eLogistics Research Group Scholarships, School Of Engineering & ICT, University Of Tasmania, Australia


December 31, 2016

Opportunity Cover Image -  eLogistics Research Group Scholarships, School Of Engineering & ICT, University Of Tasmania, Australia

PhD scholarships with the eLogistics Research Group

About the scholarships

PhD scholarships with the eLogistics Research Group aligned to the ARC Centre for Forest Value are available immediately for suitable candidates with skills in any of the following areas:

  • All Engineering disciplines (Software, Electrical, Mechanical, etc);
  • Supply chain management specialisations;
  • Digital Traceability, Provenance and Authentication Technologies and Services;
  • Transport Logistics;
  • Information systems, Decision-support Sciences and Business Intelligence Research.

The project opportunities listed below provide an indicative list of research areas for prospective PhD candidates who may be eligible to receive a full PhD scholarship for research directly aligned to any of the sub-projects listed below:
The scholarships cover tuition fees and give a $26,000/year tax free allowance to cover living costs for up-to three and half years. The aim of the research is to support transformation of timber supply chain by enhancing the alignment of electronic information with material flows and transformations in existing and new (engineered wood products) supply chains.

1. Information Management and IT Governance in Forest Industry
2. Investigation of By-Products Characterization from Forestry and Industry
3. Consumer Behaviour and Acceptance of the Timber Products
4. IT-based Tracking of Fibre from the Plant to the Finished Product
5. Uncertainties in the Forest Industries: Procurement, Supply chains and Markets

Application Deadline: 31st December, 2016
Locations: Hobart or Launceston, University of Tasmania, Tasmania, Australia.
Type: Full Scholarship.

For further information: Professor Paul Turner Paul.Turner@utas.edu.au>; Dr Mohammad Taskhiri <Mohammad.Taskhiri@utas.edu.au>

Topic 1. Information Management and IT Integration and Governance in the Forest and
Timber Industries Supply Chains.

Because of resource uncertainties and environmental factors, the governance of value generating networks for renewable resources differs from the traditional governance forms of organizations. The same holds for the governance of inter-organizational systems, which are also widespread in the wood industry and have the potential to improve coordination and
communication between network partners, facilitate knowledge sharing, and increase innovation. However, decision rights and mechanisms must be re-thought in order to ensure desirable behaviour when inter-organizational systems form part of the network (Provan and Kenis 2007). Thus, additional issues must be considered, such as network partner integration,
compatibility of business goals, accountabilities, opportunistic behaviour, and the special characteristics of the wood industry. Thus far, research has paid little attention to this topic, and deeper insights into efficient inter-organizational IT governance structures and mechanisms are therefore necessary.

a: Information requirements for precision logistics along the forest products supply chain
This project will:

  • Model information and process flows using Six-Sigma, Lean and Agile principals in the forest products supply chain to identify availability, form and validity of data on products held by different stakeholders,
  • Investigate requirements for new information collection, and areas for optimal information integration in the supply chain including the use of existing sensors and information technologies and applications;
  • Develop and test an Application Programming Interface (API) using Domain Specific Language and Entity Relationship Diagramming principals for integrating information requirements including those required for the tracking and verification of material properties during transfer along the supply chain.

b: Optimising knowledge transfer in the supply chain

  • Enhanced interpretation of highly precise information on specific visual and structural requirements.
  • Optimising assessment of relationships between tree and stand dynamics, genetic profile and product traits.

c: Knowledge integration for value chain optimisation

  • Evaluate and refine outputs and modelling data interchange protocols for the API to specify optimal ways for supply components to interact with one another.
  • Establish business cases for new products generated as a result of precision information logistics.
  • Model business risks and develop decision-support tools using Expert System, machine learning, and optimisation and operations research principals, with a focus on structural product manufacturers/engineers.

Topic 2. Characterization of intermediate products from the timber industry to optimise their suitability for higher-quality applications and/or new products

Today’s society relies largely on non-renewable resources, such as fossil resources. The consumption pattern of such materials is still scaling up heavily, in most cases. The main drawback of non-renewables is their finite availability. Long term, this kind of usage of exhaustible resources is neither sustainable, sufficient, nor adapted to our continuously growing
demand for energy and commercial products. Luckily, new process technologies and the appearance of a new ecological awareness of a sustainable usage of natural resources mean that more and more non-renewable resources will be substituted by renewable and sustainable raw materials. Consequently, these virgin, green materials are shifting back into the focus of economic interests. One of these important renewable resources is wood. In contrast to many other renewable resources, wood's manifold application possibilities have beneficial effects on its utilization. In addition to its renewable, recyclable, and biodegradable character, it is easily processed and is already widely accepted in society.
In view of the increased demand for wood, its efficient utilization is important for the long term preservation of environment and society. The resource efficiency of wood can take place at different stages along the manufacture and application of wood products. The degree of its intensity, however, is strongly subjected to the wood structure. Wood is a naturally heterogeneous material with a highly complex anatomical structure distributed on several anatomical levels. This structural organization, from macroscopic to microscopic, defines many of wood's properties. Knowledge of wood's anatomy is thus the backbone for understanding and optimizing technological processes involving wood. Especially for impregnation processes using liquid chemicals for wood modification and preservation--done to preserve exterior wood against
biological decay and to improve its durability--this knowledge is important in order to maximize the service life of applied wood.
Detailed knowledge of flow pathways as well as penetration and distribution patterns of protective chemicals into the wood structure are crucial for gaining the best possible adjustment and development of wood-treatment processes to wood. Thus, improved treatments of wood that promote an even distribution of protective chemicals will enhance the service life of exterior wood. Additionally, improvements of novel preservatives and non-biocidial wood modification will lead to an enhanced resource-efficiency of wood, due to a better recycling possibility of treated wood.

