédate en casa”, or “Stay at home”, is the mantra of the information campaign led by the Mexican Government to curb the COVID-19 infection rates. In Mexico, over 1.1 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, with an estimated 127,000 deaths as of December 2020. Masks are required in public spaces, hand and shoe sanitizer is given at the entrance to any building, signs to remind people to respect social distancing are everywhere. The Secretary of Health advocates that, “if we can isolate the virus, we can beat it”. But for families and refugees with greater threats than COVID-19, remaining at home is not always an option.

Source: UNHCR @ Ritzau Scanpix

Throughout Latin America, borders have been closed and movement restricted. Though the reality is that a large percentage of the Latin American population lives on daily wages. This creates a contradiction: leave home to earn a living wage, or “quédate en casa” to protect against the virus but forego an income to buy food, water, and other basic needs. In this light, despite the pandemic, asylum seekers from Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Cuba, and Venezuela have continued to arrive at the Mexican border. For many, Mexico is a transit country on the way to the United States. For others, Mexico is the destination country. For the Mexican Government, this has created a dilemma: how do you protect public health while also allowing refugees to seek asylum in the country?

The problem is not an easy one to address. Violence spikes in Latin America, fueled by drug trafficking and high rates of poverty, force thousands to flee from their homes each year. Typically, when migrants cross the border into Mexico, they must be held at a detention center until their identity and refugee status can be verified. The detention centers are often crowded with limited facilities, which created concerns when the COVID-19 pandemic started.

To tackle this project, Mexico’s refugee office, COMAR (Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados), has teamed up with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. One of the first solutions was to expand the number of registration centers and allow for remote processing of information. Now, instead of centralized locations for registration and sheltering, there are over 100 various shelters throughout Mexico. While this has helped maintain social distancing guidelines, it has also created a logistical challenge to distribute supplies throughout the country.

When COVID-19 began amplifying in Mexico, shortages of personal protection items (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer began to occur. Like much of the global supply chain for these items, demand spiked, and supply lagged behind. Procuring these items became a challenge for UNHCR, facing shortages and long lead times from global suppliers. Then there was the problem of importing items and distributing to over 100 locations for beneficiaries throughout the country.

As the commercial sector began to restock PPE items, the supply team made a critical decision to rethink the way items with fragile supply chains are procured and delivered to beneficiaries. Instead of lengthy global supply chains, the supply team began focusing strategically on local procurement and delivery services. These partnerships provide the opportunity to be more agile and communicate directly with suppliers. Soon, the problem of delivering numerous and various supplies to over 100 locations became manageable and traceable.

In addition, UNHCR in the Americas is using cash-based interventions (CBIs) to provide another form of assistance and protection to persons of concern. CBIs involve the use of cash transfers to beneficiaries so they may decide and prioritize their needs such as food, rent, and basic commodities, then purchase what is needed accordingly. A major function of CBIs in Mexico is to provide beneficiaries the ability to rent a flat or property, rather than stay in a camp or settlement. This helps them to “quedarse en casa” and keep a safe social distance, as the government recommends. In this way, the organization offers social protection and inclusion for persons who may be without a social safety net and vulnerable to COVID-19.

The world is in the middle of another spike in COVID-19 cases. While supply chains remain vulnerable to disruptions for high demand items, humanitarian organizations are adapting to the current situation and providing flexible modes of support to those who are most vulnerable. A consortium of humanitarian organizations in Mexico, led by UNHCR, plan to expand CBI coverage throughout the country to reach even more beneficiaries. Agencies such as UNHCR are used to operating in complex and difficult situations, and while COVID-19 is a new situation, it is being dealt with in the same manner as all humanitarian emergencies – with an intent to utilize all available resources to meet the needs at hand of the people they work with.

Russell Harpring is a PhD student at the Hanken School of Economics and is currently conducting research with UNHCR in Mexico related to cash-based interventions, local procurement, and coordination for last-mile delivery.

Disclaimer: the views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.


Temperature control matters! Fact sheet to prepare for COVID-19 vaccination programmes

(by the team of the HUMLOG Institute: Ioanna Falagara Sigala, Gyöngyi Kovács, Amin Maghsoudi, Wojciech Piotrowicz, Isabell Storsjö, Diego Vega)

As various COVID-19 vaccines are in the making, there is a lot we can do to prepare for their handling including necessary cold chain and ultra-cold chain solutions. Here is a fact sheet with reminders and recommendations.

General issues with temperature control:

  • Control temperature range,
  • Control exposure: deviation from range, time period of exposure

Typical issues with vaccines:

  • Each vaccine comes with their own temperature control requirements
    • e.g. Vaccines with live components: cannot freeze (kills the live component)
    • Very special: Ultra-cold chain (minus 70-80 degrees C)ones, e.g. ebola vaccine
  • NB! Pfizer’s potential vaccine needs an ultra-cold chain, but other COVID-19 vaccines in the making need different temperature ranges.

