MIT CTL’s Top Supply Chain Challenges in 2021

Originally posted on SupplyChain247

Which supply chain challenges will preoccupy companies in 2021? Many are reflected in MIT CTL’s research agenda for the new year, so we asked our senior researchers to describe what they would like to achieve in 2021.

Alexis Bateman, Director, MIT Sustainable Supply Chains: Better understand the state of supply chain sustainability amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and an emerging recession. Advance and pilot innovative circular supply chain solutions for end-of-life takeback across different channels. Explore the value of using carbon insets approaches to sustainability within the supply chain.

Chris Caplice, Executive Director, MIT CTL, Founder & Co-Director, MIT FreightLab: Develop and pilot a more dynamic truckload transportation procurement and management process. The process would fully utilize a wide portfolio of shipper-carrier-broker relationships (from dedicated to contract to spot) to achieve sufficient capacity at minimal cost to the shipper. Create a better method for developing a future-looking transportation budget that incorporates probabilistic estimates of acceptance rates and corresponding alternate and/or spot rates. Better understand how disruptions impact the freight transportation market and how they can be minimized.

Jarrod Goentzel, Director, MIT Humanitarian Supply Chain Lab: Leverage public and private sector supply chain data to support explanatory/causal analysis and model development that improves demand and supply planning for Covid-19 interventions and other health crises. Leverage the experience gained from Covid-19 to support emergency management preparedness planning and training. Build a system-level understanding of supply chain dynamics as a foundation for effective decision support, and cultivate private-public partnerships that enhance supply chain resilience through training and focused discussions. This work includes further evolution of our modeling frameworks and analytical/visualization tools for actionable analysis. Build on our market system monitoring methodology to design international development interventions, and extend system dynamics simulation modeling capabilities through engagement with humanitarian actors.

Milena Janjevic, Research Scientist, Megacity Logistics Lab: Develop new value-based supply chain design methods that integrate total cost to serve, service level, and revenue. Propose methods that enable companies to differentiate and adapt supply chain design solutions across their product portfolios. Conduct studies in supply chain design that highlight the impacts of human-in-the-loop optimization methods and visual analytics in supporting complex strategic decision-making under uncertain conditions. Leverage advances in decision sciences and behavioral and cognitive sciences to develop new frameworks for cross-functional decision-making in supply chain design. Support the design of organizational processes that involve stakeholders from outside the logistics department (e.g., strategy, finance, sales, and marketing).

Christopher Mejía Argueta, Founder & Director, MIT Food and Retail Operations Lab: Map and analyze how disruptions and system breaches impact food supply chains (e.g., agri-business, food service) and the availability of food categories in the US and developing countries. Pilot the veggie box nanostore-based delivery model to increase food accessibility and affordability for underserved communities in the US Characterize the supply chain drivers and find ways to make these delivery models sustainable over the long term by identifying the potential bottlenecks. Understand and predict the evolution of retail operations in highly fragmented environments in developing countries where the Food and Retail Operations Lab has not yetworked.

Eva Ponce, Executive Director, MITx MicroMasters Program in SCM; Director, Omnichannel Distribution Strategies: Reimagine the future of teaching and learning post-Covid-19. More specifically, investigate learner needs and expectations, identify the skills and capabilities learners will need in the future, and propose innovative education models for lifelong learning. Develop and implement fingerprint assessment and evaluation tools, especially for online learning. Conduct and evaluate relevant experiments in 2021. Capture new insights into how omnichannel is transforming/impacting supply chains. We need to understand the following better: How the growth of online grocery impacts the supply chain, how companies should shape their omnichannel strategies to meet these challenges, and the key capabilities required. How companies can leverage their omnichannel networks to respond to changing customer expectations. How the growth of e-commerce is transforming warehouse operations, and what framework might help e-retailers meet their fulfillment expectations. Develop omnichannel reverse logistics and takeback models to enhance circular supply chains. More specifically: Develop and pilot a model based on e-commerce networks to enhance takeback models for packaging materials in GCG companies and pure players. Create an innovative omnichannel consumer-based takeback model for retailers. This first-of-a-kind model will provide innovative insights into the collection of end-of-life products and packaging through multiple channels (i.e., integrating forward and reverse logistics) and facilitate their single-stream return for reuse, recycling, and remanufacturing.