Topic 3. Consumer behaviour and acceptance of the timber products

In the B2B domain, marketing processes depend strongly on private consumers’ acceptance of products. Their willingness to buy and their purchasing behaviour regarding products from renewable resources should be investigated within this topic. Owing to fluctuations in renewable resources’ quality and availability, the products made from renewable resources could also be subject to quality fluctuations. Innovative environment-friendly products are also more expensive than conventional products, requiring a systematic analysis of the benefit categories with which to explain product acceptance. Since the benefit components of various network partners are assessed individually and information exchange can occur across multiple interfaces, leading to possible information loss and falsification, these peculiarities have to be taken into consideration in the search for a solution.
Considering traditional timber products, many consumer studies already exist that focus on the impact of environmental certification. However, current literature indicates that consumers are confused by the large number of labels they are confronted with every day and that they have difficulties in capturing the meanings. Studies carried out in the food industry show that providing consumers with detailed product information based on a traceability information system ensures consumers’ product trust and purchase intention. However, investigation of consumer acceptance timber products from both primary (e.g., solid wood) and secondary processed materials (e.g., sawmill by-products) is missing.

Topic 4. IT-based tracking of fibre from the plant to the finished product and tracing of fibre from the end product to the plant

The usage of renewable resources has gained in importance over recent years, since they contribute to climate and environmental conservation, to reducing fossil resource usage and to widening the local resource base. In the industrial material utilization of renewable resources, however, their particularities have to be taken into account, e.g., the deviations in quantity, quality, and harvest times of renewable raw materials; the high risks of illegal wood felling and theft; increasing customer demands regarding information on products made from renewable resources; and legal requirements concerning traceability. Current and detailed data on the processes and material flows along the value-generating network can help in managing these particularities. Strict product liability, the rising consumer power, and legal traceability requirements led to the growing significance of identifying the current status and location of an object, such as packaging unit, shipment, specific products (tracking) as well as the ex post reconstruction of the object history (tracing). In order to capture, archive, and communicate the relevant data, tracking and tracing systems (TTS) are implemented. In recent years, research on potential benefits of systems in the food and logistics sectors has been carried out. Such an investigation is, however, still lacking in the area of the forest, and wood industry.
On the one hand, tracking and tracing (T&T) has a high value potential (reduction of intrinsic material-related uncertainties and legal requirements) for networks for the industrial processing of renewable resources but, on the other hand, the deployment of T&T systems pose specific challenges. Examples of preparatory works on this topic can be found in applications of radio frequency identification (RFID)-based traceability systems for agricultural products, as well as case studies on RFID applications in the timber chain (Korten, Kaul, 2008; Sirkka, 2008; Ampatzidis, Vougioukas, 2009). Various of the preparatory works on the RFID topic are devoted to data management issues (Diekmann et al., 2007; Melski et al., 2007), RFID applications of container tracking (Thoroe et al., 2009a; Schmidt et al., 2010), the role of RFID in reverse
logistics processes (Thoroe et al., 2009b; Thoroe et al., 2009a), as well as to the tagging of grain supplies (Steinmeier et al., 2009).

Topic 5. Uncertainties in the Forest Industries: Procurement, Supply chains and Markets

The objective of sustainable management is to establish a long-term balance between theeconomic, environmental, and social impacts of entrepreneurial activities. Especially in the context of supply chains, new planning and coordination challenges arise, such as multiple criteria evaluation and distributed decision-making (Fandel et al. 2014). Extensive research on uncertain multi-criteria optimization began only recently, however, and robust optimization is a new concept that is currently gaining much attention in operations research, in which the uncertainty model is not stochastic, but rather deterministic and set-based (Ben-Tal et al. 2009; Bertsimas and Sim 2004; Ehrgott et al. 2014). Dealing with uncertainty in the yield and quality of  the harvest is one of the biggest challenges in using renewable resources in industry.
Production processes in the wood industry are a typical example, where changing quality and quantities influence both production costs and market price.

When renewable raw materials and residues are increasingly used within value chains, new tasks for production planning emerge. Uncertainties in times, quantities, and qualities of delivered raw materials and residues must be taken into account. Although today's production planning and control systems (PPC systems) and supply chain management systems (SCM
systems) already consider uncertainties and fluctuations on the sales side, this issue has barely been covered on the procurement side. This planning data is generally regarded as safe or reliably producible (Günther and Tempelmeier 1994; Kurbel 2015).
In particular, the qualitative and quantitative fluctuations of the material, the uncertain availability of resources, and the combination of these uncertainties cause new challenges for production planning. In more specific, how this planning can be carried out for changing resource batches under consideration of different operational steps, different input quantities, and changing recipes has hardly been examined. How the systems used in this area must be supplemented so that such processes are adequately supported is also barely covered. Thus, comprehensive solutions should be developed and (if possible) evaluated through practical testing or simulations within this topic.

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Eligible Countries
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Publish Date
November 03, 2016
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