Humanitarian relief operations are highly dynamic and complex endeavors in particular when they are carried out in response to sudden-onset emergencies. Whilst the need for humanitarian assistance has been growing steadily over the past years, the provided financial means from donors did not keep pace, putting humanitarian actors under enormous pressure to improve effectiveness and efficiency of their life saving work with the limited resources available. In preparation for the World Humanitarian Summit 2016, KLU joined forces with HELP Logistics, the Global Logistics Cluster and several other humanitarian organizations to advocate for more efforts in preparing supply chain for future crisis, ultimately increasing the overall performance of humanitarian operations. In a first step we run an extensive supply chain expenditure study on 23 relief operations between 2005 and 2018 and found that indeed average of 73% of the total expenditure was spent in the supply chain (KLU and HELP 2018). In a second step we developed a system dynamics model, that analyzes the impact of preparedness investments in the humanitarian supply chain. The model quantifies the performance improvements by introducing the Return-on-Investment concept into the humanitarian context and measures the total response cost saved, lead time reduced and social impact generated on local population. We applied the model in five case studies with humanitarian organizations of different sizes and organizational structures and found that preparedness investments have a positive impact on the supply chain across all performance metrics. However, the operational setting the investment goes into plays a critical role and should therefore be considered more thoroughly in funding discussions between donors and humanitarian organizations.
Maria Besiou is Dean of Research and Professor of Humanitarian Logistics at Kühne Logistics University. She received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Operations Management from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) in Greece. She holds a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from AUTH. Before joining KLU she worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Social Innovation Centre at INSEAD, France. Besiou’s specialization is on the field of sustainable supply chain management. Her main research interests are in humanitarian logistics, closed-loop supply chains and stakeholder media. She studies dynamic complex systems, characterized by multiple actors and feedbacks, in a strategic level rendering system dynamics methodology an appropriate tool. Her research focuses on the decision-making of commercial companies and humanitarian organizations, while managing their supply chains. It has been motivated by real problems that these supply chains face such as regulations, limitation of resources, stochasticity, decentralization and monitoring by online communities. Hence, the insights that arise from her research can be transferred to policy-makers and decision-makers dealing with supply chain issues.
As a researcher, she is currently involved in the Research Institute on Leadership and Operations in Humanitarian Aid (RILOHA), which seeks to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian aid via psychological insights, and the INSEAD Social Innovation Centre, which is an inclusive platform for cross-disciplinary research, education, projects and engagement in the area of Business in Society. Her research appears in several case studies and peer-review international journals like Production and Operations Management (POM), Journal of Business Ethics (JBE), California Management Review (CMR), European Journal of Operational Research (EJOR) and the Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management (JHLSCM). She has also presented her work at major international academic and practitioner conferences and workshops.
Besiou currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management (JHLSCM), as a Senior Editor of the Disaster Management Department (DMD) of Production and Operations Management (POM), and on the editorial review boards of Journal of Operations Management (JOM) and Production and Operations Management (POM).