Typical issues with temperature control supply chains:

  • Sticky points aka where temperature control usually breaks down:
    • Materials handling (offloading, cross-docking, intermodal transportation, customs clearance)
    • At the user’s end: health care centres without stable electricity, patients (if they can buy a vaccine themselves)
  • Needs dedicated handling spaces (warehouses, cross-docking spaces, special units at customs) and equipment that works with the required temperatures
  • Needs special transportation, e.g. reefer containers (the ultra-cold chain a combination of special packaging + special reefer containers). Some of containers need electric connection during transport and storage.
  • Vaccines need special medical clearance for materials handling! (i.e. staff that has the required certifications in warehouses, transportation etc.)
  • Don’t forget about the kits! (e.g. syringes, gloves, test swabs, lab equipment etc.) to go with the items. Note, they may need different temperatures than the vaccine itself!
  • Packaging sizes matter in light of how long you can open a package
    • Peri-urban/rural distribution
    • Avoiding too many people coming to a vaccination centre – disease control!

Administering vaccination programmes

  • Ideally not overloading the same health care centres
  • Segregation of patients (sick) from those to be vaccinated
  • Train (more) people to administer vaccines – separate capacity from testing stations will be needed

Industry initiatives for handling temperature control:

  • GDP – good distribution practice, esp. in pharma
  • CEIV – IATA’s pharma distribution practices for freight forwarders (not just airlines)

Current initiatives for potential COVID-19 vaccines:

  • UNICEF Covax: pre-procurement of items for the kits (e.g. syringes), stocking up
  • Logistics service providers developing more temperature control warehouses around the world
  • Pfizer developing their own cold chain packages

Recommendations, aka what different organisations and countries can do to prepare for it now:

  • Increase cold chain, and ultra-cold chain capacity in warehouses and transportation
    • Actual spaces and equipment (warehouses, refrigerated containers, vans, trucks, railway carts)
    • Cold chain training across whole supply chain (warehouse operators, drivers, medics)
    • Certifications (GDP, CEIV, medical materials handling requirements)
    • Production changeover in transportation: re-equipping existent aircrafts, containers, vehicles for the ultra-cold chain
    • Production changeover in warehousing, e.g. setting up freezer farms near airports and other hubs
    • Some solutions exist already in the food and pharmaceutical sectors
  • Be part of vaccine procurement initiatives – e.g. the EU has one for all EU countries together, and has signed agreements with several potential providers
    • Joint procurement may give better purchasing power, but this is a sole supplier situation, after all
    • Prepare tenders and advanced purchase agreements either individual or jointly with other organizations
    • Remember equity in health
  • Start off getting the rest of the kit together! Vaccine distribution will require all the rest of it, from materials to set up vaccination centres, to actual testing and vaccination kits
    • Potential reuse/adaptation from the Ebola vaccination campaign in challenging contexts
    • Benchmark/best practice from INGOS continuously involved in EVD (e.g. MSF, IFRC, ICRC, UNICEF)
    • Develop containers for smaller quantities (the current Pfizer solution may not be applicable for smaller populations)
    • Check existing inter-agency health kits for vaccination kits. Add also dry ice for further cooling.
  • Start procuring logistics services and work with logistics service providers to ensure they have the right equipment and capabilities
    • Set up tracking and tracing through the supply chain, to assure correct procedures are followed. Special cold chain tracking devices exist on the market already.
    • Design security around the chain, to control and protect the flow.
  • Develop vaccine distribution plans
    • Identify places (health care centres, schools, voting stations or other, depending on the current burden in existing health care centres) with good coverage of the population. Know your coverage!
    • Identify groups that need to be vaccinated as first (such as those who will administer vaccines later), and define criteria to select locations that will be vaccinates as first (number of cases, density of population)
    • Contact and make agreements with transportation and logistics service providers for the last mile distribution
    • Collaborate with other organizations or countries for the transportation of the vaccine
    • Identify which organisations or sectors within the country could support a vaccination programme, in case if medical system is overwhelmed with COVID19 cases, and identify their needs for training. (Possible organisations include medical humanitarian organisations, the Red Cross movement, in some cases even defence forces.)
    • Train people in advance, both in medical logistics, vaccine handling, and for managing vaccination centres
    • Set up communication channels, how people will be informed when and where vaccination will take place
    • Set up tracking system to identify who already got the vaccine, this is critical when more than single doze is needed
    • Assure that all labelling on packages, instructions and guidelines are in all required languages
    • Identify and review relevant country laws and regulations, to assure that mass vaccination programme is in line with them
    • Analyse risks and create response plans, in case of electricity supply cuts, accidents, missing resources
    • Create waste (and re-use) plans for used boxes, gloves, needles and other equipment
    • Before going life within the programme run simulation, and exercises to check if plan is realistic

There is a lot more with regards to ethical considerations, trust-building, and even the prioritisation of vaccine recipients etc. Thus, as a final note, please remember that this list focuses on cold chain, and ultra-cold chain capacities and capabilities. Let’s leave the rest to the epidemiologists.


