Humlog Blogs

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.

By Eija Susanna Meriläinen, Doctoral Student


The Brexit vote, referendum in Turkey and Trump presidency. The waves of nationalist populism in the global North have awaken fears in the research communities. The repercussions for researchers have in the short-term varied between inconveniencing and deadly. The mobility of European researchers between the U.K. and the rest of Europe has become more cumbersome and the anti-immigration attitudes that flamed around the Brexit vote have affected also researchers wellbeing. Meanwhile, in the United States the whole public system seems to be shaking and among others the Environmental Protection Agency has been heavily affected with adverse consequences predicted to hit everything between tap water quality and climate change (Tabuchi 2017). In Turkey, academics suspected of dissenting Erdogan’s politics have been purged (Reuters 2017).


The direct short-term effects on researchers’ ability to carry out their work and make a living are entangled with a larger concern about role of science in societies. There have been talks about the post-Truth, post-factual and post-intellectual era. The terms imply that there was a time when decisions people made decisions based on rational evaluation of facts, while trusting “intellectuals” to hold the Truth. Critics have been quick to point out that leveraging affect in history of politics has been the rule, rather than the exception.


Yet, even if drawing a causal relationship between populist politics and appreciation of science under the banner of “post-Truth” might be quite a stretch, researchers are (rightly) worrying about the contemporary appreciation of science under the reign of simultaneous austerity measures and populist politicians. For example in Finland, some politicians see the knowledge and attitude held by researchers as outdated, inactionable and passive. In Finland the lay-offs at universities and the restructuring of research funding towards a more market-driven approach have subjected Finnish researchers to an increased precarity.


By Virva Tuomala, Doctoral Student


Towards the end of 2015, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asked the Muslims of the world to join the fight for their cause of world domination. He probably made this request sincerely, hoping Muslims world over would abandon whatever they were doing and grab a torch/pitchfork and head for battle. What he probably did not see coming was the Twitter trolling that followed his proclamation. Mr. al-Baghdadi was clearly not aware that the new Star Wars movie has just come out, or that the new episode of Sherlock was coming out in a few short weeks, which kept people busy. Others cited more athletic reasons for skipping out on the uprising: footy on Sunday or leg-day at the gym, which usually results in soreness the next day. These are just a few of the hilarious excuses ordinary people tweeted to the leader ISIS, one of the most horrific terrorist organizations in history, to not join his fight.

Social media and the internet in general has changed the game in communication, it has never been easier to disseminate information or communicate directly with political leaders or celebrities. While some governments are trying their hardest to block the free use of the internet in fear of a revolution, it is still extremely difficult to completely inhibit the spread of information. Sometimes all it takes is one picture to go viral, for example the deceased refugee toddler on the beach, to spark outrage and/or action against a phenomenon or crisis. Not too long ago these types of images may have remained unseen by the general public, now it is near impossible to escape them. They say in many past wars the full horrors of what was going on wasn’t common knowledge. It was not possible to DM the dictator and while making memes before the internet age was surely very common, they probably mostly remained inside jokes since going viral wasn’t really a thing. As certain heads of state have recently discovered, it is extremely difficult to keep things a secret nowadays.

By Julia Muraszkiewicz, Research Analyst at Trilateral Research Ltd.


Regrettably, loss and harm of humanitarian workers is a prevailing occurrence in the humanitarian conflict zones of today. One does not have to search far to find headlines such as: Six Afghan Red Cross aid workers have been killed in an ambush or Attack on aid workers in South Sudan. As humanitarian laws are being ignored how can we protect those that risk their lives to help others?


One solution could lie in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), which can help humanitarian workers improve the efficiency of logistics, risk management and coordination of humanitarian missions. And this is already happening. As noted by Donini and Maxwell there is an increasing change in humanitarian relationships and practice ‘from face-to-face to face-to-screen’. The shift to relying on technology is a rapid process with low barriers to entry; we can thus expect many new technological solutions to protecting humanitarian work. Today already ‘ICT use for humanitarian response runs the gamut from satellite imagery to drone deployment; to tablet and smartphone use; to crowd mapping and aggregation of big data’ (Raymond and Harrity, 10).


(February 13th 2017)

As a part of Humanitarian logistics course, 16 students had the opportunity to visit the Finnish Red Cross logistics centre in Kalkku, Tampere. Ari Mäntyvaara, logistic coordinator, was the guide during the visit of the centre and shared with the participants some of his experiences of operations on the field.

1.jpg  Finnish Red Cross logistics centre is the only warehouse of FRC in Finland, which means that it is a very centralised system. Its location has been chosen as it is considered as the middle of Finland in terms of population repartition in the territory. The building used to be a factory facility, which was extended in 2009. Some additional outsourced warehouses are also used around Tampere.

