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Supply Chain Management in Times of Covid-19

Could COVID-19 be the black swan that is finally forcing many companies and entire industries to rethink and transform their global supply chain model? A typical Black Swan event, COVID-19 has taken the world by surprise. This newly identified corona virus was first seen in Wuhan on December 31, 2019. By the end of February 2020, almost 90,000 people were infected with the virus, resulting in over 3,000 deaths. Despite considerable efforts to contain the spread of the virus, including a travel ban, COVID-19 has already spread worldwide. More than 65 countries now report positive cases, with the number of positive cases increasing significantly in South Korea, Italy, Japan and Iran. More than 10 percent of positive cases, and rising, are now outside China, threatening other communities, ecosystems and supply chains. Given the characteristics of this virus and the global mobility of people, containment is extremely difficult. The full impact of COVID-19 on supply chains is not yet known. But one thing is certain – it will have global economic and financial implications that will be felt in global supply chains, from raw materials to finished products.

Themen:

The aim of this master thesis is to find out how industrial companies in different sectors (automotive, electrical, textile, etc.) have reacted to the corona pandemic and what success these measures have had. To this end, possible measures will first be identified through a case study. In a subsequent step, the success of the measures will then be evaluated.

We are looking for several master theses, each dealing with one Industry.

Especially small and medium-sized as well as regional companies are facing enormous challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the context of this master thesis, the aim is to find out which disruptive business models arise in this crisis.

The Covid-19 crisis has hit some companies hard and others hardly at all. The aim of this master thesis is to identify the preventive measures of the companies and to analyse their impact and resilience.

The increasing globalization was a decisive factor in the spread of Covid-19.

The aim of the bachelor thesis is to determine what effects the disease had on the transport systems. It is intended to answer how airlines, cruise ships, airports, transit systems and others on the front lines have reacted to this crisis.

The aim of the master thesis is to provide an overview of the spread of the disease through and via transport networks, modalities and systems. It should answer the question of the role of transport means and processes in the spread of the disease as well as explain the connections between the epidemic and travel behaviour.

Global supply chains have long been focused on keeping quality relatively constant while reducing costs at every step. For most companies, this entails a considerable concentration risk in terms of geography and suppliers. However, as the Covid-19 crisis shows, there is an urgent need for more distributed, coordinated and traceable delivery of components across multiple sites and suppliers, while maintaining economies of scale. This would require the establishment of global platforms using sophisticated technologies such as 5G, robotics, IoT and block chains to reliably connect multiple buyers and multiple suppliers through a „web“ of supply chains. The aim of this master thesis is to model such an ecosystem and identify the challenges and opportunities for suppliers.

 

Further study ideas on the topic of corona in supply chain management (e.g. effects on certain supply chains, products, influences by technologies etc.) are welcome.(Case study Research)

The Human Factor in SCM

Logistics and supply chain management have become more challenging in the past decades with ever more demanding customers, increasing complexity of network flows, and requirements to adopt new disruptive technologies. However, supply chains are (and will) still be managed by humans. Successful management of supply chains is heavily influenced by an organization’s ability to hire the “right” talent with the “best” competencies and the “appropriate” understanding of the complexities of the end-to-end supply chain. Therefore, the objective of the following theses is to investigate the newest developments (e.g. skills, recruiting, training and development, mindset, behavior) regarding the human factor in SCM.

Themen:

As outlined by Sweeney (2013), the human factor in SCM is equally important as hard facts such as processes and tools. Therefore, to succeed in a rapidly changing world, a thorough understanding of human resource management (HRM) issues in SCM is vital. To increase the understanding of the research body regarding the human factor in SCM, a literature review shall be conducted. Potential research questions may be, but are not limited to the following:

  • How can the body of literature on the human factor in supply chain management be classified?
  • What are future research directions to guide researchers studying the human factor in supply chain management?
Artificial Intelligence in SCM

The recent and exponential increase in the number of adopters of digital technologies, thanks to information and communications technology (ICTs) advances, has been drastically changing the field of operations management (OM) and supply chain management (SCM). Even though it has been already studied for decades, artificial intelligence (AI) has gained high momentum only in the recent decade, in the wake of an unprecedented development of the Internet and social networks. So, organizations definitely started to incorporate AI techniques into the management of their various operations. The main objective of the bachelor and master theses is to unlock the potential of AI applications in the OM field.

Themen:

The aim of this bachelor/master thesis is to identify and define different alternative frameworks to support AI implementation in OM and SCM. Using a Systematic Literature Review (SLR), the results should give an overview of current ways to implement AI and suggest an optimal approach based on the derived findings.