Comes, T., Bergtora Sandvik, K. and Van de Walle, B. (2018), “Cold chains, interrupted: The use of technology and information for decisions that keep humanitarian vaccines cool”, Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 49-69. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHLSCM-03-2017-0006

Jusu, M.O., Glauser, G., Seward, J.F., Bawoh, M., Tempel, J., Friend, M., Littlefield, D., Lahai, M., Jalloh, H.M., Sesay, A.B. and Caulker, A.F., 2018. Rapid Establishment of a Cold Chain Capacity of–60 C or Colder for the STRIVE Ebola Vaccine Trial During the Ebola Outbreak in Sierra Leone. The Journal of infectious diseases, 217(suppl_1), pp.S48-S55, at https://doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jix336

Kachali, H., Storsjö, I., Haavisto, I. and Kovács, G., 2018. Inter-sectoral preparedness and mitigation for networked risks and cascading effects. International journal of disaster risk reduction, 30, pp.281-291, at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2018.01.029

Vaillancourt, A., 2016. Kit management in humanitarian supply chains. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 18, pp.64-71, at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2016.06.002

Other important links

CEIV Pharma: https://www.iata.org/en/programs/cargo/pharma/ceiv-pharma/

Covid-19 WSJ: https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-vaccine-rollout-calls-for-supply-chain-collaboration-logistics-chief-says-11603713612

European Commission – Covid-19: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1903

Fact sheet on the Ebola ultra-cold chain: https://www.who.int/features/2015/guinea-ebola-vaccine/en/ – the same has been used later in DRC according to WHO logistics

Finnish news on the matter of Pfizer’s vaccine: https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-11641577

ICRC Podcast on lessons from Ebola: https://intercrossblog.icrc.org/intercross-icrc-podcast-episodes/episode-1104-covid-conflict-ebola-drc#sthash.5ZUlD3d1.dpbs=

Inter-agency health kits: https://www.who.int/emergencies/emergency-health-kits

Interim Framework for COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation and Distribution in the United States: https://www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/our-work/pubs_archive/pubs-pdfs/2020/200819-vaccine-allocation.pdf

MSF Ebola response: https://www.msf.org/ebola

UNICEF Ebola response: https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/ebola

Further info

HERoS project, see www.heros-project.eu

HUMLOG Institute, see www.hanken.fi/humloginstitute

Downloadable graphic of the fact sheet:

Contact us with any questions!  

  • Wojciech Piotrowicz, Director of the HUMLOG Institute, wojciech.piotrowicz@hanken.fi, +358 50 430 8715 (English)
  • Gyöngyi Kovács, Erkko Professor in Humanitarian Logistics, HERoS project leader, gyongyi.kovacs@hanken.fi, +358 40 3521 241 (English, Swedish, Finnish)

Don’t let the latest emergency make you forget about the other urgent issues


By Félicia Saïah, PhD Candidate at the HUMLOG Institute

“Supply chain,” “health emergency,” and “critical inventories” are some of the terms that have been popularized through the current pandemic. Like no other event, this pandemic spread awareness about the supply chain issues linked to responding to a healthcare emergency. The lack of Personal Protective Equipment PPE, oxygen concentrators, or beds to welcome patients in local healthcare facilities had the entire planet worried for months.

But this blog post is not about Covid-19, it is about all other health emergencies that took place at the same time but were not in the media spotlight. Not only were on-going medical humanitarian activities not stopped during the pandemic, but those activities had to be adjusted to new regulations to protect staff and patients, as well as include measures to treat Covid-19 patients in a highly complex market for medical items purchase. And while no one could have foreseen the extent of this crisis, we can learn from it the key factors that made existing humanitarian missions more responsive for future disruptions: epidemics, armed conflict, or others.

Therefore, the Humlog institute offered the international medical NGO Médecins sans Frontières / Doctors without Borders to analyze the key factors that allowed the on-going humanitarian mission to adjust to the pandemic. Indeed, all of MSF missions had to manage the continuity of care, protecting staff and patients, and in extreme cases open specific Covid-19 centers to respond to the local population needs. Thus, since August, the research team has collaborated with MSF to analyze how the 151 missions in 77 countries managed they supply chain since January. By analyzing over 500 documents, hundreds of thousands of order lines, and over 50 interviews, we aim to provide MSF with strategic and operational recommendations to strengthen their supply chain.

