Humlog Blogs

By Nathan Kunz, Luk N. Van Wassenhove, Maria Besiou, Christophe Hambye, Gyöngyi Kovacs


This paper is based on a panel discussion at the 2015 conference of the European Operations Management Association (EurOMA). The panel brought together three academics and one practitioner to discuss how humanitarian logistics research can become more relevant for practice. Logistics is a central function in every humanitarian operation. It aims to deliver the supplies needed to support the victims of a disaster as fast as possible. This important activity is commonly referred to as humanitarian logistics.

Because of its importance and potential to create positive impact on humanitarian operations, the field of humanitarian logistics has become very popular in academic circles in recent years. A specialized journal has been launched, and multiple journals have published dedicated special issues on humanitarian logistics. As of November 2015, a total of 788 papers, conference proceedings, or book chapters have been written on this topic. However, despite the high volume of publications, humanitarian logistics research did not generate as much impact on practice as it could have. This lack of impact can be explained by the fact that humanitarian logistics research has not always been relevant for practice.

During the panel discussion, we identified a number of barriers that limit the relevance of humanitarian logistics research. We found that research problems were often defined based on the researchers’ interest rather than through a discussion with humanitarian organizations. Also, researchers have sometimes failed to take the specific context of humanitarian operations into account. Humanitarian logistics is very specific and differs from commercial logistics in several ways, such as the impossibility to predict future needs, or the scarcity of resources. Access to data is another challenge in humanitarian logistics research. Ready available data does not exist, and it is extremely difficult to collect it, due to safety concerns and the urgency under which most of the disaster response operations unfold. A lack of validation of results with practice is another barrier to relevant research in humanitarian logistics. It is not uncommon that researchers collect data in an organization, write a paper but then fail to discuss the results with the organization. This leads to studies that make wrong assumptions, or even find incorrect results.

By Claire Jackson, Senior Publisher: Operations, Logistics and Quality, Emerald Publishing


Launched in 2011, JHLSCM remains the only dedicated outlet for academic and practitioner research on humanitarian logistics and supply chain management. Under the Editorship of Nezih Altay and Ira Haavisto the journal is going from strength to strength. A full list of papers from the 2017 volume can be found at and we really welcome your feedback.

The journal’s editorial team very much values the support of its academic community and we welcome submissions and proposals for special issues (either based around a theme or a conference/workshop). For more information please see the journal homepage at or contact the Publisher, Claire Jackson at

Why publish with JHLSCM?

  • JHLSCM has recently moved to article level publishing, so all accepted papers will be made available online within 32 working days of acceptance. This is crucial in getting the journal’s valuable research to the people who will benefit from it as quickly as possible, and mean papers can be read and cited within weeks of acceptance.
  • We have submitted an application to be included in the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) and look forward to a decision next year. Although the journal is already including in the Emerging Sources Citation index, inclusion in the SSCI would give the journal an Impact factor, which we know is an important factor for many authors in choosing where to publish.

2017 developments:

  • We are delighted to welcome Maria Besiou and Rameshwar Dubey as Associate Editors to the journal.

  • An advisory board meeting, held at the POMS conference in Seattle, generated some great feedback and useful suggestions on ways of raising the profile of the journal.

By David B. Grant, Professor of Supply Chain Management & Social Responsibility


The World Meteorological Organization’s October 2017 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin (see reports there has been a 40% increase in total radiative forcing since 1990 – the warming effect on our climate – citing figures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Long-lived greenhouse gases cause this forcing, including carbon dioxide (CO2) with average global concentrations increasing from 400.0 parts per million (ppm) in 2015 to 403.3 in 2016.

At the same time, organizations are trying to ensure optimum fuel management of their transport fleets due increasing fuel and other transport costs. Fuel accounts for 30% of operating costs in most transport companies; an average heavy goods vehicle (HGV) in the UK travels 80,000 miles per year and uses £64,000 of diesel and best practice fuel management might provide a saving of 5% per year or around £3,200.

However, while effective fuel management helps organisations save money they can also achieve environmental benefits through a lower CO2 footprint from reduced emissions. There are many ways that organisations can achieve these benefits to reverse CO2 increases. Following are a few examples:

1. Cutting the number of road miles

Understanding how to map expedient routes can help organisations increase deck or floor utilisation and make the most of the miles vehicles travel. Organisations can also decrease empty running by working together to find backhauling opportunities, which will reduce the total number of journeys. However, this is sometimes difficult as some goods have specific transport characteristics relative to other goods, e.g. pharmaceuticals and livestock. Imbalances in schedules may also cause underutilisation. Finally, delivery patterns usually vary and there is less demand for freight transport over a weekend.