James B. Rice Jr, Deputy Director, MIT CTL; Head of Measuring and Investing in Resilience Initiative: Improve the methods supply chain leaders can use to invest in supply chain resilience that makes sense for their organization, risk preferences, and supply chain designs. Develop and articulate case illustrations to highlight various methods for making data-based decisions to invest in supply chain resilience.

Maria Jesus Saenz, Director, Digital Supply Chain Transformation initiative: Develop a digital platform as a simulation tool that implements different methods for promoting horizontal collaboration between diverse stakeholders. The platform would run different scenarios for gain- and value-sharing in collaborative last-mile delivery. Better understand how artificial intelligence (AI) augments collective intelligence and enhances human and machine capabilities. Analyze successful cases in demand forecasting in the retail industry using field experiments and estimate causal effects of human-AI interactive mechanisms’ structure. This research will allow us to shed light on the automation vs. augmentation paradigm. Empirically demonstrate interactive effects in complex, adaptive, and longitudinal buyer-supplier transactions in digital supply chains and how to deal with sources of uncertainty. Examine the levels of complexity in these transactions and how each level informs network behavior and feeds relationship dynamics.

Yossi Sheffi, Director, MIT CTL; Author, The New (Ab)Normal: Reshaping Business and Supply Chain Strategy Beyond Covid-19: Characterize the changes in supply chains caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and generalize the findings to other disruptions. Learn from problems in vaccine distribution and application about how to conduct (and how not to conduct) operations at scale. Finish my book on supply chain innovations that characterize which high-profile new technologies will deliver real change, which ones will become niche products, and which will disappear.

Josué C. Velázquez Martínez, Executive Director, MIT Master’s Program in SCM; Director, MIT Sustainable Logistics Initiative and MIT GeneSys Project: E-commerce and sustainability: Study more innovative ways to effectively communicate the environmental impacts of fast-shipping e-commerce. Develop a portfolio of novel logistics models for transportation, inventory management, and demand planning that helps companies capture the benefits in cost savings and brand positioning. Fast fashion vs. rental services: Conduct a broad cradle-to-cradle supply chain study to assess the environmental impact of retail clothing by comparing two successful business models: fast fashion and rental services. Micro firms in developing countries: Better understand how the Covid-19 effect has impacted micro and small firms in developing countries. Develop supply chain strategies (inventory, SRM, and CRM) that can potentially improve firms’ survival rates, and support the transition to digitalization, to open new channels to serve customers.​

Matthias Winkenbach, Director, MIT Megacity Logistics Lab: Develop machine learning tools that leverage experienced delivery drivers’ tacit knowledge to plan last-mile delivery routes that improve service quality at lower costs and reduce environmental impact. Determine how unmanned aerial vehicles — from small delivery drones to heavy-lift cargo vertical takeoff and landing craft — can create value in last-mile distribution systems. Understand the main value drivers for aerial last-mile logistics solutions, from increased speed to higher reliability, to reduced environmental footprint. Also, look at knock-on effects of aerial last-mile transportation options (such as inventory pooling and reduced safety stocks) throughout the upstream supply chain. Find the sweet spot for compelling use cases of this type of technology — from last-mile delivery to middle-mile transshipment. Also, determine the optimal design trade-offs when balancing range, payload, speed, and cost. Explore how smart packaging solutions and other data-enabled technologies can support the quest for carbon-neutral deliveries.

“The freight procurement process is outdated and clumsy, particularly, when freight moves through a broker or the spot market,” said Mike Nervick Sleek Technologies CEO. “Sleek Technologies identified a massive gap, so we built a SaaS solution, called OTS, to help shippers dynamically source capacity and reduce their cost throughout their tender process.” #SleekPOV

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