The aim of this bachelor thesis is twofold: First, the main risks related to AI in OM and SCM shall be identified. Thereby, this issue shall be discussed with regard to the implementation as well as the application of AI. Second, critical success factors of AI adoption, implementation and diffusion in OM and SCM shall be discovered. The questions shall be answered by using a Systematic Literature Review approach (SLR).

In recent months, AI has become a buzzword. Many companies pride themselves on having launched their first AI applications and actively promote them in their marketing campaigns. The experience gained by these first movers could also be important for other companies. Therefore, an in-depth real case study shall be conducted to report AI adoption and implementation in the OM & SCM fields, explore the motivation of AI implementation, identify the main risks related to the implementation of AI in OM and SCM and discover the critical success factors of AI adoption and implementation.

Last Mile Delivery

The transportation of goods is very expensive, with the last mile typically being the most cost-intensive part of the transport chain (Cordon et al., 2016). Companies attempt new concepts to reduce transport costs, for example, avoiding costs that arise when a costumer (freight recipient) cannot be reached. These concepts can be technical and try to save personal resources and spare road use, such as robots, which are used to undertake the last mile delivery (Pettit, 2015). Amazon is currently testing drones for their delivery (Vanian, 2016), and DHL is investigating the topic of unmanned aerial vehicles (Heutger and Kückelhaus, 2014).

Themen:

The aim of the bachelor thesis is to develop various delivery concepts of the future, which are ultimately transformed into future projections.

The aim of the master thesis is to evaluate the trends and concepts of the last mile in food logistics in the future. A literature review will be used to create projections which will be evaluated by experts in a Delphi study.

Industry 4.0 and SCM

Themen:

Despite several years of research, Industry 4.0 is still an emerging topic, which occupies companies, researchers, politics and society. However, besides the increasing number of studies on influences, drivers, barriers and risks, a theoretical consideration is missing.
For this reason, a holistic overview of the theories used in studies on Industry 4.0 should be conducted with the help of a systematic literature analysis.

Research questions:

  • Which theories are applied in Industry 4.0 related research?
  • How can the literature of Industry 4.0 related research be categorized through the theoretical lense?
  • How could theoretical approaches be combined with meaningful disciplinary fields?

Industry 4.0 inherits the potential to influence most aspects of organizations and supply chains and hence the performance of whole business networks. Due to the increasing number of empirical studies, which are, however, widely scattered due to the breadth of the concept, a systematic literature analysis should be conducted to ensure a holistic overview. Furthermore, industry 4.0 related studies with influences on performance will be categorized and prepared within an overall context (meta-analysis).

Research questions:

  • What are impactful empirical studies on Industry 4.0 and SC performance?
  • How can these studies be clustered?
  • How does Industry 4.0 relate to SC performance (firm performance, operational performance, innovation performance, financial performance)

Due to the growing number of globally dispersed players, the demands for more sustainable value creation and the unification of the economic, ecological and social dimensions under the Triple Bottom Line are growing rapidly (Jabbour et al., 2019; Wilhelm et al., 2016). These challenges arise in the context of sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) in order to improve the sustainability outcomes in multi-tier supply chains. Key aspects of SSCM are the governance mechanisms, which influence the overall configuration between the focal firm and multi-tier suppliers (Koberg and Longoni, 2019). These can be grouped into direct and indirect SSCM governance mechanisms and include supplier assessments, supplier collaboration, and multi-stakeholder initiative as well as industry specific certifications and multi-industry certifications (Gimenez and Sierra, 2013; Koberg and Longoni, 2019).
However, indirect mechanisms, their complementation regarding direct governance mechanisms and the support through Industry 4.0 remains scarce (Koberg and Longoni, 2019). Especially as holistic indirect certification based on governance mechanisms could address conflicts of suppliers, which have to comply with multiple overlapping private standards and codes of conduct (Reinecke et al., 2012). In addition, industry-specific and multi-industry certifications are able to create higher transparency compared to voluntary management standards such as ISO14001 (Mueller et al., 2009).

Research questions:

  • How are indirect SSCM governance mechanisms developed in multi-tier supply chains?
  • How does this affect the relationships between the supply chain participants?
  • How can indirect SSCM governance mechanisms complement direct SSCM governance mechanisms?
  • How can Industry 4.0 support the utilization of indirect SSCM governance mechanisms?