2. Driving vehicles optimally

Recruitment of the right people and training in correct practices are also key. A person drives a vehicle, at least until autonomous vehicles come into force, and therefore has the most impact on its fuel management. The introduction in the UK of the driver’s certificate of professional competence (CPC) in 2009 resulted in an approximately a £10.5 million saving in fuel costs over one year by over 6,350 drivers achieving the CPC.

3. Using in-cab telematics

By Graham Heaslip, Head of School of Business, Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and Professor in Supply Chain Management and Social Responsibility, Hanken


We are experiencing the Fourth Industrial Revolution – digitisation, robots, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and the internet of things (IOT). These transformations have changed the way in which we work. Disruptive innovations are creating new industries and business models, and destroying old ones, the humanitarian sector is no different.

The traditional humanitarian supply chain pushes items first and gradually moves towards a pull strategy once more information becomes available, however, the emergence of cash-based responses (also known as cash transfer programmes, CTPs) enable a pull strategy to be implemented from the beginning. CTPs are mechanisms to provide resources to a population in two main ways – by providing them directly with cash or by giving them vouchers.

CTPs do not incur the transport, warehousing and intensive distribution systems and costs that traditional in-kind aid does. CTPs shorten the logistical supply chain, simplify procurement and remove the need for transport and warehousing considerations which may shrink the humanitarian sector considerably. In short, a shift from material to financial flows diminishes the total cost of aid whilst simultaneously empowering beneficiaries. This has meant that beneficiaries have changed from being passive beneficiaries to becoming active members of the humanitarian supply chain. The functionality of cash transfers is however conditional. For cash transfers to work there needs to be an available market.

In the distribution of CTPs, there is a shift for the role towards an actor that can better handle the financial flow, for example, new telecommunication solutions for cash transfers such as “mobile money” launched by Safaricom have enabled CTPs in various African countries. Funds were transferred to registered numbers which could then be exchanged for actual money or electronically transferred to another phone or used for phone credit through a system they pioneered, the M-PESA system, which does not require a bank account. Concern Worldwide pioneered “mobile money” transfer mechanisms in a humanitarian context in a remote area of Kenya in early 2008.

Like any relief intervention, cash transfers are considered in relation to the context in which they will be used. The local market will be affected by an injection of cash so it is important that the market can absorb the extra capacity without causing soaring inflation to occur. The market must also be able to supply the goods needed by the beneficiaries and in-kind aid is more appropriate anywhere there is ‘supply failure’ which is lack of supply regardless of the existing demand.

By James R. Stock; Fulbright-Hanken Distinguished Professor of Business & Economics; Distinguished University Professor and Frank Harvey Endowed Professor of Marketing, Muma College of Business, University of South Florida


The adage, certainly not new, for academicians, has been “publish or perish.” Of course, that phrase is not literally true, but it can be true professionally, especially for PhDs that become academicians. With more persons than ever before having terminal degrees, the competition to publish has never been greater. Even in those parts of the world where publishing requirement have not been thrust upon academicians, especially younger ones, the publishing requirements for faculty/staff have begun to increase.

On the surface, that orientation and greater emphasis on research that results in publications, is not a “bad” thing. The many disciplines of academe require new knowledge creation, and that typically occurs through research that results in publications. However, that’s theory! In practice, there seems to be a “dark side” to this phenomenon.

Some would argue that there are many more academic journals now than ever before. Certainly, that is true. At the same time, there are more academicians trying to get their research published in those journals. The reality is, the increase in the number of journals has not kept pace with the increase in the number of people trying to get published in those journals. So more people are competing to get their work accepted into those publications. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that not all journals are considered equal. There are “A-level” or premier journals, top-tier journals, “B-level” journals, academic versus practitioner journals, etc. The designations vary by university or college and there are no universally accepted standards. Academe tries to quantitatively “rate” journals, but the criteria vary (e.g., citation indices, acceptance rates).

So, what does all of this mean for academicians who have been taught throughout their studies and early career that you must “publish or perish”? Being practical, if an academician wants to get salary increases, reduced teaching loads, promotions to higher levels in the Academy, or other recognitions, they have to publish! But this is where a significant problem has begun to “rear its ugly head.” Are the articles being published “better” now than in the past? Are researchers trying to determine how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or are they coming up with results that have significant impact on someone or something?

By Dr Wojciech Piotrowicz, Associate Professor in Sustainable Supply Chains, Social Responsibility and Humanitarian Logistics


Poland, after economic transition, moved from being the beneficiary of the humanitarian aid to a donor country. However, as my recent interviews suggests the memory of assistance received from abroad years ago is still alive among generations, which remember economic crisis in Poland, especially during 1980s. This note is focusing on assistance via parcels, mailed often from family to family. Such parcels were posted to Poland in 1980s, while in March 2014 Polish people supported this way Ukrainians.

