Research Project Stories – Nick HorspoolOctober 31, 2023
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Post-earthquake Supply Chains
Empty shelves are not a welcome sight when we visit the supermarket to buy food. Thankfully, that’s a rare experience in Aotearoa New Zealand. But recent pandemic- and cyclone-induced occurrences of empty shelves have exposed some of the complexities and vulnerabilities of our supply chain.
Early career researcher Cécile L’Hermitte of the University of Waikato is certain that by identifying constraints prior to disruption, you can more easily implement practical solutions to keep goods on the move. She is undertaking a QuakeCoRE project called, “Managing freight bottlenecks and transport capacity shortages in the wake of a major earthquake.”
Complex freight systems and disruptions are often studied with mathematical models. Taking a different approach, Cécile, and master’s student Yuping Qin, are adapting a management tool for application to post-earthquake transport operations. The Theory of Constraints provides a framework for visualising complex systems and their problems instead of using algorithms. Cécile believes, “If you can clearly see problems then you can start to solve them.”
Cécile and Yuping started by focusing on fresh produce. They interviewed people along the supply chain – growers, transporters, distributors, retailers – to build an accurate sequence of events following a major earthquake. “We are opening the black box of what happens after a disaster”. We know the beginning (the disaster) and the end (empty supermarket shelves), but what happens in between is not clearly articulated. The Theory of Constraints is proving to be useful for analysing that middle ground of the supply chain.
This project ties into Te Hiranga Rū QuakeCoRE’s Inter-disciplinary Programme 3: “A resilient Aotearoa New Zealand transport system”. The second part of the project involves an earthquake scenario that damages ferry terminals in Wellington and Picton leading to a prolonged Cook Strait ferry outage. Already, Cécile can see that “building resilience needs to be the job of everyone along the supply chain.”
Cécile recently gave an excellent QuakeCoRE Seminar entitled 'Capturing the full complexity of post-disaster freight disruptions in Aotearoa New Zealand' which covers more of her work including an overview of the Theory of Constraints framework. You can watch it below or on the QuakeCoRE YouTube channel.
Our annual Request for Proposals (RfP) supports eighteen-month, Associate Investigator led research projects that complement the Coordinated Research Projects within the Disciplinary Themes (DT) and Inter-disciplinary Projects (IP) of QuakeCoRE's Research Programme.
The RfP includes Proposal Development Grants which enable early career researchers to develop strong contestable external research proposals.
The annual call for RfP Projects and Proposal Development Grants is held in September / October and is announced on the QuakeCoRE website and in our newsletter.
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