Keywords applicable to this article: inventory, logistics, supply chain network design, transportation
network design, distribution network design, warehousing, push and pull supply chain, supply
chain efficiency and effectiveness, supply chain performance drivers, demand forecasting,
aggregation planning, economies of scale, supply chain risk management, global supply chains, IT
management in supply chains, E-supply chains, Lean Six Sigma in supply chains, sustainable
supply chains.
By:
Professor Nand Kishore Prasad, Principal Consulting Officer

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Thesis and Dissertation topics related to Supply Chain
Management, Procurement Management, Inventory
Management, and Distribution Management.
Supply Chain Management is one such area that will never have dearth of research topics for dissertation and thesis projects. This is because the global
business framework is changing very rapidly due to the challenges posed by globalization, which directly affects supply chain design and management of an
organization. Environmental issues, rising oil prices, increase of carbon footprints, rising tariffs, rising threats in international waters and air cargo,
increasing supply chain risks, high competition, rising customers' expectations, etc. are significant challenges facing modern supply chain managers that are
already under pressure to reduce lead times in every step of supply chain management. Modern supply chain practices need to be highly proactive,
horizontally integrated, information driven, network based, and technology enabled. These challenges are rapidly eliminating the old beliefs and practices
giving way to new ways of managing the components of supply chain. The core elements of supply chain, viz. procurement management, production
management, inventory management, distribution management, and retail management, can no longer operate as distinct verticals but need to be integrated
horizontally with the help of accurate and timely information management and flow, synchronous activities, effective coordination, decision-making power
at lower levels, better economies of scale, elimination of wastes, increased reliability on actual demands (than demand forecasting), organization wide cost
reduction targets and excellent service delivery. In this context, I hereby present some of the key areas in which, the students may like to conduct their
research studies:

(A) Functional Integration of Procurement, Production, Inventory, Distribution, and Inventory Management: In modern supply chains, organizations are
giving high emphasis on horizontal integration of supply chain components by breaking all the traditional functional barriers that have existed since the
concept was born. Modern supply chain agents integrate effectively by sharing timely and accurate information with everyone in very transparent manner.
For example, if the supply chain has multiple inventory points (Stock Keeping Units), the procurement manager may have access to daily, or even hourly,
updates of the inventory levels at all the points. Functional integration is evident even with suppliers and customers. The systems like automatic reordering
by an IT enabled system at fixed pre-negotiated prices whenever inventory levels dip below the reorder points, continuous flow of consumption information
upstream and shipping information downstream between the endpoints, supplier managed inventory at customer premises, exact and timely flow of actual
demand information reducing the need for demand forecasting, etc. are no longer just theories. I suggest that students may like to undertake academic
research studies on how supply chain integration is carried out by modern companies, by conducting on-field surveys and interviews. The studies can be
conducted on a particular company or on the entire supply network of a commodity.

(B) Supply Chain Network Design: The concept of network design is rapidly gaining popularity in supply chain management. In fact, many modern
scholars are talking about renaming "Supply Chain Management" to "Supply Network Management". This is because companies no longer just manage
multi-tier suppliers in the form of chains but rather manage a whole network of suppliers for every key purchase. The concept of supply network has evolved
as a result of globalization and rapid growth of Internet leading to reduced gaps between suppliers and buyers of the world. The network design concepts are
applied in the areas of location of facilities, transportation, distribution, and retailing. The actual design depends upon the supply chain strategy, scope, cost,
risks and uncertainties, and demand information. The key design considerations in network design are - nodes and links, direct shipments, milk runs,
in-transit mergers, domestic transit routes, international transit routes, last mile transit routes, locations of plants, depots, warehouses, distributor storage,
retail outlets, and risks related to each node and link. The key factors that need to be taken into account are - strategic factors, technological factors,
macroeconomic factors, political factors, infrastructure factors, competitive factors, socioeconomic factors, localization, response time expectations (of
customers), facility costs, and logistics costs. In my view, network design in logistics and supply chain management has ample opportunities for conducting
academic studies for students and professionals. The studies will be based more in interviews because the students will need to learn from specialist network
designers in supply chains.

(C) Pull Supply Chain Strategy: It is almost official now that the world is drifting towards pull supply chain strategy. Now the business houses are focusing
more on gaining exact demand information rather than depending upon demand forecasts. The companies have already faced significant problems due to
high inventory costs and wastage of unconsumed products in light of forecast inaccuracy. However, it may be noted that pull supply chain strategy is not as
straightforward as push strategy. The strategists no longer have the leverage to just depend upon demand models, viewed as magic wands in the past, but
are required to proactively collect actual demand information. This change requires effective integration with suppliers and buyers, and large scale
information sharing through sophisticated information systems. The companies need to think much beyond Japanese Kanbans or lean strategies (even they
have backfired, really!!). The students may like to study on what companies are doing or can do to shift to pull strategy as much as possible.