The field of Predictive Analytics (PA) provides the possibility for improved decision-making and competitive advantage. Especially the transport logistics sector, which is characterized by high business-related uncertainties, time-sensitivity and volatility, benefits from accurate resource and production planning. While success factors of applying PA are well-investigated on a theoretical SCM level, findings on internal and external challenges of transport logistics organizations remain scarce. Therefore a multiple case approach should be conducted to offer in-depth insights of the challenges of PA with special focus on the human effect. The research should be guided by a theoretical foundation to highlight the managerial and theoretical implication.

Research questions:

  • Which internal and external challenges occur through the application of PA in transport logistics?
  • How are employees influences by PA?
  • How should the interface between PA and employees be designed?
Multi-tier Food SCM

There is a recognition and acceptance that, in order to remain competitive and in some cases survive, organizations must create an appropriate balance of economic, environmental and social dimensions in their global operations (Kwon and Lee, 2019; Sarkis and Zhu, 2018). This triple bottom-up perspective is central to the sustainability strategy and operations of organizations (Sarkis and Dhavale, 2015). Sustainability policies and practices require radical changes in the way organizations are managed (Soderstrom and Weber, 2019). The expansion of sustainability throughout the supply chain has created additional revolutionary and potentially revolutionary innovation and practice (Jadhav et al., 2018). This challenge of achieving sustainability is even more profound in the case of multi-tiered and multi-level supply chains (Koh et al., 2012).

Themen:

The aim of this master thesis is to find out which stakeholders can influence sustainability efforts in food supply chains. In the context of a case study it is necessary to examine, among other things, how power is distributed in the supply chains with regard to sustainability and how power asymmetries influence the success of sustainability efforts in the SCs.

The aim of the master thesis is to achieve a better understanding of the subcontractors‘ perspective in order to anticipate their reaction to SSCM efforts and to determine the prerequisites and obstacles for successful SSCM in multi-level SSCM. How do subcontractors perceive the efforts of the focus companies to improve sustainability in the supply chain? What are the opportunities/challenges resulting from the demands of the focus companies to improve sustainability? What factors and obstacles are important for the participation of subcontractors in multi-level SSCM? Which factors influence the willingness/ability of subcontractors to participate in SSCM?

Voice Commerce in Reail Business

„Siri, where is the nearest supermarket?“ – these or similar questions are increasingly heard lately. People are talking with their smartphone or home speakers and this one answers. Behind this are speech assistants, i.e. software agents that can interpret human speech and react via synthetic voices. Siri from Apple, Alexa from Amazon, Cortana from Microsoft and Assistant from Google are the most popular voice assistants. It’s estimated that there will be 21.4 million smart speakers by 2020. These devices create yet another way for consumers to make online purchases. It turns out that almost 60% of people who own a virtual assistant have used it to make a purchase through voice command. Voice commerce sales reached $1.8 billion last year, with the potential to reach $40 billion in 2022. It is predicted that by 2021, early adopters of the technology who have redesigned their websites to support voice search capability will increase revenue by 30%.

Themen:

Amazon is a pioneer in the use of voice commerce. But not only at Amazon can you already comfortably order products via the digital helpers, but also at Google Express. The aim of this bachelor thesis is to give a comprehensive overview of the application of Voice Commerce in retail.

For companies, voice commerce means both opportunity and risk. Voice commerce reduces costs, e.g. for hotline services. But it limits advertising opportunities. Optical advertising is not necessary with voice control. Even acoustic advertising will be the exception. Because an advertising spot eliminates the user’s time saving. The service becomes unattractive for him. The placement of search requests becomes even more important with voice commerce. Because more than three search results cannot be presented acoustically. The aim of this master thesis is to identify the opportunities and challenges for a retail company and to derive a recommendation for Action.

Language assistants are becoming increasingly popular. The reason for this is that they can be used in the most diverse fields. Digital assistants are also becoming increasingly popular in e-commerce. Amazon is already leading the way with Alexa. Ordering via the Language Assistant is easy and time-saving. In the future, a large part of consumer spending will be done via the digital assistants. Companies can expect an enormous increase in turnover. But what do customers expect from voice commerce? The aim of this master’s thesis is to identify exactly these requirements by conducting a customer survey and to develop a concept of how voice commerce can be implemented in retail.

The aim of this master’s thesis is to find out which possibilities arise for voice commerce at the point of sale and how voice commerce can be used there.

Experience Management

Understanding all of the stakeholder’s experiences throughout their experience journey with a company is a crucial component for companies for their competitiveness (Lemon & Verhoef, 2016). Despite that, a majority of companies is recording rather operational data (e.g. master data, sales, costs…) than experience data (e.g. feedback, opinions, experiences…) today. Moreover, current literature is dealing with a customer-centric approach to manage the experience journey, often neglecting other groups of stakeholders such as employees or suppliers. In addition, literature is looking from a customer-perspective rather than a company-perspective (Grewal & Roggeveen, 2020; Siqueira et al, 2020), although companies have to profit from the application of experience data in the end. Therefore, additional research is needed on the use of experience data of a company’s stakeholders from a company-perspective.