As all missions were conducting different programs and had very different environmental constraints, they didn’t have the same tools at their disposal to face the supply chain disruptions due to the pandemic. Moreover, the needs assessment was challenging as the medical protocol was changing and forecasts about the pandemic’s evolution were unreliable. While countries with frequent cases of Ebola or high surgical activities had a large quantity of protective equipment in their emergency preparation inventory, those quantities were insufficient in light of the needs. On the other hand, missions in countries with limited import opportunities had more significant stocks (up to a year sometimes) and/or teams dedicated to the local purchase and the local quality testing for medical items. That allowed them to source PPE locally when the international market was out of stock. 

International transport activities also increased in complexity, and missions had to adjust to longer lead-times and increased complexity to find available cargo planes. But inter-NGO collaboration to fill full charters or WFP mandated cargo planes were extra-ordinary resources that ensured the continuity of activities. Some countries even ended up fully closed, with no possibilities of import and no resources on the local market for purchase. The teams ensured continuity of care by sourcing donations from other NGOs and establishing extra-ordinary rationing measures.

Those are only some examples of the challenges and resources that the organization deployed to ensure continuity of care. In the coming months, and through the upcoming Delphi iterations, the research team aims to reach a consensus with the organization on the lessons learned, best practices, and recommendations to implement.

Even though the media spotlight may not be shining on them right now, NGOs of all sizes are currently going above and beyond to ensure the continuity of humanitarian assistance, and so should research and discussions on long-term humanitarian operations and supply chains.


Towards the Holy Grail: The Frontline Humanitarian Logistics Initiative


Diego Vega, PhD.

Deputy Director, The HUMLOG Institute

Supply and Logistics is a critical technology capability that is required for humanitarian emergency operations. Many of the 71 million forcibly displaced people depend on humanitarian response for lifesaving support in post-disaster and conflict environments. Yet, in 2019 much of the humanitarian sector is still dependent on spread sheets to manage Frontline Humanitarian Logistics. This unserved need is due to industry specific requirements of the Humanitarian sector that are quite unlike commercial logistics solutions.  Commercial solutions have proved inadequate in the last-mile, austere and rapid scale up environments that we face in humanitarian response. The sector has created many home-built solutions or cross-organization attempts such as HELIOS. While fulfilling the immediate needs at the time, these solutions have not delivered on their promise. We also see sub-verticals in our sector such as healthcare and WASH, that lead organizations to developing custom, non-interoperable solutions. These are failing to deliver capability and value to sector organizations due to inadequate investment.

With many INGO’s currently moving to ERP systems, or renewing their partnerships with existing solutions, there is a window of opportunity to deliver a sustainable technology capability for the humanitarian community, interoperable with our wider organization’s capabilities. With this idea in mind, the Frontline Humanitarian Logistics (FHL) initiative was created to reduce the time and cost involved in implementing IT solutions within humanitarian supply chains and encourage interoperability of systems across the sector, the holy grail in terms of NGO collaboration. The HUMLOG Institute was asked by the project sponsor to support the initiative with a team of experts that provide academic and methodological rigor to the process. The initiative’s goal is to convene cross-sector stakeholders to create a common understanding of frontline humanitarian logistics and specify a core data model for subsequent sector vertical development.

To ensure the relevance and the validity of the process framework, a series of webinars were designed and facilitated by the HUMLOG Institute’s team following the Delphi method, to achieve consensus on the structure and content of the FHL Process Framework and data entities. The FHL panel was built around experts from 19 humanitarian organizations that participated and shared their knowledge on a 3-rounds process. The Delphi process started with an opening webinar in which the initiative was presented to the participants and the technique explained. Using the first version of the process framework as a platform for questionnaire development in subsequent iterations, participants were asked to respond to the level of relevance and importance of both L1 and L2 processes and L1 data groups, as well as the accuracy of the terms using a 4-point Likert scale. Results were normalized using the respondent’s confidence, analyzed using the mode (i.e. the one that occurs most) and presented to participants in the first round. Based on the group discussion, the process framework was refined and submitted for evaluation and further discussion in round 2. An important level of consensus was achieved at this point at the process level, which enabled the study to focus on the data level for the third round. A third questionnaire was administered seeking validation on data levels 1 to 3 and results were discussed during the last round. A closing webinar was finally used to share the results of the study and engage with participants for the future use and development of the FHL data model.

The resulting process framework is constituted of 10 Level 1 Processes, each of them divided into Level 2 Processes, which are listed and defined following the commonly accepted flow of goods. From the 10 level one processes, four are generic logistics processes (i.e. supply and logistics planning, procurement, warehousing and transport), three are humanitarian sector specific (i.e. distribution, donation or loan; return, loan or closure; asset management), and three are enablers (i.e. operation support, reporting and donor follow-up). Level 2 processes were structured to be as specific as possible and are each linked to one specific goal or specific output. Some level 2 processes have very similar tasks (e.g. 05.5 Donations (outbound) and 05.6 Loans (outbound)) but lead to different outputs (i.e. donation certificate and Loan recording & Loan return process). This separation is clearly stated here for future users to be able to use and adapt this framework according to their own field activities, in an easy manner, without having to split level 2 processes. For better understanding of each level 2 objective or output and the main tasks implied, Level 2 Process descriptions have been produced and included in a how-to guide.