Dear Visitor: Please visit the page detailing SUBJECT AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION pertaining to our services to view the broader perspective of our
offerings for Dissertations and Thesis Projects. Please also visit the page having
TOPICS DELIVERED by us.
Please visit the extension of this article for topic development in the areas of lean, six sigma, and sustainability in procurement, logistics, supply chain
management, and their associated domains
.
With Sincere Regards, Prof. N. K. Prasad. Apologies for interruption; please continue reading.

(D) Supply Chain Efficiency and Effectiveness: Every organization spends significant amounts on supply chain management. Effective financial planning,
cost control, timely service, high quality of service, and return on investments in supply chain are key drivers of efficiency and effectiveness. A number of
metrics are taken as inputs to the strategic supply chain planning to ensure that optimum efficiency and effectiveness can be achieved. This research area
may require on-site quantitative data collection, and quantitative analytics using SPSS and such other statistical analysis tools to arrive at the results. The
students may have to discover independent and dependent variables and their correlations using descriptive and inferential statistical methods.

(E) Supply Chain Integration: This research area may be taken as an extension of functional integration (point A). The student may like to study how
companies are integrating with key suppliers and customers to improve flow of information about demands (upstream) and supply (downstream) and to
reduce lead times. The modern concepts like direct delivery (from suppliers to customers), vendor managed inventories (VMI), cross-docking, optimal
procurement policy, optimal manufacturing strategy, inventory minimization, input and output control, aggregation planning, process integration, real time
monitoring and control, optimization of operations, supply chain object library, enterprise supply chain integration modelling, 3PL and 4PL, quick response
(QR), efficient consumer response (ECR), continuous replenishment planning (CRP), and collaborative planning, forecasting, and replenishment (CPFR) are
included in the scope of supply chain integration. The students may chose a particular area and conduct on-site interviews of supply chain experts about
how these practices are incorporated by organizations in their supply chain integration strategies. The studies may be mostly qualitative.

(F) Supply Chain Performance Drivers: The key performance drivers of supply chain management are - facility effectiveness, inventory effectiveness,
transportation effectiveness, information effectiveness, sourcing effectiveness, pricing effectiveness, delivery effectiveness, quality effectiveness and service
effectiveness. These drivers comprise multiple performance indicators that may be measured quantitatively by collecting data and applying them in SPSS.
The studies in this area may primarily be quantitative with descriptive statistical analysis. The sustainable supply chain management to support the triple
bottom-line (equity, environment, and economy) is also included in the scope of supply chain performance drivers. Topic development in this area is
presented in an extension of this article (please click here).

(G) Demand Forecasting: The concept of demand forecasting is diminishing as more and more companies are now focusing on getting accurate and timely
demand information rather than depending upon forecasts. This is carried out by effective integration of information from all the nodes of the supply chain
and disseminating upstream as well as downstream. However, there are many industries that will continue to depend upon push strategy and demand
forecasting. The students may like to study about the drawbacks of traditional forecasting methods (like time series forecasting, moving averages, trend
analysis, etc.) and the ways of improving forecasting accuracy. Many companies want to incorporate real time data in their forecasting models and focus on
forecasting for shorter periods. This requires lots of additional knowledge over and above the traditional ways of working upon past demand data. The
modern forecasting models may be based on accurate knowledge of customer segments, major factors that influence forecasting accuracy, information
integration, bullwhip effect, scenario planning, simulations, external factors, risks, and causal (Fishbone or Ishikawa) analysis. Most of the studies may be
qualitative or triangulated.

(H) Aggregation Planning: Aggregation is carried out by a company to determine the levels of pricing, capacity, production, outsourcing, inventory, etc.
during a specified period. Aggregation planning helps in consolidation of the internal and external stock keeping units (SKUs) within the decision and
strategic framework for reducing costs, meeting demands and maximising profits. It may be viewed as the next step of either demand forecasting (push
strategy) or demand information accumulation (pull strategy) for carrying out estimations of the inventory level, internal capacity levels, outsourced capacity
levels, workforce levels, and production levels required in a specified time period. The students may like to conduct qualitative case studies to research about
modern practices of aggregation planning in various industrial and retail sectors.

