Humlog Blogs

By Isabell Storsjö, doctoral student and zombie fan


Zombies. Walking dead. Living dead. Popular culture has given many names to the terrifying idea of creatures stuck between death and life hunting the living for their flesh or brains. My fascination for zombies started with the AMC series “The Walking Dead”, which my husband started watching in 2012. From the start, I didn’t want to watch it since I am easily scared, but I couldn’t avoid hearing it from a different room. Soon enough, I was hooked by the plot and characters, and had to find myself a spot in the sofa every night the show aired, prepared with a pillow in my hand to hide behind when the zombies attacked.


Credits to the AMC Network Entertainment “Dead Yourself” App

Having now watched several seasons of The Walking Dead, and other zombie films, I have gotten used to seeing decomposing undead tearing apart living people on the screen, and I am no longer as sensitive as a few years back. The interesting thing with this series (in addition to the plot of course) is that it plays with the thought of society completely falling apart, leading to a situation where the remaining population is struggling to sustain life. Not only the epidemic itself but also fear of it drives people from their homes and work, and they fight for resources.

What the characters in The Walking Dead experience may be fiction, but the story also depicts a catastrophe that has gone out of hand. The zombie metaphor can be useful to model the worst-case scenario, and was actually used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US in 2011 in a risk campaign to raise awareness of why and how to prepare for emergencies.

By Dr. Nathan Kunz, assistant professor of operations management, University of North Florida


Each hour counts when responding to a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Matthew which hit Haiti in October 2016. Affected populations are in desperate need for food, medicines or shelters. It took international relief organization based in the U.S. or Europe several days or even weeks to purchase these supplies and ship them to Haiti. During this time, people in Haiti continued to suffer. Because of the unpredictable nature of disasters, an organization that is not prepared can’t respond to the needs of the population in a reasonable amount of time.

A relief organization can get prepared by prepositioning relief supplies such as food, medicines or shelters in warehouses in vulnerable countries. If a disaster hits, the organization delivers the supplies from its local warehouse. This preparedness strategy is very effective, but generates extremely high costs. Indeed, these supplies aren’t used during years with no disaster and thus need to be renewed regularly, especially food or medicines with expiration dates. Moreover, because nobody knowns where the next disaster will hit, international relief organizations have to set up a local warehouse in every disaster prone country. For these reasons, disaster preparedness has been limited so far, because no relief organization has the financial resources to run such an expensive network of warehouses.

In a paper I wrote with colleagues,[1] we propose an alternative to this expensive preparedness strategy. Instead of prepositioning supplies in multiple countries, we recommend relief organizations keep relief supplies in a central warehouse and send them by airplane right after a disaster hits a country. There is a caveat, however. If an organization isn’t already present in a country, it doesn’t have a local network of partners it can rely on to receive the supplies and distribute them. Any shipment into a country has to fulfill all administrative requirements, go through customs clearance, be picked up at the airport and delivered to distribution points. This is impossible without a good local knowledge and existing network in each country. In our paper, we suggest that relief organizations can build this knowledge and network by investing in local disaster management capabilities. These capabilities are, for example, to develop specific importation procedures for each country, negotiate agreements with local governments, identify local suppliers and staff that could distribute the supplies and identify possible distribution centers. By developing such capabilities, the relief organization can be prepared to respond quickly after a disaster, without having to spend colossal amounts for prepositioning supplies.

Some thoughts about my current work, by Peter Tatham - Professor of Humanitarian Logistics, Griffith University (Queensland, Australia)


May I begin by using this Blog to wish all the readers and peaceful and successful 2017.  For those engaged in research, I hope that your endeavours bear fruit, and those who are undertaking the really important work of the humanitarian logistician, I sincerely hope that you will deliver your goals with the minimum of stress to you and your families.


In reflecting on what to write for this blog, I took the easy option of offering some thoughts about my current work in evaluating how three emerging technological changes could impact the practice of humanitarian logistics (HL).  These are:

  • 3D Printing (3DP).
  • Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) (otherwise known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles/Systems (UAV/S) or drones).
  • Hybrid Cargo Airships (HCAs)

All three of these developments have enormous potential to impact the management and operation of supply chains in the commercial environment – and so the challenge is to understand if and how they can be brought to bear to support the logistic preparation and response to disasters.



In the case of 3DP it has multiple benefits, key amongst which is its capacity to produce multiple finished parts from a single source material.  This, together with the ability to make these parts when the demand has crystallised has the clear potential to reduce the requirement to warehouse components on a ‘just in case’ basis.  In addition, its inherent flexibility allows bespoke items to be created to meet a specific non-standard requirement, whilst the high mass to volume ratio and minimal packaging requirements of the raw material are added benefits.

