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Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering


When disaster struck Haiti in 2010, chaos ensued. Immense challenges were faced by the hundreds of government, military, private, and nongovernmental organizations who rushed to offer support. The sheer number of responders, the urgency of the situation, and the crippled infrastructure complicated the response efforts. As a result, decision makers struggled to work with unreliable data that was subject to rapid change. The unpredictability of each scenario made it extremely difficult – if not impossible – to efficiently deliver supplies and medical care to those in need. Disasters highlight the complications inherent in decentralized supply chains – those in which multiple stakeholders take actions that impact the overall system – but proactive supply chain engineering can help prevent inefficiency, redundancy, and missed opportunities.


A leader in her field, Jessica Heier Stamm uses operations research to understand and improve humanitarian and public health systems to avoid complications like those that erupted in Haiti. Heier Stamm’s research group uses advanced analytics to model complex logistics systems with multiple stakeholders. They have already found innovative ways to improve response systems and access to patient treatment facilities. Future work will explore mechanisms, such as incentives for agencies, that improve efficiency and effectiveness in decentralized decision environments.

RESEARCH OBJECTIVE - Quantify impact of decentralized decision making on logistics system performance and identify mechanisms that lead to optimal or near-optimal performance.

1. What modeling approaches are best suited for representing systems in which humanitarian agencies and/or beneficiaries make decisions in a decentralized way?

2. What solution techniques are required for these models?

3. What changes in logistics systems design or management can mitigate the impact of decentralization?

4. How can logistics systems be made more robust to uncertain conditions inherent in humanitarian context?

  • Using operations research and game theory tools to design and analyze systems in which decisions about system control are made in a decentralized way.
  • Increasing awareness about the positive difference that engineers make in people's lives and creating pathways to engineering careers, especially with students from under-represented groups.