(I) Global Supply Chains: In the modern world, suppliers in a country are facing direct competition from international suppliers as if the latter are operating
within the country. This has happened due to modernization of information management and dissemination, supply routes, payment channels, electronic
contracts, leading to improved reliability and reduced lead times of international suppliers. The students may like to undertake study on monitoring and
management of global supply chains/networking by professionals working in MNCs.

(J) E-Supply Chains: E-Supply Chains are linked with E-Businesses that use Internet as their medium for accepting orders and payments, and then using the
physical channels to deliver the products. E-supply chain is an excellent example of pull strategy and short term demand forecasting. Information flow
across the supply chain is instantaneous because both end points and the intermediate agents work through a single Internet enabled portal. E-Bay is viewed
as one of the founders of this concept at global scales with built-in electronic contract signing and management, electronic payment processing, and
electronic delivery processing. The students can find various case studies on E-Supply chains, although the empirical theories are still evolving. The research
studies would be quite challenging, modern and unique, but poorly supported by literatures as the field is still evolving.

(K) Supply Chain Risk Management: Supply chain risk management is gaining immense popularity due to globalization of competitive landscapes, and
growing threats and uncertainty. Risk management in supply chains is directly linked with supply chain agility and hence it needs to be done in very
organized and objective manner, incorporating quantitative models. Supply chain risk management is a novel dissertation/thesis research area based on the
known and teething current problems in logistics/supply chain management. The root of the problems lie somewhere in the uncertainties in upstream as
well as downstream flows of materials, funds, and information. For example, if there are errors in calculating economic order quantities (EOQ) and reorder
levels, the ordering process may not synchronize well with the lead-times. On the other hand, the lead-times are uncertain due to various delay factors and
fluctuation in costs if a transportation mode is changed. Holding inventory is the safest haven for logistics managers, but I am sure the top management of
any organisation will never like it. The primary purpose of this subject matter is to keep lowest possible inventories while ensuring consistent, timely, and
accurate supplies to the end users. The challenges are in the following areas:

(a) Lack of integration/synchronization/co-ordination
(b) Lack of appropriate quantitative models
(c) Lack of integrated information availability, even if the quantitative models are in place (i.e., the company has invested in SCM software tools)

The solution is somewhere in implementing an appropriate supply chain risk communication system. You will appreciate, supply chain risk is also a
floating entity just like materials, funds and information. If the entire chain is integrated through an extranet portal system, and updates of every
consignment code are uploaded periodically by all agents connected with the portal, there can be proactive risks generated by the software for the logistics
managers such that they can take operating level, tactical level, and even strategic level mitigation actions. Although such a system is still in its conceptual
stage, academic researchers can contribute to its overall conceptualisation and design. It may be integrated as a layer above the traditional SCM software. An
agent sensing any variations in delay or cost may log a threat and its probability against a consignment code. The probability and impact levels may be fed to
the logistics agents that can calculate the impact (like stock-out by a date). The outcome will be a risk value which will be escalated to an appropriate
authority level, and appropriate mitigation action will be suggested. For example, if there is a temporary unrest in a country, the current consignments can be
airlifted and subsequent orders placed to an alternate supplier.

I suggest that you may like to study the source of supply chain risks in a selected sample of transactions in your field and design a novel SCRC (supply chain
risk communication) framework employing the ISO 31000, M-o-R, COSO, COBIT v5, and similar Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) frameworks for
enterprise wide estimation and communication of risks (please visit our articles on IT governance and Information Risk Management). The key risks that you
can target in your SCRM framework can be categorized as: disruptions, delays, forecast errors, procurement risks, supplier risks, lead time risks, receivable
risks, capacity risks and inventory risks. You may collect a list of known supply chain threats in your area of interest, categorize them under one of these risk
categories, judge the impact on business, judge the vulnerabilities, and arrive at the risk values using the quantitative formulations of the chosen model. Once
the risk values are calculated, you may propose mitigation strategies pertaining to redundant suppliers, better supplier relationships (i.e., eliminating
procurement hops), alternate routes (i.e., alternate loading/unloading ports and links), add capacity and inventory, shift warehouses, change distribution
model (direct shipments, cyclic shipments, milk run shipments, in-transit merging, adding retail stores, cross-dock distribution, etc.), change transportation
media, etc. You may validate the proposed SCRC framework by interviewing supply chain experts in your country. Hence, the problem statement of your
thesis will be related to the known threats and vulnerabilities in supply chain management in the selected transactions (chosen by you), and the solution will
be a novel Supply Chain risk communication framework to manage the risks resulting from these threats and vulnerabilities. It will be a quantitative research
with descriptive and inferential statistical analysis. The outcome of this model will be on-the-fly alerts on risk levels and their mitigation as soon as a risk is
logged (you will need to define mitigation actions against various risk levels, and the suggested authorities to make decisions). You may like to validate your
model by surveying experts in your network. A short, and to-the-point structured questionnaire may be used such that you can present validity and
reliability analysis using SPSS.