The creation of a common process and data standard across the sector will save significant time and cost for NGOs implementing FHL systems, as they will have a good starting point with common processes and naming conventions for data entities agreed. Further, it will support optimization of aid flows by enabling interoperability of information systems between organisations and lower the adoption threshold of IT for humanitarian organisations by enabling commercial product offerings that are pre-configured for the specific challenges and demands of humanitarian supply chains. Finally, the FHL common process and data standard will strengthen local control over, and integration of, local resources in aid operations by enabling consolidated management of information across all emergency response actors.

The FHL initiative is currently working on its third phase, engaging with technology partners to study the feasibility of a potential application or pilot of the FHL common process and data standard. Currently, discussions have started with some of the top vendors that either have a solution in the market or are interested in developing such solution for the sector. When achieved, the common process and data standard for the humanitarian context will help organizations, service providers and even governments to finally improve supply chain collaboration and visibility, which would result in better coordination and thus, better response to the many and different crises that humanitarian organizations need to face. The HUMLOG Institute fully supports the initiative, providing continuous advice during the third phase as a member of the advisory board.


Framework for performance evaluation in humanitarian operations from the beneficiary perspective


By Brenda de Farias Oliveira Cardoso, Honorary mentioned in The HUMLOG Institute’s Best Thesis Award 2020

Supervisor: Adriana Leiras | Co-supervisor: Tharcisio Cotta Fontainha

I am a researcher at the HANDs Lab (Humanitarian Assistance and Needs for Disasters) which is a laboratory of the Industrial Engineering Department at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) focused on research in Humanitarian Logistics and Operations Management in disasters, crises, and emergencies.

In the development of my master thesis, I saw an opportunity to combine two important research topics: performance evaluation and humanitarian logistics. Nevertheless, I decided to follow a novel perspective, and I ended up looking at how a humanitarian operation can be considered successful from the perspective of the beneficiaries. The supervision of Professor Adriana Leiras and co-supervision of Professor Tharcisio Cotta Fontainha were essential throughout the process and receiving an Honorable Mention at the HUMLOG Best Master Thesis Award 2020 contributes to enhancing the acknowledgement of the research relevance for a broader audience. I hope you find the time to read some of my thoughts on the topic.

As a contextual factor, we see that the discussion about how to respond to a disaster is gaining more and more attention due to the increasing occurrence and consequences of disasters worldwide. In 2019, for instance, natural disasters affected more than 95 million people and caused losses of 130 billion dollars. These numbers reinforce the importance of humanitarian logistics and mainly the disaster response when decisions must be designed to minimize the impacts of these events on the lives of the affected population. Consequently, academic and professional communities still demonstrate a constant interest in the development of metrics to evaluate and pursue improved response operation.

Despite the challenges encountered in disaster response operations, performance evaluation proves to be an essential tool for directing organizations according to strategic objectives. The occurrence of disasters causes donors, the media and the beneficiaries themselves to monitor the efficiency and speed with which organizations can operate in operation. With data structured from a well-established evaluation system, organizations can disseminate their results with more transparency and assertiveness.

However, the traditional performance evaluation perspective in humanitarian logistics focuses on the view of stakeholders providing aid to the population, such as humanitarian organizations, governments, and donors. Indeed, these aid providers need to understand the real situation to pursue improved operations. Nevertheless, not always do the performance evaluations include the perspective of the main clients who, in the humanitarian context, are the victims or beneficiaries (the users of the service). Generally, the organizations are evaluated by their funders which may cause some conflicts of interest, such as biased analysis without reporting the real problems that exist in an organization. This problem brought the following research question: how to assess the response to a disaster from the perspective of the beneficiary?

This discussion was the central theme of my master research. Performance evaluation in humanitarian operations is a growing research topic, not only due to the need for transparency in operations but also due to the focus has not been on the beneficiary. Therefore, from a systematic literature review of the, my master thesis proposes a framework with a step by step to measure the performance of operations considering the perspective of the beneficiary. The validity of the proposed framework is tested through two empirical research methods: survey and case study.

The proposed framework is based on other frameworks found in the literature, as well as on the analysis of papers related to performance evaluation in humanitarian operations. The five steps in the framework are (1) identification of organizational objectives, (2) processes selection, (3) categories selection, (4) data collection, and (5) assessment results. The organizational objectives include efficiency, effectiveness, delivery, flexibility, productivity, quality, cycle time, and adaptation. The second step is the selection of processes and involves the distinction between pre-disaster and post-disaster categorization, which affects the remain steps. The selection of categories step takes into consideration the pre-disaster and post-disaster with their respective six areas of analysis:

  • Health: availability of medicines, medical care and treatments, and food.
  • Housing: quality assessment of the facilities and housing security.
  • Education: educational services, such as access to schools and educational courses or lectures for children, youth and adults.
  • Assistance: satisfaction of the services received in general, such as, for example, response time, reliability of information and quality of products or services.
  • Socioeconomic factors: the relationship with the community in the pre-disaster and post-disaster, assessing, for example, access to the labor market, financial situation, engagement with the local community.
  • Disaster risk management: the existence of management activities, such as lectures, courses, programs and information dissemination.