Themen:

The aim of this bachelor’s thesis is to identify and define the concept of experience management from the perspective of a company. Using a systematic literature review, the results should give an overview on the state of the art of academic literature focusing on the benefits for companies by analysing their customer’s journey. The focus of this bachelor’s thesis is i. a. to identify the different objectives (e.g. stakeholder relationship, efficiency, innovation) that are pursued with the experience management and their measures as well as differences between the successful achievements of the objectives.

While the experience management in the business-to-customer-context (B2C) is well established in academic literature, the management of the stakeholder’s experience journeys in a business-to-business-context (B2B) is far less discussed. Therefore, the results of the bachelor’s thesis should give an overview of the management of the experience journey in the B2B-context. By using a systematic literature review, the current state of the art in academic literature as well as future research gaps should be identified. The focus of this bachelor’s thesis i. a. the relevance for the experience management in the B2B-context as well as the differences to the B2C-context and the implications that derive thereof.

Empirics suggest that the linkage of experience data with operational data leads to a better achievement of the defined objectives that are pursued by using experience management. Therefore, the aim of the bachelor’s thesis is to derive hypotheses from academic literature that support the beneficial interplay of operational data and experience data. The focus of the bachelor’s thesis is i. a. the statement of the relevance of linking operational data and experience data and the resulting advantages. Moreover, implications and measures for companies in the successful linking of both types of data should be given. The results should be intertwined into the context of big data analytics and data management.

Maritime Shipping Transportation of the Future

The maritime shipping industry accounted for approx. 90 per cent of the global trade volume in 2019 (Verband Deutscher Reeder, 2020). Therefore, this transportation mode represents the crucial factor in the worldwide transportation of goods. Witolla et al. (2016) state that the maritime shipping volume will double until 2030. Therefore, this industry will maintain its position as the shipping mode for masses of goods. In addition, new automated and digital technologies will affect the maritime shipping industry (Gunasekaran et al 2017). Thus, this will lead to high uncertainty within this industry. E.g., digitalization has the potential to enhance transport sustainability and technological advances allow mobility between different transport modes as well as an integrated global freight transport ecosystem (Harris, et al 2015). Moreover, new business models in the maritime industry may be required in this challenging environment (Kamargianni and Matyas, 2017).

Themen:

In order to explore the future of maritime shipping a Delphi-based scenario study should be conducted. Therefore, projections based on academic literature, expert interviews and consulting studies should be developed and evaluated within a creativity workshop in the research team. Moreover, the Delphi study should be conducted and its results should be analysed.

Smart Supply Chain Management

Smart services are enabled by smart products that are both connected and intelligently aware to enable efficient operation, optimization, analysis, integration and other digitally-enabled business functions (Allmendinger and Lombreglia, 2005Kagerman et al., 2013Porter and Heppelmann, 2014a). The expanded capabilities of smart, connected products and the data they generate render them fundamentally different, enabling new mechanisms of value creation and increasingly customized service features (Porter and Heppelmann, 2014bWünderlich et al., 2015). Although smart services are being increasingly adopted among manufacturers and their importance is widely acknowledged, many service organizations are not capable of using the potential offered by this new kind of service (Brax and Jonsson, 2009Westergren, 2011).

Themen:

Research into the unique characteristics of smart services, beyond anecdotal evidence in case studies, is very limited (Grubic, 2014Ostrom et al., 2015Wünderlich et al., 2015). Studies focusing on the challenges of smart services seem to be particularly scarce (Grubic and Peppard, 2016). The aim of this master thesis is to investigate the main barriers regarding smart service in the logistic industry and to identify the main factors underlying the barriers.

As traditional supply chains are increasingly becoming intelligent with more objects embedded with sensors and better communication, intelligent decision making and automation capabilities, the new smart supply chain presents unprecedented opportunities for achieving cost reduction and enhancing efficiency improvement (Wu et al., 2016). Intelligent supply chains enable increasing collaboration within supply chains. In this context, the effects on the loss of information and thus on competitive advantages need to be investigated in research. The aim of the master thesis is to investigate the impact of Smart Supply Chains on the collaboration of companies.

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the technological and management challenges in implementing smart supply chains. Questions like „How can supply chain analysis assist better technological development?“ and „Can technology be a possible solution to the long lasting management problems like lack of trust in supply chains?“ should be answered.