(L) Information Technology in Supply Chain Management: A number of information technology platforms are popular in supply chain management. Some
of the key IT tools in supply chain management are IBM Supply Chain Simulator, Rhythm (by i2 Technologies), Advanced Planner and Optimizer by SAP,
Manugistics, Matrix One, Oracle Supply Chain Management, etc. These tools possess various functionalities - like, enterprise planning, demand planning,
production scheduling, distribution planning, procurement and replenishment planning, facilities location planning, replenishment planning,
manufacturing planning, logistics strategy formulation, stocking levels planning, lead times planning, process costing, customer service planning,
procurement, supply and transportation scheduling, global logistics management, constraint-Based master planning, demand management, material
planning, network Design and optimization, supply chain analytics, transportation management, Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) planning, continuous
replenishment planning (CRP), and many more. The students may like to study about various IT systems and software tools for carrying out such activities in
supply chain management. The studies may be primarily qualitative or triangulated. Your focus should be on application design and integration, system
features that are practically useful in supply chain operations, decision-making and decision-supporting tools (like, dashboards, supply chain intelligence,
supply chain performance monitoring, etc.), on-line analytical processing, collection, storage, and integration of information, sharing and dissemination of
information, internal and external integration, process design, mapping, and integration, enterprise resources planning and IT enablement of global best
practices (like, quick response, supply chain synchronisation, virtual supply chain, efficient customer response, collaborative planning, forecasting, and
replenishment, etc.).

(M) Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in Supply Chain Management and Value Chain Management: RFID may be viewed from two perspectives: (a) a
highly innovative technology for location-based services, and (b) a tool for achieving process excellence in industrial engineering, supply chain management,
vehicle tracking, asset management, government services, and many other applications. I hereby suggest you some topics in which, both the perspectives are
integrated. Especially in the field of value chain management, many studies are emerging on the relationships between technology excellence variables and
process excellence variables.

Let us visualize the variables of the two sides:

RFID Technology:

(a) Cost effectiveness
(b) Distributed information tagging (information attached with assets)
(c) Asset owner identification
(d) Information sharing accuracy
(e) Real time information sharing
(f) Ubiquitous coverage
(g) Location identification (both outdoor and indoor positioning of assets)
(h) Connectionless
(i) Integration with cloud-based information systems
(j) Integration with industrial sensors / control systems
(k) Assets security (against thefts and sabotage)
(l) Rapid incident response
(m) Integration with environmental sensors (like, continuous emissions and contamination reporting)
(n) RFID technology and Internet enabling (for communications and information sharing over the Internet)
(o) Rapid scalability
(p) Rapid commissioning and decommissioning

Value Chain process excellence:

(a) Multi-echelon information sharing
(b) Strategic supplier relationships
(c) Strategic customer relationships
(d) Automation of processes and tasks
(e) Multi-echelon collaborations
(f) Real-time information sharing
(g) Quality excellence
(h) Elimination of wastes (eliminating processes and tasks that do not add value)
(i) Elimination of defects and errors (quality excellence)
(j) Multi-skilled employees
(k) Cellular production systems
(l) Lean consumption of resources
(m) Agility in demand fulfillment
(n) Flexible assembly systems
(o) Demand pull strategy
(p) Just-in-time inventory management
(q) Real-time communications

There may be many more variables that we can add in these two lists. In addition, we can also add sub-variables (or latent variables to each of them).
If you observe, each of these areas demand a separate study, which may incorporate explorations of designs, relationship building, and simulations. Such
designs can be implemented in modeling software (like, OPNET Modeler). We have completed multiple technical studies involving design of architectures
using RFID sensors and WiFi networks in different application scenarios, and simulating the key variables reflecting performance, behavior, efficiency,
effectiveness, and problem areas. You may design your research in two directions: Technical architecture and designs with the help of significant levels of
system reviews, product reviews, design reviews and their detailing, and quantitative studies for exploring relationships between RFID variables and process
excellence variables in supply chain / value chain management.