After selecting the categories to be evaluated, we identify the instrument for data collection (interviews, documents, records and questionnaires) to determine the level of satisfaction of the beneficiary. From the collection and analysis of the results obtained, it is possible to direct the operations in search of efficiency, effectiveness, and equity.

In the survey method, the unit of analysis is the response operation after a disaster in Brazil and in this method the beneficiaries’ satisfactions and dissatisfactions are identified, as well as the strengths and weaknesses related to post-disaster action. In the case study method, the objective is to validate the results found in the RSL and investigate the results found in the survey, where the unit of analysis is the organization responsible for providing services to beneficiaries. In this method, it is possible to understand clearly, from the organization, each important aspect pointed out in the survey, and the main dissatisfactions and negative points are treated with priority in an interview with the person responsible for the case. The combined approach of the two techniques allows complementary results.

The study contributes to the academic literature with relevant results on the topic, including a performance evaluation framework from the beneficiary perspective and its initial validation through an empirical study, serving as a basis for new theories and practical applications. Besides, these deliverables may serve for considerations of professionals from organizations in the sector that aim to improve their services and processes looking at the beneficiary view.


Renewable energy sources in emergency humanitarian medical cold chain for sustainability enhancing


By Sonja Saari, Honorary mentioned in The HUMLOG Institute’s Best Thesis Award 2020

I’m Sonja Saari, a recent M.Sc. graduate from Hanken School of Economics with the major subject of Supply Chain Management and Social Responsibility. In particular, I specialized in Humanitarian Logistics. When I was pondering my master’s thesis topic, I realised that I have a great opportunity to combine the two research areas that interested me the most: sustainability and humanitarian logistics. As a result, I ended up studying how renewable energy sources could enhance the sustainability in emergency humanitarian medical cold chains. Being awarded an Honorary Mention at the HUMLOG Best Master Thesis Award 2020 was an extremely pleasant surprise. Especially, I would like to thank my supervisor Árni Halldórsson for supporting me during my writing process. Below you can read my thoughts about this topic.

Renewable energy sources feasible alternatives to fossil ones

In global supply chains, energy is crucial for any operation in any node. Yet, the majority of the used energy sources derive from fossil fuels, therefore increasing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions emitted to the atmosphere. The connection between supply chain activities and climate change is evident, and actions to combat global warming have received increased attention among commercial sector – partly due to stakeholder expectations as well as regulative actions. One feasible alternative to mitigate environmental pressure of the energy intensive supply chains is to increase the use of renewable energy sources (RES), which has already been advocated in the commercial side.

However, energy need does not stop in commercial sector, but is highly needed also in humanitarian operations. In fact, more and more humanitarian operations are needed due to the increased number of natural disasters resulting from global warming – hence, more energy is needed. Yet, the sustainable perspective towards environment has not been the focus by humanitarian organizations.

One particularly energy intensive supply chain is cold chain because of the temperature-control requirement. In humanitarian operations, cold chain is needed to deliver medical items to the field, hence a steady cold chain is needed from start to end point. Especially, in sudden onset disasters – man-made or natural – maintaining a cold chain is a huge challenge. How to ensure a reliable, steady, and sustainable power chain in cases where access to electricity is limited if not even non-existent? The solution has mainly been diesel-powered generators, but they are not environmentally sustainable, nor do they promote long-term environmental benefits to the local area. Indeed, environmental aspect of sustainability has not been prioritized by humanitarian organizations in emergency relief operations. Would you risk saving people lives’ over sustainability?

RES an entry point to long-term sustainability

This dilemma was the core of my master thesis topic. As RES has been seen to offer a feasible alternative in commercial side, I investigated the barriers and opportunities of increasing the use of RES in emergency humanitarian medical cold chain (HMCC). Interestingly, the results showed that environmental awareness in cold chain management is gradually increasing, although the cold chain should be first reliable and only then sustainable. RES in humanitarian operations has been studied and tested a little, but the focus has not been in emergency operations. Nevertheless, solar energy was seen the most applicable energy source among all RES options. Yet, for widening the use or RES in HMCC, technical knowledge among employees of humanitarian organizations should be better grasped, more resources would be needed, as well as more evidence from the field.

