Maria Besiou is Dean of Research and Professor of Humanitarian Logistics at Kühne Logistics University. She received her Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and Operations Management from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) in Greece. She holds a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from AUTH. Before joining KLU she worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Social Innovation Centre at INSEAD, France.
Besiou’s specialization is on the field of sustainable supply chain management. Her main research interests are in humanitarian logistics, closed-loop supply chains and stakeholder media. She studies dynamic complex systems, characterized by multiple actors and feedbacks, in a strategic level rendering system dynamics methodology an appropriate tool. Her research focuses on the decision-making of commercial companies and humanitarian organizations, while managing their supply chains. It has been motivated by real problems that these supply chains face such as regulations, limitation of resources, stochasticity, decentralization and monitoring by online communities. Hence, the insights that arise from her research can be transferred to policy-makers and decision-makers dealing with supply chain issues.
As a researcher, she is currently involved in the Research Institute on Leadership and Operations in Humanitarian Aid (RILOHA), which seeks to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian aid via psychological insights, and serves as the Academic Director of the Center of Humanitarian Logistics and Regional Development (CHORD), which aims to bring together the best of two worlds by combining top-class academic research and education with operational training and consulting excellence.
Her research appears in several case studies, award-winning papers and peer-review international journals like Production and Operations Management (POM), Journal of Operations Management (JOM), Manufacturing & Service Operations Management (MSOM), California Management Review (CMR), and the European Journal of Operational Research (EJOR).
Besiou serves as an Associate Editor in Decision Sciences Journal and the Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management (JHLSCM), as a Senior Editor of the Disaster Management Department (DMD) of Production and Operations Management (POM), and on the editorial review boards of Journal of Operations Management (JOM) and Production and Operations Management (POM).
Up Close & Personal
“What makes KLU really special, is that it feels like home.”
– Prof. Dr. Maria Besiou
(2023): Supply chain preparedness: How operational settings, product and disaster characteristics affect humanitarian responses, Production and Operations Management, 32 (8): 2491-2509.
Abstract: Supply chains are dynamic and complex systems. This holds particularly true for humanitarian supply chains that operate under strong uncertainty. In view of an ever-growing gap of unmet humanitarian needs, it is essential to gain a better understanding of the behavior of humanitarian supply chain systems. Despite a growing academic output in this field, there is a lack of empirical studies that take an integrated view on humanitarian supply chains and support decision makers with fact-based evidence. Based on four extensive case studies and existing literature, we developed a system dynamics model that reflects the operational reality of humanitarian organizations in form of their centralized, hybrid and decentralized settings. The model provides a holistic supply chain view and measures the operational performance with regard to response cost, delivery lead time and impact on the local economy. Furthermore, we studied the impact of preparedness investments to enhance operational performance in the supply chain and deliver more humanitarian assistance with the limited resources available. Finally, we used our model to analyze the impact of major shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic to assess the vulnerability of humanitarian supply chains. The results indicate that operational settings, product and disaster characteristics have a major influence on the supply chain performance both in the noninvestment case as well as in the case where preparedness investments have been made. Specifically, for low-value items, we find that decentralized settings have the lowest supply chain costs while for high-value items the price difference between local and international procurement determines which setting is the most cost-effective one. The preferability of the supply chain setting strongly depends on the indicator chosen. Hence, ultimately, the findings emphasize the need to apply appropriate indicators and identify their trade-offs to comprehensively analyze the performance of humanitarian supply chain settings. The newly introduced Humanitarian Return-on-Investment concept can play an important role in this context.
(2023): Impact of pandemics on humanitarian retailing operations: A voucher´s case, Production and Operations Management, 32 (5): 1512-1528.
Abstract: In 2020, the world started a fight against a pandemic that has severely disrupted commercial and humanitarian supply chains. Humanitarian organizations (HOs), like the World Food Programme (WFP), adjusted their programs in order to manage this pandemic. One such program is cash and voucher assistance (CVA), which is used to bolster beneficiaries' freedom of choice regarding their consumption. In this vein, WFP supports local retailers to provide CVA to beneficiaries who do not have access to a functioning market. However, the operations of these stores can suffer from a very high transmission risk of COVID-19 unless preventive measures are put in place to reduce it. This paper discusses strategies that retailers and HOs can enact to maximize their service and dignity levels while minimizing transmission risk under a CVA program during a pandemic. We argue that HOs providing CVA programs can improve their assistance during a pandemic by implementing strategies that impact the retailing operations of their retailers.
(2022): Orchestrating coordination among humanitarian organizations, Production and Operations Management, 31 (5): 1977-1996.
Abstract: Disasters mobilize hundreds of humanitarian organizations. Despite the common aim to assist beneficiaries, coordination among humanitarian organizations remains a challenge. This is why the United Nations has formed clusters to facilitate information and resource exchange among humanitarian organizations. Yet, coordination failures in prior disasters raise questions as to the effectiveness of the cluster approach in coordinating relief efforts. To better understand barriers to coordination, we developed a grounded theory and augmented the theory with an agent-based simulation. Our theory discerns a cluster lead’s roles of facilitating coordination but also investing in its own ground operations. We find that specifically serving such a dual role impairs trust and consequent coordination among cluster members. The additional simulation findings generalize the detrimental effect of the cluster lead’s dual role versus a pure facilitator role and specifies it against various boundary conditions.
(2020): Humanitarian Operations: A World of Opportunity for Relevant and Impactful Research, Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, 22 (1): 135-145.