Truck Driver Shortage

Due to more interdependent business environments, well-executed supply chains are important to lead businesses successfully (Paul, Sarker and Essam, 2016; Aggarwal, Srivastava and Bharadwaj, 2020). However, turbulences and rising volatility in corporate environments are challenging today’s operations managers (Christopher and Holweg, 2011). Different case examples, surveys or industry reports are showing that firms lose on profit, market share or revenue when supply chain disruptions occurs (Hosseine-Motlagh et al., 2019; Chen, Xu and Zhou, 2019; Hendricks and Singhal, 2005). Due to Chopra and Sodhi (2004), such events can affect different planning and/or execution stages within the supply chain, like production or logistics. Imperfection in transportation has consequently also a serious impact on a firm’s performance (Paul et al., 2019). For example time-critical goods that are planned for transport or are already in transit from one node to another (e.g. manufacturer to retailer) and are delayed or even cancelled can have a negative impact on supply chain performance (Hishamuddin Sarker and Essam, 2013).

At present, the topic of a growing shortage of truck drivers is back on the agenda for practitioners and scientists. Without doubt, driver shortage is a longstanding issue for the logistics sector (Mittal et al., 2018). However, today this phenomenon is not limited to a view countries or industries. Internationally, the logistics sectors are worrying about the shortage of truck drivers (Anderhofstadt and Spinler, 2020; Trick, and Peoples, 2019). This negative trend will affect more and more supply chains from industry and trade, which will inevitably lead to supply chain disruptions.

Until now, there are numerous scientific findings on how to recruit and keep people or why the profession is seen so negatively (Miller, Bolumole and Muir, 2020; Stephenson and Richard, 1996). Unfortunately, there is a lack of profound knowledge about how supply chain partners can compensate the decreasing number of truck drivers and thus the transport volumes.

Themen:

In modern supply chains, companies are in a state of mutual dependence. It is therefore important for the different supply chain partners that risks of volatile processes are minimized as good as possible. However, the shortage of truck drivers is a market-driven phenomenon. The common mechanisms in vertical networks (e.g. to react with penalties to force the contract partner to improve a situation or to even change the contract partner) only work to a limited extent, as other companies are struggling with the same problem. One possibility for retailers or suppliers is to set up an own procurement logistics or distribution cooperation. Therefore, the empirical thesis will address the question whether the shortage of truck drivers will promote the concepts of procurement logistics and/or distribution cooperation and what will be the impact on the set-up of current supply chains.

Today unfortunately, many trucks still drive through Germany with free loading space. This is surprising, as, for example, in food retailing, numerous suppliers deliver to the same unloading points (e.g. distribution centers of the retail industry). Therefore, a consolidation seems to make sense, especially in terms of the increasing shortage of truck drivers. The purpose of the empirical thesis is to investigate the loss of freight space today. Furthermore, first ideas on how to visualize the utilization of truckloads are welcomed.

Due to the shortage of truck drivers and the resulting reduced transport volume, it is necessary to start the evaluation of modern ramp concepts. Today truck drivers lose too much time by waiting in front of loading and unloading locations instead of driving the truck. This requires that the loading and unloading at the ramps must be planned more efficient due to a higher transparency in the distribution network. The aim of this empirical thesis is to identify, together with loading and unloading supply chain partners within the food industry, how the waiting time of trucks can be significantly reduced by using new working methods.

Autonomous Driving of Heavy Duty Trucks

The road transportation industry is facing significant changes due to the development of autonomous driving and platooning of trucks (Monios and Bergqvist, 2019). The introduction of this technology will lead to changes in the interchange between different transportation modes as well as the company’s value (Skeete, 2018). Therefore, the future of road transportation and how these changes will affect the stakeholders exist is characterized by high uncertainty (Fritschy and Spinler, 2019). Monios and Bergqvist (2020) suggest that the clear separation between manufacturers, logistic service providers and freight carriers will dissolve. This raises the questions if and how companies in the road transportation industry prepare themselves for radical change.

Themen:

The aim of the master’s thesis is to explore the measures that are taken by different stakeholders of the road transportation industry to prepare themselves for the future facing autonomous driving. These stakeholders include i. a. OEMs, automotive suppliers, logistics service providers, truck leasing companies and more. By conducting a systematic literature, review measures that are discussed in academic literature should be identified. By conducting semi-structured interviews with experts from the respective stakeholders, these findings should be verified and completed. The aim of the master’s thesis is to give stakeholder-specific insights into their preparation for autonomous driving.

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