However, and this is to my mind the critical issue, it will be necessary to develop a robust organisational model that controls the overall process and ensures that the finished product is made of an appropriate material and of an appropriate design, and that the product itself has been printed correctly. In other words, that the output is ‘fit for purpose’.  Whilst the temptation to produce ad hoc prints is inevitable, particular in the time-poor post-disaster context, this must be resisted to minimise the risks of accidents and/or injuries.

Thus, as ever, the supply chain manager must ensure the appropriate integration of people, processes and technology.  The technology has been pretty well nailed, so now we need to work on the other two components of this triad.



One of the important elements of emergency planning is training exercises. The MELOGIC Project has organised table-top exercise with Italian RC.


One of the important elements of emergency planning is training exercises. Training exercise is particularly important for building and maintaining organisational knowledge. A written guideline and/or instruction of how to act during the emergency can be more structured and easier to control compared to training exercise which people’s involvement is essential. The benefits of training exercise are preparation for more unstructured and spontaneous aspects. It is a good opportunity to incorporate and check both tacit and explicit knowledge of managing emergencies with a broad action scenarios and a willingness to consider alternatives.


Training exercises can have various forms, e.g. workshop types of seminar, serious games, table-top exercise, and drills. The MELOGIC Project has organised two types of exercises with the end-user partners - Emergency drill with Caritas Teruel and table-top exercise with Italian RC.


Table-top exercise


The table top exercise is a group exercise. The number of group will be depends on the size of the participants. In the exercise with Italian Rc, there were two groups and each group was given a scenario to deal with. Every group members were assigned to different roles in a local level.


The organisers might also have different roles other than being an instructor. In our table-top exercise, organisers acted as a journalist and regional level head quarter. The journalist is essential component in emergency situation for dealing with public affairs. Emergency authorities may have to deal with numerous media contacts and sometimes requires discrete decisions for what information can be publicly available or not. The regional HQ acted as coordinating and reporting body for those participants who play the local emergency staff.


Instructors facilitated the group activities - checking the time, giving out different missions, explaining evolving situation and scenarios, and answering for questions from the group.



Scenario briefing



Regional HQ



Group 1


In September 2016, MELOGIC project organised a large-scale emergency drill in Teruel. The emergency drill was one of the major outcomes of the project.


In September 2016, MELOGIC project organised a large-scale emergency drill in Teruel. The emergency drill was one of the major outcomes of the project. First, we could test the algorithm model for the decision support tool that was developed during the project and second, the emergency drill in such scale was an exceptional event in a small town of Teruel and provided direct and indirect learning to the local government and civil society.


The emergency drill was an event of a single day but it was the results of more than a year of Caritas Teruel’s efforts, including various stakeholder meetings, trainings and education, and other publicising activities for civil protection logistics.


I will describe here about the event itself and our practical preparation on the spot.


Mock-up exercise (D-2)


Before the event, we had a mock-up exercise and used this time to make the final check of the event as well as to prepare for some of practicality related film-making.




We found the difference between available resources (vehicle types and numbers) for the emergency drill and what was assumed in the model as the algorithm inputs. Probably this will happen in most of the real cases and the decision support tools might help to make the quick fix. But during the mock-up exercise, we made some modification after a long discussion.




Checking the venue for the evacuation centre




Preparing for the field operation office. It is a room where all relevant stakeholders and intervention group will sit together to oversee the field operation and to coordinate the activities.




As a part of MELOGIC Project, we conducted a field study in order to identify the needs and main challenges of the end-user partners to improve their emergency logistics management


The MELOGIC project is a DG ECHO funded research project with five partners from five different European countries.

  • European University of Cyprus (Cyprus)
  • University of Aegean (Greece)
  • Regional (Vicenza) Italian Red Cross (Italy)
  • CARITAS Teruel(Spain)
  • Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Research Institute (Finland)

The MELOGIC project stands for ‘An Integrated Methodological framework for Emergency Logistics’. The primary objective of the project was to provide an integrated, easily applicable tool for optimising logistics preparedness operations. In December 2016, the project was completed after all deliverables have successfully been achieved, including web-based decision support system available online. Over the last 2 years throughout the project, there have been various intense discussions, learning opportunities, and knowledge sharing. Personally, it was an extraordinary experience to have the good partnership and active interactions among the project members.