Despite the barriers, sustainable emergency medical cold chain can act as an entry point to longer-term and broader sustainability in the local area. For example, cold chain equipment and technology powered by RES could be better utilized by the local people for powering a wider area instead of merely local health facilities. In the rebuilding phase after a disaster, RES-powered equipment would be used, which would also strengthen the longer-term economic and social perspectives of the local area. Yet, more research and evidence on the reliability and practicality are needed to fully establish environmentally sustainable cold chains to help local communities to prosper after the sudden onset disaster, and to reduce the environmental pressure of the energy intensive HMCC.

Access to the thesis here.

To know more about the award, click here.


Building resilience in disaster management supply networks through cross-sector collaboration


By Krichelle Medel, Winner of The HUMLOG Institute’s Best Thesis Award 2020

I am Krichelle Medel, this year’s winner of HUMLOG Best Thesis Award. I am an MPhil degree holder from the Institute for Manufacturing in the University of Cambridge under the programme of Industrial Systems, Manufacture and Management. Being an international student from the disaster-prone country of the Philippines, I realised that I was in a great position to study resilience within disaster management supply networks with the guidance of subject matter experts from the University of Cambridge. I was motivated to study this topic not only with the goal of contributing something new to academic literature, but also of providing new insights that can be applied by humanitarian actors in my home country as well as in other developing countries. However nerve-wracking, it is immensely fulfilling to have finished a thesis of this quality. The process of writing this thesis involved traveling 6000 miles to the Philippines, and the participation of organisations leading Philippine disaster operations from the private, public and humanitarian sectors. Being awarded as HUMLOG’s Best Thesis for 2020 was something I honestly did not expect but was indeed a very pleasant surprise. I take pride and honour from this recognition and will use it as an inspiration to continue forwarding socially relevant initiatives and studies. I hope you find time to read my blog entry below and can take some new insights with you.

The increase in the frequency in disaster occurrence has pushed humanitarian actors and government agencies to create a more responsive disaster management system. Humanitarian actors and government agencies are the main players at the forefront of disaster management operations (DMOs). But what is the role of the private sector in disaster management operations which are equally affected by such calamities?

The local government (public sector) is usually expected to lead disaster management for regions within their jurisdiction. While this is the case, it is important to recognise that the task to rebuild the communities cannot solely rely on the government’s efforts. In many cases, especially in developing countries, the government’s capacity is not enough to address the concerns of all the lives affected by a disaster. Different humanitarian organisations aid through donation of relief goods, medical support, and assistance for community rehabilitation. Beyond these, critical support and resources such as transportation, infrastructure, electric and communication systems also play important roles in the disaster management supply network. For a developing country like the Philippines, most of these resources are owned by private corporations. Academic literature in the realm of humanitarian logistics usually recognises the role of the private sector as philanthropical in nature, where they usually provide goods and financial assistance to beneficiaries or become procurement partners of humanitarian actors. Such roles, while very much appreciated, most often only affect the short-term response to disasters. Having control on many critical resources, indeed the private sector can be better involved, or rather, ingrained in resilient disaster management supply networks.

My dissertation answered the research question: “How can resilience be built within DMSN through cross-sector collaborations?”. The dissertation analysed resilience building within disaster management supply networks (DMSNs) enabled by cross-sector collaboration, focusing on the role of the private sector. From past literature, DMSN resilience criteria were identified to be robustness, flexibility, velocity and visibility. Robustness pertains to how a supply chain can resist disruption from disasters. Flexibility is the ability of the supply chain to quickly reconfigure itself to minimise disruption. Velocity pertains to how fast the resources flow from the suppliers to beneficiaries. Lastly, visibility is how transparent critical information is available to all stakeholders. As another layer of analysis, DMSN capabilities as outcomes of collaboration activities were identified and associated with these resilience criteria. All these elements were built into the resulting DMSN Collaboration-Resilience Model which was applied to a case study of the Philippine DMSN. Existing cross-sector collaboration activities were identified within the Philippine disaster management operations. A causal analysis of each collaboration activity and its outcome is done to identify relationships between collaboration types and resilience constructs. Based on these results, patterns were identified and dependencies between collaboration and resilience are defined. Collective DMSN resilience (DMSNRES) enabled by existing cross-sector collaboration activities is evaluated against a future disaster scenario to identify resilience gaps. These gaps were used to identify new cross-sector collaboration opportunities, illustrating the continuous process of resilience building.

The dissertation ultimately found that cross-sector collaboration builds resilience in DMSNs through capacity building, sourcing redundancy, information reliability, and logistics responsiveness. From literature, private sector collaboration operates within short-term donations in the form of money, logistics (e.g. lending of transportation assets), and procurement partnerships. This research provided new insights on how private sector can be involved within a DMO through collaboration with the government and other NGOs. It augments existing literature on private sector involvement in DMOs where common perception is that the sector is only involved in short-term response and recovery activities. This study found that the private sector can be operationally involved not just in post-disaster activities, but also in mitigation and preparation phases as well. This then sets a new baseline for further research on private sector involvement within DMOs. As this study provided a novel framework to analyse collaboration activities and its impact to DMSN resilience, future work could be done by applying the model to further cases such as other countries’ DMSNs, or to more specific contexts such as inter-organisational collaborations rather than big sectors. A more detailed assessment method against a future disaster will prove relevance for the model in providing practical insights on how resilience can be built in DMSNs.

