Asset supply networks in humanitarian operations: A combined empirical-simulation approach

November 2018 | Stauffer, Jon M.

International humanitarian organizations (IHOs) respond to mega disasters while maintaining development programs in the rest of the world (ROW). This means an IHO’s asset supply network must perform the challenging task of supporting a fast disaster response while simultaneously maintaining cost-effective ROW development programs. We study how supply network asset flows are impacted during a mega disaster response and find that resource fluidity, the capability to reallocate resources quickly, impacts both mega disaster and ROW program asset flows within these supply networks. Using data from a large IHO’s response to a mega disaster and econometric models, we find a dependency between ROW asset flow and mega disaster asset flow in IHOs with resource fluidity. As mega disaster flow increases, there is a decrease in hub-to-hub ROW asset flows and an increase in other ROW asset flows. This is contrary to most humanitarian operations research, which typically assumes independent asset flows. Because of resource fluidity, the combination of these flows does not compromise ROW operations. We use these empirical results to feed a simulation analysis that extends our research to IHOs without resource fluidity and provides actionable insights for varying types of IHOs in various demand scenarios. Simulation insights illustrate that resource fluidity impacts IHO asset supply network costs and optimal configurations.



  • Alfonso Pedraza-Martinez
  • Lucy Yan
  • Luk Van Wassenhove


Journal of Operations Management

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