Most of the humanitarian logistics research projects in the HUMLOG Institute are often carried out in developing countries. However, the MELOGIC project has mainly concerned the issues related to emergency logistics within the EU context. This difference brought some new perspectives on disaster logistics preparedness.

While the results and research outcomes of the project can be found in some publications that are in progress, I thought it might be interesting to describe some practical but memorable aspects of the project. It would be some sort of ‘behind the scene’ of all these research activities, which may not be narrated in research publications in details. Here I will elaborate initial development of the project and in the next post some of major outcome - emergency drills and table-top exercise.

Defining ‘logistical challenge’

The first kick-off meeting was held on February 2015 in Nikosia, Cyprus. The ‘logistical problem’ was remained as a general statement in our project document. Thus, in the first meeting the partners tried to crystallise the problem that we would deal with in our project. Naturally, the focus was on the needs of the only end-user partner then, Caritas Teruel. Caritas Teruel brought up their logistical challenges related to maintaining a good preparedness for the forest wildfire of the Aragon region.

Thoughts on the CAIUS Seminar by Isabell Storsjö 17.11.2016

Public procurers are tasked with procuring products, services and works that fulfil the needs of the organisations. These needs may not only be defined by current consumption and obstacles, but also by expectations on the future and mitigation for unexpected events.

The project CAIUS (Cascading innovation upstream the supply chain through procurement processes) was sparked by changes in the legislation on public procurement. New EU directives put more emphasis on innovation and the project was aimed to develop an understanding for innovation in public procurement processes and how innovation can cascade upstream the supply chain and between industries. Being carried out by the HUMLOG Institute, in cooperation with the Finnish National Emergency Supply Agency (NESA), an additional objective of the project was to see how innovation and security of supply converge in different sectors. The study was carried out in Finland and focused on three sectors: healthcare, energy and water services.

The two-year project (2015-2016) culminated in a seminar at Hanken on the 17th of November. The topic for the seminar was simply “Public procurement for innovation and preparedness”. The focus was on challenges of innovation-related procurement identified in the study, and discussions on potential recommendations and solutions. In addition to learning about the project and its findings, the seminar participants expressed their views on and experiences of the issues at hand, both in the plenaries and in the smaller group sessions, facilitated by Ira Haavisto (Director of HUMLOG) and Kaisa Hernberg (Development Director of Climate Leader Council).

Some of the conclusions from the discussions were that innovation first of all is a concept that needs to be better defined, and that innovation (in terms of for instance clean tech solutions) needs to be made a strategic goal. Information-sharing and collaboration are considered key to better achieving innovation within and through public procurement. The use of (big) data for better forecasting as well as practical tools for procurers were suggested to be future areas to look into. Also, there is room to improve the activity of setting procurement criteria, for example by allowing more input from potential bidders. Trade-offs and risks came out as key factors in many aspects, impacting on preparedness models, the fulfilling of needs and the use of public funds.

In terms of preparedness, the priorities as well as responsibility for mitigation, preparation and response came up as important issues. The society has become more interconnected and citizens rely on the public to take care of security of supply and response in emergency situations, while the public may not be able to provide for everyone in all types of emergencies. In some sectors, globalisation has led to more proneness to supply disruptions.

By Frank Stadler, Professor of Humanitarian Logistics Peter Tatham and Professor of Infection Prevention and Control Ramon Shaban Griffith University

An earthquake hits or a tsunami washes over land and another town lies in ruins. Among the devastation sniffer dogs scramble nose down over rubble to find the dead and injured. But what if we could harness animals not only to rescue but also to heal the injured? Frank Stadler and colleagues from Griffith University say that the humble blowfly can assist first responders and healthcare providers in the treatment of wounds and prevent infection in austere environments.  

The international spotlight during humanitarian crises is always firmly fixed on casualty scores, the need for food and shelter, and on communicable diseases such as diarrhoea and malaria. However, crises like earthquakes, civil unrest and general poverty invariably result in far greater numbers of people being injured than killed. Wound care under austere conditions is challenging and as a consequence necrosis, wound infection and debilitating chronic wounds are common. Here we outline how Maggot Debridement Therapy (MDT), the use of living fly larvae for the treatment of problem wounds, can assist first responders and medical aid agencies in the provision of highly efficacious wound care and clinical decision making in resource constrained healthcare environments.

There are mainly three areas in humanitarian and emergency medicine where Maggot Debridement Therapy could be deployed with great promise:  

  • in the event of natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis;
  • in response to man-made mass disasters, including industrial accidents, explosions, transport disasters, and terrorism; and
  • in developing nations where healthcare systems are unable to provide effective acute and chronic wound care.

