In his dissertation Florian focused on supply chain analytics and supply chain optimization. He leverages data and statistical methods to create new insights and to improve understanding for better decision making in all activities across the supply chain. For his research, he collaborated with professors at the University of Oxford, ETH Zürich and ESSEC Business School in Paris.
Read about Florian’s research, his experience at KLU and his plans for the future.
Florian, first of all, congratulations on being the very first candidate with a KLU PhD! How does it feel to be the first?
I’m proud of what I have achieved, but also proud of KLU. It was very exciting to see the university grow and develop – alongside my dissertation. We now ended up “finishing” almost at the same time: KLU with the right to confer PhDs and I with the submission of my dissertation. As a member of the academic senate, I have been actively involved in this development. This naturally makes me feel very attached to KLU. As the first doctoral candidate to receive a PhD from KLU, I believe that this connection will now be even stronger.
What is the research for your dissertation about?
In my dissertation, I use an abstract supply chain to show how data can be gathered from multiple isolated data sources, can be combined, and can be leveraged to address research questions along the supply chain from novel perspectives. My thesis presents four empirical studies that move from the start to the end of this abstract supply chain. Thus, my dissertation results are two-fold: I show that supply chains provide a myriad of research opportunities and how secondary data and empirical analysis can be applied to gain new insights for theory and practice at different stages of the supply chain.
And which are the different stages you are looking at?
One of the initial tasks in a supply chain is choosing the right supplier. So this is where my dissertation starts: with a study on supplier selection decisions. I continue by exploring a step further downstream of the supply chain: on-going buyer-supplier relationships. The third stage along the supply chain which I examine is inventory management. And finally, the fourth study of my dissertation concludes at the downstream end of the supply chain by addressing sales and customer behavior. One could say I have been working my way down the supply chain.
What made you choose this topic?
Supply chains aren’t just one-dimensional. In order to understand and successfully manage them you need to take different perspectives into account . You have to look at data from multiple sources and from various stages of the supply chain. Although this is crucial to the functioning of a supply chain in practice, there is still need for more empirical research on this topic. In my dissertation, I present the leverage of data collection from multiple units and sources along the supply chain. Moreover, I am using secondary data to fortify the empirical base of research into supply chains, as has been proposed by several researchers (e.g. Boyer & Swink, 2008; Roth et al., 2013).
Can you give us an example of how you are combining different data sources?
For example, in one of the studies I generate a unique meta-database to improve the understanding of supplier selections in the automotive industry. I connect information about buyer-supplier relationships and supplier selections with data about automotive OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and automotive suppliers under consideration of certain contingency factors. In another study, I combine weather data, sales data from brick-and-mortar stores, and location information about the stores to generate new insights on how weather can affect retail sales.
And what are your findings?
In general, my dissertation demonstrates how combined secondary data and empirical methods can be applied to expand the understanding of intricate situations in the supply chain. All studies in this dissertation include data collection and combination from multiple entities and/or sources along the supply chain: different companies, buyers and suppliers, and multiple data sources for one company. Thus, in each chapter, several distinct data sources are matched and linked to create meta-databases that can be analyzed using empirical methods to uncover novel insights. Each of the four studies provides its own novel theoretical and managerial findings.
For example, in one study the weather effect on retail sales is analyzed. By combining weather data from Germany over the past 30 years, daily sales data from more than 600 brick-and-mortar stores, and store-specific location information. In doing this, the results of my analysis showed that weather can effect daily sales as much as 23.1 per cent based on the store location and as much as 40.7 per cent based on the sales theme. That said, there is not an easy or generic “one-size-fits-all” answer to the question “How does the weather affect a store’s daily sales?”. The different seasons, store locations, and product combinations all factor in.
Another study shows how companies artificially reduce their inventories by up to six percent in time for the fiscal year-end. Inventory managers drive down inventory holdings of raw materials, work in progress, and finished goods towards the end of the fiscal year to “window-dress” their inventory-related KPIs. This phenomenon is called the “inverse hockey stick effect.” It stands in contrast to the well-known increase in revenues at the end of a budget period resulting from discounts.
What is the most fascinating aspect about your field of research for you?
Today, we have more data available to us than at any other point in history – with ninety per cent of today’s data generated within the last two years. This makes for some challenges before we can address and answer relevant research questions. We need to identify the necessary data sources. We need to connect those independent and isolated data sources and apply suitable methods to extract new insights. It is a fascinating process to connect isolated, independent data from multiple sources to create meta-databases. These can then be leveraged to answer research questions that are motivated by real-life observations of managerial problems and business’ situations.
Looking back, what was your experience like as a PhD candidate at KLU?
The opportunities KLU offers its PhD students are quite unique and my personal experience as a PhD candidate at KLU was outstanding. I had the chance to conduct research with top researchers, not only at KLU but also from ETH Zurich, the University of Oxford, and ESSEC Business School. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to take PhD courses and visit scientific conferences all around the globe – from St. Gallen to Singapore to Seattle. It was quite a journey. If I were faced with the choice of whether or not I wanted to come to KLU again, I would definitely do it – and not just because of the great view in the HafenCity.
Now that you have completed your PhD, what are your plans for the future?
Right now I would like to exchange theory for practice and work on the actual implementation of solutions to problems – especially with regards to my research findings over the past four years. In the future, it would certainly be exciting to not only experience practical problems first-hand, but also to identify new research questions and to be able to work on further scientific publications. Practical problems were the starting point for many of the research questions in my own dissertation – perhaps my experience will provide opportunities for the next generation.
Thank you Florian and all the best for the future!