(N) Cloud Computing in Supply Chain Management: Cloud computing is a new ICT research paradigm of services-oriented computing in which,
infrastructure, platforms, applications, security, databases, communications, and security are offered as on-demand services by cloud service providers
through virtualisation and orchstration of computing, networking, and storage facilities deployed through massive parallel computing of hundreds of
thousands of hardware systems connected in arrays. Please visit this link for learning more about cloud computing research topics. Recently, multiple
studies have been conducted on the role and value of cloud computing in supply chain management. Researchers have related effectiveness of information
systems integration, process intergration, collaboration, coordination, communications, information sharing, information availability, strategic supplier
relationships, operations performance, lean operations, just-in-time operations, elimination of dysfunctional phenomena (like, bullwhip effect, beer gaming,
and order rationing), and sustainability of supply chain management with the characterstic variables of cloud computing, such as real-time communications,
multi-platform and multi-vendor integration, ubiquitous access, multinational systems, low costs of business operations dependent upon ICT, low capital
investments, platform independence, high security through virtual clouds and their boundaries, high scalability, high availability, high uptime, high
performance, exchange of services, multi-tenancy, ease of deployment, and many more. Integration of RFID information databases and control of shifting,
movement, and storage of assets through RFID integration with cloud computing are latest innovations enhancing the efficiency of supply chain operations.
Cloud computing has also facilitated effective integration of Internet of things in which, assets and their groups can be directly controlled through
semi-automated control panels and automated algorithm-driven intelligence for identifying, tracking, moving, and controlling of millions of assets stored by
thousands of suppliers across the world.

Cloud computing has helped in evolving some new forms of systems in supply chain management. For example, cloud computing has eliminated the need
for manual electronic data interchange between the suppliers' echelons and the manufacturers' echelons. With the advent of cloud computing, suppliers and
manufacturers can share cloud-based application systems with real-time processes' and databases' integration. Collaborative operations like
vendor-managed inventory, upstream flow of consumption patterns and demand information, and collaborative replenishment of inventory are managed
more effectively through cloud computing. New forms of framework agreements between a pool of strategic suppliers and a pool of buyers, real-time bidding
and order closures, real-time auctions, real-time tracking of inventory status of multiple suppliers, and real-time display of prices offered by multiple
suppliers have emerged with the advent of cloud-based exchanges. The current models of trading exchanges like Amazon, Snapdeal, and eBay and payment
exchanges like PayPal, PayTM, and Skrill use the cloud exchange-based framework agreements between supplier and buyers that ensure protection of either
sides irrespective of their locations anywhere in the world. Cloud computing has also helped in evolution of virtual marketplaces, virtul retail, and virtual
shopping malls.

The topics pertaining to cloud computing in supply chain management may comprise quantitative study of relationships between the variables at the either
sides or exploratory studies on new business models and their designs emerging from cloud-based supply chain management. The studies shall involve
qualitative methods like interviews, focus group discussions, action research, organisational ethnography, phenomenology, and grounded theory, and
quantitative methods like inferential statistical analysis, multivariate statistical modeling, simulations, system dynamics modeling, and Taguchi's method.
The key tools recommended are Ishikawa diagrams, observation flow charts, mapping charts for analysing interviews, qualitative data analysis (identifying,
cleaning, categorising, classification, encoding, comparing, and contrasting), SPSS, LISREL, ARENA, VENSIM, OPNET, and TAGUCHI's templates.

Other possible proposed research areas are the following. Please visit the extension of this article for topic
development in Supply Chain Management and its related domains in some of the areas listed below
.

(O) Lean and Six-Sigma in Supply Chain Management
(P) Sustainabile Supply Chain Management
(Q) Sustainable Procurement
(R) Sustainable Transportation
(S) Logistics and Supply Chain Process Excellence
(T) Reverse Logistics and Supply Chains for Remanufacturing
(U) Cloud computing based production and industrial engineering
(V) Internet Of Things in Supply Chain Management
(W) Transportation Networking through Location-based services
(X) Strategies to counter supply chain inefficiencies - like Forrester effect (Bullwhip effect), Beer Gaming, Order Rationing, Lead Time Uncertainties,
Disintegrated Processes, Wastes, and Unsustainability
(Y) Supply Chains as Value Chains networks
(Z) Gold mining supply chain management - special studies needed as they are quite different from the traditional supply chains
(AA) Business continuity planning in supply chain management
(AB) Relationships between supply chain performance variables and business performance variables

Do you want to explore some of these areas for topic development? Please visit the extension of this article
for topic development in the areas of lean, six sigma, and sustainability in procurement, logistics, supply
chain management, and their associated domains
.
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