After few weeks break in CBRA blog, we continue today by interviewing Dr. Toni Männistö, who graduated from EPFL end January 2015.
Hi Toni, what was your doctoral thesis about? When I started my PhD, I wanted to find practical solutions that would protect transport logistics from crime and terrorism without worsening speed, reliability and cost-efficiency of logistics operations. So in my research, I tried to understand how the supply chain security community - mainly shippers, logistics service providers and authorities - could go beyond current best security practices. For example: How could they better leverage logistics and security information? What new technologies they could exploit? What legal requirements should be changed? I started my thesis by describing and classifying criminal and terrorist activities that pose a risk to security of the supply chain. Then I analyzed and synthesized existing academic literature on supply chain security and tried to identify principles for logistics-friendly supply chain security.
What were the main results, first practical ones? I did a hands-on case study with Swiss Post, and this field research revealed some evidence-based concepts for improving postal security management. Without going into details here, I argued that future postal security management should focus on compliance monitoring of existing regulations rather than introducing new rules, security-oriented human resource management, building of capabilities to cope with security-related supply chain disruptions and uncertainty, and sharing and exploitation of security-related intelligence.
What about the academic and theoretical results? The synthesis of the academic supply chain security revealed some themes and principles that should be considered when SCS management decisions are made. These themes and design principles are strongly rooted in the SCS literature, and they apparently present the best evidence the scholarly literature can offer. By interviewing supply chain managers across industry sectors, I also characterized and classified crime and terrorist risks that supply chain security addresses. What I found was that supply chain crime problems are numerous and diverse, most important being cargo theft, smuggling, and cyber crime. However, despite the variety the crime problems collapse into three main taxonomic classes when categorized by the way criminals interact with the supply chain: 1) by taking assets out of the supply chain, 2) by introducing unauthorized goods into the supply chain, and 3) by directly attacking the supply chain.
What were the most challenging research steps and phases? The most time-consuming research phase was the data collection. During the process, I interviewed more than forty individuals, read dozens of research papers and did multiple site visits to see logistics operations in action. But the most difficult part was to make sense of all this raw data and refine it into understandable and compelling conclusions. I did write the final thesis document gradually throughout the research process, so the final writing of the thesis document was not as tedious as it could have been.
Any moment you thought that the PhD project would never end? Well, in the midst of the data analysis, it sometimes felt like I could not find enough meaningful results to write a good thesis. But otherwise, not really, I was pretty confident that I could finish - one way or another. Actually, I was more worried about not finishing the thesis on time, after 3,5 year that me and my professor had agreed.
How would you advise students who consider doing a PhD on supply chain security? The most rewarding moments during my PhD were when I talked to supply chain experts and saw security processes in work during my field visits. I would recommend new PhD students to spend some time out the office and to go see how things work in practice. Getting a firm grasp of the practice is important if not necessary for supply chain security scholars, I think. New student should define their research topics based on their personal interests and possibilities. I would just say that whatever topic they choose to study, it should be still relevant after they graduate. It might be a good idea to focus on links between cyber security and traditional off-line supply chain security crimes, for instance.
OK, thanks a lot Toni - and great to have you working again full time in CBRA!
The full doctoral thesis document is available for download here: THESIS_FINAL_JAN_2015_040315