Poland, unlike Western Europe, did not participate in Marshal Plan to restore European Economy after 1945, post-war reconstruction, nationalisation of almost all companies (only small shops and farming was allowed) which were centrally managed resulted in inefficiencies, foreign debts and finally economic, as well as political crisis in late 70s. The Solidarity movement, which called for reforms, was supressed by communists. In 1981, December the 13th martial law was declared. During 1980s economic crisis deepened, rationing was introduced (food products, clothing and other basic goods) shops were empty. Allotments and small private farms provided food, whole system unofficial trade was created. This was the time, when Western countries provided support for Poland, as gesture of solidarity, but also as part of the movement against communist bloc.

In 1980-81 German and Swedish post offices allowed free postage of parcels to Poland, millions of people prepared and mailed items to Poland. In addition there were convoys with help, distributed mainly through the Catholic Church (Caritas Poland was re-establish to distribute such support, as it was banned after the war). Hundred thousands of Polish people, including author of this note, were receiving material support. However, even more important was the message that Poland is not alone in the struggle for freedom. This was not only humanitarian, but also political support.

Communism has dominated until end of 1980s, with beginning of transformation in 1989. Poland went through “shock therapy”, with rapid privatisation, opening of the markets, massive fall of state industries. Social costs of transition was hard for some groups, such as workers from collective farms, or small towns that were dependant on large employer, in 1990s early 2000s it was common to see places with 40% unemployment rate.

Flow of direct investments, availability of cheap and skilled labour, followed by entry to the EU in 2004, which allowed exporting the entire labour surplus abroad, resulted in constant economic growth. After 2004 funds stimulated improvement in infrastructure and quality of life, of course in exchange for unlimited access to the Polish market. As result of the changes today, in 2017, Poland moved from being recipient of humanitarian aid to donor country.

By Alain Vaillancourt, Lecturer in Operations and Supply Chain Management, Coventry university


What kits are

Bozer and McGinnis define kits as “a specific collection of components and/or subassemblies that together (i.e., in the same container) support one or more assembly operations for a given product or “shop order.”” (Bozer & McGinnis, 1992). In the process of kitting to feed assembly lines, it is important to prepare the kits at a pre- assembly line point. This step in effect acts as a consolidation point of non-value adding steps for material to be regrouped and assembled in a specific set of items with a specific purpose before being brought to the line or being stored. Kitting at different points of the supply chain influences how kits are transported and warehoused and may lead to economies of scale and costs reductions.

During the preparation of the kit, items are combined together based on the downstream needs after the point of kitting; kit preparation usually includes time allocated for picking and assembling each kit. Some of these activities for preparing the kits regroup non-value adding activities and concentrate them at one specific step; these include the manual handling as well as the picking of items for the kit. In the case where kits are prepared and used at another location, this would also require an additional step for transportation which does not add any value. The value of kits comes out in the subsequent step when the kit is being used.

Kits offer a range of benefits. Indeed, they allow for more efficient space usage and material handling than other assembly methods. They improve quality for the final user by allowing for quality control during the kitting preparation process, offer a reduction of the time spent fetching and picking parts when using the kit and increase flexibility through the mix of items presented at the next step in the supply chain.

It is important to note that kits also have some downsides; the main one is kit preparation which is labor intensive, requires space, time and extra management and planning. Apart from these problems related to the preparation of the kit, other issues might arise related to the quality of the materials linked to the kits. Indeed kit pieces that are defective can create part shortages on the assembly line and force the cannibalization of kits as well as stock outs. Defective materials might also lead to incomplete kits being stored as work in progress increasing inventory space required and lead times and risking the delivery of incomplete kits.

Kits in the humanitarian context

By Luke Muggy, Ph.D., winner of the HUMLOG Best Doctoral Thesis Award in 2017


Years of sectarian conflict have decimated Yemen’s infrastructure, leaving millions without access to clean water. Waste management services have been halted in major cities, including the capital Sana’a where sewage systems stopped working in April [1]. Half of the healthcare facilities that operated before the war have been shut down and 30,000 healthcare workers have gone unpaid for nearly a year [2]. This already unimaginable environment provides the backdrop for the greatest ongoing cholera outbreak in the world. Though it has only been 15 months since the first infections were discovered in October 2016, there have been over 500,000 documented cases in total, with 5,000 new infections every day [2].

