A new University of Huddersfield professor is working with leading companies to help them ensure that supply chains remain intact in a world beset by risks that range from extremes of climate to economic upheaval and political unrest.
Indian-born Professor Samir S. Dani has an engineering background, but his UK-based academic career has led him into areas of research that include a detailed investigation using a psychological perspective of the games that are played out between buyers and suppliers in industry. He is currently focussing on the management of risk in supply chains and is the author of a sequence of articles and book chapters on supply chain risk management, an area of academic study that arose after the global shock of the terrorist attacks on New York in September 2001.
Professor Dani states that companies need to be resilient to manage risks and have business continuity. There are two broad strategies that companies can adopt to ensure that their supply chains are not disrupted.
"One is reactive risk management – preparedness in case something does happen over which you have no control. How quickly do you get back on track?
"The other approach, that my current research focuses on, is proactive risk management, which is anticipating risk, using predictive analytics to try and engage what the future is going to hold in terms of the supply chain," explained Professor Dani.
Reacting to risks
During his academic career he has been awarded almost £600,000 in research funding as a principal investigator or co-investigator and has worked in a number of projects for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre.
Recently, he has collaborated with major confectionery firm Cadbury on an EPSRC-funded project to investigate scenario planning as an "operational risk management" tool to ensure that its supply chain continues to operate seamlessly in the light of a disruption.
The food industry has played a central role in Professor Dani's research, resulting in articles such as Fragile food supply chains: reacting to risks in the International Journal of Logistics Research and Applications (2010). He is also supervising PhD students who are investigating issues, such as food waste and "risk propagation" – the extent to which problems such as climate extremes or food safety challenges in one part of the world can cascade through the supply chain.
Sustainability within supply chains is a research area that Professor Dani is becoming involved with. He is currently overseeing an investigation of the power structures within buyer supplier relationships, which have an influence on the adoption of sustainability criteria within supply chains. Professor Dani states that "supply chains of tomorrow will need to be designed not just on the basis of being economically sustainable, but environmental and social sustainability will also have an important role to play in the design".
The importance of supply chains
Professor Dani's first degree was in mechanical engineering and he proceeded to work for five years at Bajaj Auto Limited, one of India's largest two and three-wheeler manufacturer; in his home city of Pune. He was awarded a scholarship to come to the UK and study for a Master's.
Subsequently, he became a research associate for an EPSRC project and embarked on his PhD, which was a psychological study of buyer-supplier relationships. This research earned the A.M. Strickland Prize (2006) awarded by the IMechE's Manufacturing Industries Division for the Best Paper published in the Journal of Engineering Manufacture.
From 2008, he was a senior lecturer in operations management at Loughborough University and now he becomes Professor of Logistics and Supply Chain Management at the University of Huddersfield.
"Although my journey has taken me from engineering to the academic world, I think it is very important to work closely with industry," said Professor Dani.
He has been involved with the Joint Economic Trade Committee between the Indian and UK governments, works closely with the Confederation of Indian Industry, UKTI, the Indian High Commission, and is an advisory board member of the Leicestershire Asian Business Association (LABA). He stresses the importance of supply chains for both the SME sector and for regional economic regeneration.