With disasters becoming more complex and frequent by the day, the need for every sector of the society to contribute to disaster risk reduction is continuously intensified. While this research was done in the context of natural disasters, I feel strongly about the immense need for stronger cross-sector collaboration now more than ever, that a pandemic is affecting the lives of almost everyone around the world. I have seen the private sector step up in a way that we probably have seldomly seen before. I’ve seen companies converting their manufacturing lines from gin to ethyl alcohol production, as well as converting manufacturing lines for hygiene products into face mask production facilities. Beyond manufacturing companies’ own supply chain flexibility to adapt to the needs of the society, other companies focusing on services provided support for the needs of the medical front-liners such as hotels and dormitories providing board and lodging for our modern-day heroes. With the suspension of public transportation, many bus companies also stepped up to provide shuttle services to healthcare workers as well as the ordinary people that are part of their companies’ skeletal workforces. Several corporations are now also coming together to launch enterprise recovery programs for small to medium enterprises (SMEs). These are just few of the many stories of the society coming together in the fight against COVID-19. Each sector of the society can take part in disaster management operations to reduce unpredictability, lives impacted, and increase speed of response and recovery. Each sector of the society can be of great contribution not only during post-disaster response and recovery, but also during – disaster mitigation and preparedness phase. As such, this research echoes the call for everyone – public, humanitarian, private and the academic sectors to be more involved in strengthening our communities.

Access to the thesis here.

To know more about the award, click here.


How Humanitarian Logistics Can Inform a New Normal for Supply Chains – Post-COVID-19

By Joseph Sarkis, PhD, Professor at Foisie School of Business, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA and HUMLOG International Research Fellow at Hanken School of Economics, Finland & Gyöngyi Kovács, Erkko Professor in Humanitarian Logistics, Hanken.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused devastation to people’s health, safety, and livelihoods. It has also caused our supply chains to be reevaluated. The concerns are pervasive and supply chain fragilities became conspicuous.

These concerns have caused supply chain and logistics academics and practitioners to evaluate the situation and provide insights into potential solutions.  These efforts are early at the writing of this blog and will likely continue for years; with significant uncertainties persevering. 

We felt an urgent need for sensemaking in our supply chain community. But, we could not turn to conferences and face-to-face meetings.

Thus, a small concerned group of the community sponsored an open forum on “An Action Agenda for Effective Post-COVID-19 Supply Chains” a YouTube video recording exists for this event here

With over 500 international registrants and about virtual 300 participants on Zoom and YouTube livestreaming – the discussion was lively, concerned, and compelling. 

The session – moderated by Christine Harland – began with three ‘conversation starters’ including thoughts by Lisa Ellram, Barbara Flynn, and Gyöngyi Kovács. Discussion commenced amongst the 300 international participants with a variety of perspectives voiced.

How supply chains can learn from humanitarian logistics became an important thread of discussion. We highlight some points here.

Preparedness pays off. The more prepared the supply chain – better trained, with pre-positioned stock, kits, and collaboration mechanisms – the quicker and more cost-effective it is for pandemic response.

No need to reinvent the – procurement and production – wheel. Medical supply chains are highly regulated. There are set quality expectations, technical specifications, drug lists, and standards even for COVID-19. These characteristics are publicly available on the WHO – World Health Organization –websites and also regularly updated. Having updated knowledge of these requirements will save significant energy and improve response and resilience.

Package interdependencies. Most medical items require supporting materials to be administered. Materials include syringes for vaccines, swabs for tests, and personal protective equipment. In the humanitarian world, inter-agency health kits ensure that kits follow the same standards and packing lists regardless of organisation. Knowing these interdependencies and managing them appropriately with planned kitting can save time and lives.

Logistics is an essential industry. Whether it comes to medical deliveries or groceries in the last mile, in a pandemic, the importance of last mile logistics is enhanced. Careful planning can save lives and provide for a better quality of life overall. This important aspect of logistics as become even more evident and essential given the crisis.

A global pandemic needs a unified global response. Bullwhipping, panic buying, export bans, travel bans, speculative pricing, only induce further disturbances in the supply chain, and typically backfire. Stability and flexibility in policy is needed; if not, then global supply chains require a bit more adaptability to be built into the system to attend to these shocks.

The HUMLOG Institute leads an EU project on the COVID-19 response. For more info, see project HERoS at https://www.hanken.fi/en/departments-and-centres/department-marketing/humlog/research-projects/ongoing-projects/health

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