The epidemic in Yemen shares many similarities with the preceding cholera epidemic of its magnitude, which occurred in Haiti seven years ago. After a massive earthquake rocked the small Caribbean country in 2010, cholera was introduced and caused 604,634 infections in the first two years [3]. In both Yemen and Haiti, cholera victims face difficult challenges when travelling to receive care. Similarly, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may find it difficult to reach everyone in need due to failing or collapsed transportation infrastructure. Just as humanitarian aid primarily entered Haiti by ship at Port Au-Prince, aid to Yemen will most likely pass through one of the country’s four sea-ports. From there, NGOs face several challenges in the ‘last-mile’ as Yemen hosts no rail structure and its largest airport (in Sana’a) is closed [1]. Thus, aid must be moved using trucks on roads of questionable integrity and safety.

There do exist some striking differences between the epidemics in Yemen and Haiti, however. While the number of infections in Yemen is on pace to surpass those in Haiti, Yemen has suffered significantly fewer deaths. In the first two years of the outbreak, 7,436 people died of cholera in Haiti [3] (1.2% mortality) while only 2,000 have perished in Yemen [1] (0.4%). Thus, greater than 99% of cholera victims in Yemen who can access health services survive the infection [2]. Given the relatively low mortality rate, it seems that the majority of Yemen’s cholera victims have been able to reach treatment. However, 54% of Yemenis (15 million) do not currently have access to health services [4]. Similarly in Haiti’s epidemic, many people were unable to access treatment because facilities were too far away [5]. However, where Haiti’s population is 10.8 million within 27,750 km2, Yemen is home to 27.8 million spread across 527,970 km2. The propensity for insufficient access is even greater in Yemen given a population that is 2.5 times larger in a region that is 19 times more expansive.

By Mohammad Moshtari, research fellow and lecturer at Hanken School of Economics


After a disaster hits a region, a considerable number of NGOs becomes involved in humanitarian operations. For example, after the Asian Tsunami in 2004, more than 700 international NGOs from 40 countries were present in the affected area, and after the Haiti earthquake in 2010 more than 3,000 NGOs were estimated to be operating in Haiti. In this context, looking for a proper partner or organizing successful collaboration is a challenging task. It is not adequately clear whether having a partner with a higher level of compatibility and/or whether having a partner with the experience and capabilities to manage the collaboration process is vital to having successful inter-organizational collaboration.

The result of a recent study (Moshtari, 2016) suggests that mutual trust and reciprocal commitment are the key drivers of collaborative performance between international NGOs. Mutual trust refers to partners goodwill, and reliance on the partners capabilities. Reciprocal commitment is associated with the desire and motivation of the partners to preserve and perpetuate the relationship. Moreover, inter-organizational resource complementarity, coordination capability and relational capability are antecedent factors increasing the success of inter-organizational collaboration. Contrary to common belief, this investigation does not support the theory that the strategic and operational compatibility of partners plays a critical role in the success or failure of their collaboration. In other words, similarities in partners’ missions, values, goals or operational methods and procedures do not significantly inhibit or drive collaborative success or failure among international NGOs.

From Paul D. Larson, Ph.D., Professor and Distinguished Senior Fellow, Humlog Institute, Hanken


On May 20, a Finnish aid worker was kidnapped in Kabul, Afghanistan. The dreadful incident included the murders of a German aid worker and an Afghan security guard. (1) Once again, we are reminded how dangerous humanitarian work can be.

ALNAP estimates that there were 450,000 humanitarian aid workers globally in 2015. (2) As shown below, 287 of them were killed, injured or kidnapped in 148 separate incidents. The proportions vary, but the preponderance of victims are always national (not international) aid workers.


Source: The Aid Worker Security Database (

This year, through May 20, an estimated 106 humanitarian aid workers have been attacked. A very large majority of these victims (98 out of 106) are nationals of the countries in which the attacks occurred. The most dangerous countries for aid workers in 2017 are Syria, South Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan. Of the 106, 56 were killed, 23 wounded and 27 kidnapped (

Miklian et al. found, as expected, that countries at war are more dangerous for aid workers. However, surprisingly, whether combatants follow the “rules of war” appears to have little impact on the danger – they found no evidence that conflicts where combatants actively target civilians present higher risk for aid workers. Interestingly, countries in which NATO forces are deployed may experience fewer attacks on aid workers, while nations with UN peacekeeping missions have more attacks.(3)

Facing such danger, what’s a humanitarian to do? There are three primary strategies: stay away and avoid the danger; ignore the danger, until it appears without warning; or mitigate it, using techniques of proactive risk management.

To Avoid, Ignore or Mitigate?

Avoiding means staying away (for the internationals) or getting out (for the nationals) by joining the ranks of refugees leaving their home countries. This can be very disruptive for the national departing as a refugee. It also leaves the victims of disasters, in urgent need of help, to handle it themselves.