Abstract: The number of people affected by disasters has increased over the past decades, whereas funding has declined. The need for effective humanitarian aid is, therefore, larger than ever. Humanitarian organizations have recognized the critical role of supply chain management in reaching beneficiaries, and they have introduced commercial routines and best practices. Academics realized that humanitarian operations constitute a fruitful new research area and adapted solution techniques developed for commercial operations to disaster situations with mitigated success. Meanwhile, the problems that humanitarian practitioners face quickly evolve. In this paper, we highlight challenges in matching practitioner needs with academic publications and outline the great opportunities for impactful and relevant research.
(2020): The role of operational expenditures and misalignments in fundraising for international humanitarian aid, Journal of Operations Management, 66: 379-417.
Abstract: Funding for international humanitarian aid falls far behind demand for disaster response, hampering the operations of international humanitarian organizations (IHOs). One remedy to close this gap is to increase the effectiveness of fundraising activities for IHOs. This remedy means spending as little as possible in fundraising activities but, at the same time, still receiving sufficient donations to implement disaster response programs in response to the needs that arise when disasters occur. We contribute to the literature by theoretically developing and estimating a conceptual framework that links donation behavior to the operations that IHOs aim to pursue; the framework incorporates operational costs communicated in appeals, fundraising efforts, and media attention. We argue that effects are not homogenous across disasters but that IHOs can leverage public attention and disaster and appeal characteristics, such as operational costs, to increase donations. We test the framework on a unique data set for disaster response programs operated by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), covering 174 disasters to which the IFRC responded between 2010 and 2017.
EURO HOpe mini-conferences on Humanitarian Operations
How can RLH Coop and CHORD collaborate to further realize the European Commission European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO)’s Humanitarian Logistics Policy and its underlying paradigm shift?
Issues of Leadership in Humanitarian Aid Operations
SCO - African Center of Excellence for Sustainable Operations for Ressource Management and Food Supply
|since September 2020
|Dean of Research, Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg
Professor of Humanitarian Logistics, Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg
|Visiting Scholar at MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, Cambridge, MA, USA
|2016 - 2019
|Professor of Humanitarian Logistics, Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg
Visiting Scholar at INSEAD Social Innovation Centre
|2013 - 2016
Associate Professor of Humanitarian Logistics, Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg
|2012 - October 2013
Assistant Professor of Logistics, Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg
|2009 - 2011
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Social Innovation Centre at INSEAD, France
|2005 - 2009
Ph.D. Candidate in Operations Management, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH), Greece
|2004 - 2009
Research and Teaching Assistant, Department of Mechanical Engineering, AUTH, Greece
Ph.D., Operations Management, Department of Mechanical Engineering, AUTH, Greece.
Diploma in Mechanical Engineering (M.Sc. Equivalent), Department of Mechanical Engineering AUTH, Greece
2022 - American Logistics and Aid Network's Research and Academic Contribution Award
Maria Besiou was honored with the 2022 American Logistics and Aid Network's (ALAN) Research and Academic Contribution Award for her work researching and teaching humanitarian logistics. Established in 2017, the ALAN Humanitarian Logistics Award honors organizations and individuals committed to "Saving Lives Through Logistics".
2020 - Best paper award of the POMS 31st Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track
Maria Besiou received the best paper award of the POMS 31st Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track for her article (together with Mojtaba Salem and Niels Van Quaquebeke) "Is authoritarian leadership an effective approach during humanitarian operations?"
2020 - Best paper award of the POMS 31st Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track
Maria Besiou received the runner up for the best paper award of the POMS 31st Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track for her article (together with Lea Rüsch, Murat Tarakci, and Niels Van Quaquebeke) "Collaboration in the field. A behavioural approach".
2019 - Outstanding reviewer award for OR Spectrum
2015 - Best paper award of the POMS 26th Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track
Maria Besiou received the best paper award of the POMS 26th Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track for her article (together with Laura Turrini and Joern Meissner) "Understanding Fundraising in Humanitarian Supply Chains".
2012 - Best paper award of the POMS 23rd Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track
Maria Besiou received the best paper award of the POMS 23rd Annual Conference for the Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management track for her article (together with Afonso Pedraza-Martinez and Luk Van Wassenhove) “Decentralization and Earmarked Funding in Humanitarian Logistics for Relief and Development”.
2012 - Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence
An article by Maria Besiou (with Orla Stapleton and Luk Van Wassenhove) entitled “System dynamics for humanitarian operations” published in the Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management (Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 78-103, 2011) has been chosen as one of that journal’s Highly Commended Award Winners at the Literati Network Awards for Excellence 2012.
|Academic Director of the Center of Humanitarian Logistics and Regional Development (CHORD)
|2016 - 2017
President of the College of Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management (HOCM) at the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS)
Founding Member, Member of the Board and Coordinator of the Association of European Operational Research Societies (EURO) Working Group on Humanitarian Operations (HOpe)
|since Sept. 2013
VP of the Hellenic Chapter of System Dynamics Society
|2013 - 2015
Vice President of Outreach of the College of Humanitarian Operations and Crisis Management (HOCM) at the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS)"
|2008 - Aug. 2013
Treasurer of the Hellenic Chapter of System Dynamics Society
The humanitarian logistics database has been compiled for the convenience and efficiency of researchers and students in the field of Humanitarian Operations. Papers have been categorised according to methodologies used in research, topic of study (i.e. 'Fleet management' or 'Inventory management') and type of program from the disaster cycle (i.e.'development'). Books and book chapters can be found by searching for the author’s last name. The categories can be found in the links on the side of the page.