To our knowledge, however, there has not been any routine use of Maggot Debridement Therapy in humanitarian medical aid despite its obvious utility. Medical maggots are highly selective and efficient micro-surgeons that, when introduced to a wound with lots of damaged tissue, will only feed on and remove the dead tissue outperforming surgical sharp removal of dead tissue with the scalpel. While medical maggots are busy cleaning the wound they also suppress and fight infection including those pathogens resistant to antibiotics. If that wasn’t enough, there is now good evidence that medical maggot digestive excretions also stimulate healing and tissue regeneration.

This triple action should make medical maggots a therapy of choice after disasters when a large number of patients need to be treated and when timely prevention of infection is of the essence. Because medical maggots perform the task of surgeon, antibiotic and growth factor, they should be also the preferred method of wound care in developing nations where healthcare providers do not have access to many skilled surgeons nor modern wound care technology and advanced dressings.

A thought on the collaborative behavior between the actors in a supply chain by Sabari Prasanna

Collaborative behavior between the actors in a supply chain has been a matter of research interest to scholars since the past two decades as soon as the concept of supply chain management found light. Organizations collaborate between each other in the chain due to several reasons. The simple reason could be route to market for a specific purpose – example RIO Olympics 2016 (down stream) or for instance at a strategic level– joint product development, or joint cost reduction. Such collaborative initiatives were found existent based on mutual benefits to the collaborators.

In one of the recent studies it was found that there are some reasons that are accountable for failure of collaboration – the desired outcome not being met over a period of time. This is due to the dependence asymmetry and power asymmetry. Such dependence and power does develop from the fabric of organizational culture that binds one organization together. On the superficial sight the seemingly compatible organizational culture with the partner organizational culture initially bound on emotional ties later start to lose strength to hold together. Some of the fundamental aspects of organizational culture as manifested through trusting relationship, dependence, commitment, information sharing and mutuality provide answer for the strength of the collaborative behavior.

Collaborative behavior does influence the performance of supply chain in a disaster or humanitarian situation. In the reconstruction phase of a disaster when actors come together to rebuild a place / provide relief to displaced people the need for new products and smart products (energy efficient) call for collaborative approach between the supplier and the humanitarian buying organization. While it can be understood that the need of the hour is the priority, organizations do have a robust R&D facility to quick build/rebuild products that best fit the needs of the buying organization (UN / Red Cross, etc.) providing enough space for trust, mutuality, commitment, information sharing and dependence to influence the collaborative relationship.

- Sabari


Humanitarian logistics, humanitarian operations management, humanitarian supply chain management – these are not only topics that the HUMLOG Institute are working with, but also themes that are becoming more and more popular at various conferences. I have myself attended several conferences and have had the joy to sit in at many presentations serving the most recent finding from research projects around the globe. However, many of these conferences are focused on operations management and supply chain management, which I realise can give a skewed picture about how relevant or popular humanitarian issues seem to be in academia. I am working in the HUMLOG project on Cascading innovation upstream the supply chain (CAIUS), in which we study public procurement for innovation and emergencies in Finland, and decided to go to a public management conference - the Annual Conference of the International Research Society of Public Management (IRSPM) in Hong Kong in April this year – to see what’s going on in that field. In this blog post, I elaborate on the discussions going on there, and compare them to the Annual Conference of the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS), which took place in the beginning of May.

First of all, I noticed that the healthcare area has earned a special place in public management, just as it has in operations management – both societies have established special interest groups or colleges around this area. Secondly, purchasing or procurement have panels or tracks in both conferences, and being involved in the CAIUS project these presentations were of interest to me. Turning to the Humanitarian area though the difference between the conferences are much larger: at POMS the Humanitarian Crisis and Operations Management track was, for what I recall, the second largest among the college tracks this year, while the Humanitarian sector did not have any panel area of its own at the IRSPM conference. However, the ”Sectoral challenges”-area included several panels that could be argued to invite presentations related to humanitarian logistics and supply chain management, for example ”Emergency Services Management: The Case for Bridging the Theory-Practice Divide”. There were in addition a couple of panels related to decease outbreak management, but they were cancelled.

To get a better overview of the content of these two conferences, I ran a word frequency query on the schedules in the analysis software NVivo and got the following results (although they are skewed due to the fact that the POMS program contained short abstracts in addition to the headlines of the presentations, and some words do not come from the content of the presentations but from the layout of the schedules):