In the Finnish Red Cross Logistics Centre, 15 people are working full time.

The students had the opportunity to visit 3 different areas of the centre:

  • Where donated clothing is sorted
  • Where material aid is stored
  • Where online shop goods are stored

And to know more about:

  • What is an Emergency Response Unit


  1. Where donated clothing is sorted

Here is where all the clothing donated in Finland is collected, checked, carefully packed and stored before being sent for the target countries. Clothing comes from private donors, either individuals or companies.


The Logistics Centre of the Finnish Red Cross offers subsidised work placements for the long-term unemployed people. This means that a part of the staff, around twenty people, is composed of people who used to be long-term unemployed and who need to receive support as they are for different reasons excluded from the regular job market. The Red Cross decides to give them the opportunity to work, but a part of the salary is paid by public money. The purpose is for the employees to gain working experiences, thus to have better chance to find a regular job and overall a better situation in the society. Through employing people in need, the Red Cross Finland is also having a positive impact locally.



By Emily Gooding, winner of the HUMLOG best Master's thesis Award 2017


The response to the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak consumed hundreds of thousands of boots, examination gloves, and liters of chlorine. The supply chains that brought these critical relief items to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone relied on a series of manufacturers, transporters, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and international organizations (IOs) to move items from storage and manufacturing sites around the world to the affected countries. In humanitarian crises, as demonstrated by the 2014 Ebola outbreak, public, private, and humanitarian actors must work together to form these supply chains that deliver relief items.

In the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the supply chain of personal protective equipment (PPE) – gloves, masks, coveralls, and other items that protect healthcare workers – was made up of NGOs, IOs, public actors, and private companies who had never before worked together. Humanitarian organizations were procuring items they had never purchased. Governments were procuring items in larger quantities and with stricter specifications than they ever had. And these items were procured from private sector companies who had little-to-no experience responding to public health crises.

As a result, the supply chain was built hastily and relationships between actors were quickly forged. There were big obstacles to doing so, and even bigger challenges in coordinating the supply chain that emerged. These challenges led to an excess supply of PPE in some affected areas and a PPE shortage in others.

We interviewed 17 actors across the supply chain and found that all types of actors were frustrated by the response. But coordination – the flow of information and the development of trust – improved over time. Before the next epidemic, these supply chain actors must work together to share their relative expertise, build trust, and establish ways to coordinate in the face of another crisis.

Our study found that during the Ebola outbreak, many humanitarian and government actors made decisions solely to avoid the upfront cost of holding excess inventory, while private sector actors utilized more sophisticated inventory decision-making and contracting tools. And many private companies excel at collecting and using supply chain data to inform their decision-making.

By Sabari Prasanna, Doctoral Student


Organizational culture has no consistent definition in the extant literature. Schein, (2004, p.17) defines organizational culture as “a pattern of shared basic assumptions that was learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and, that has worked well enough to be  considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems”.

In order to understand the type of organizational culture some salient points from the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) as developed by Cameron and Quinn (2005) can be taken for consideration. This measure provides an idea about the organizational culture type based on a typology matrix. OCAI uses six dimensions to develop the organizational culture type. They are (a) dominant characteristics, (b) organizational leadership, (c) management of employees, (d) organizational glue, (e) strategic emphases, and (f) criteria of success. The six OCAI dimensions lead to classifying the organization into one of the four categories: Hierarchy, market, clan, and adhocracy culture.

Supply chain collaboration enables firms to obtain differential performance as they access resources and routines that exist with different supply chain members (Dyer and Singh, 1998). Moreover, such collaborative advantages are especially difficult to replicate since competitors must both acquire the complementary resources and roll out in the same way (Holcomb et al. 2006).  Collaborative supply chains develop unique customer value by identifying resources that are outside the organizational boundaries. Such distinctive capabilities that bridge organizational boundaries are goal alignment, frequent and open communication, exchange of expertise and resources (Stonebraker and Afifi 2004).

In a study by Fawcett et al. (2013) it is found that two core collaboration resistors exist: unwillingness to adapt to collaborative behaviour, and a lack of trust. It is further found that resistance to change is so ingrained in organizational culture. Seeing this alongside the four cultural aspects that form the base line of supply chain collaboration as indicated by Barratt (2004) are (a) trust, (b) mutuality, (c) information exchange, and (d) openness & communication, gives adequate linkages among the elements of organizational culture and elements that make up collaborative behaviour. So it can be logically concluded that a supportive organizational culture would enhance collaborative outcomes between supply chain partners. The linkages can be also extended to humanitarian context but requires validation through research.

For references, please write to the author. He can be reached at