Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Fabulous Logistics Conference -- 25th NOFOMA in Sweden with Photos

I am enjoying tremendously the 25th NOFOMA Conference, which began on June 3 with the PhD Nordlog Symposium which I blogged about.  It is taking place in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Yesterday morning, we heard welcoming remarks and a panel on the history of NOFOMA, since this is its 25th conference. One panelist had been to the first conference back in 1989 and the moderator (a Swede) reminisced that that was the time of Pretty Woman (Julia Roberts and Richard Gere starred). Many researchers in the Nordic countries did not communicate much with those in the US, I was told, due to distance and difficulties in communicating in the pre-Internet era. I had already traveled to Sweden in 1986 to Umea and then back again when I received the Kempe Prize there, along with Jacques Thisse. But, then again, I love travel.

The panel was so interesting -- the tracing of logistics and logistics research. The panelists noted that, back in the day, academics were going to companies to learn the state of the art and now everything has flipped -- there are so many exciting advances in academia regarding supply chains and logistics and many companies have yet to learn and adapt tools and methodologies. Of course, there are companies that are leaders.  Also, major events since 1989 were highlighted by the panelists that refocused and expanded logistics and supply chain management research and practice from 9/11, which brought security and risk management to the fore, to the Haiti earthquake in 2005, which started to transform humanitarian logistics, to the growing interest and needs for sustainable supply chains because of climate change and pressing environmental concerns.

NOFOMA has always attracted PhD students and has been a forum for them to present their research and to obtain feedback. It has clearly expanded from participants in just the Nordic countries. At this conference -- I met not only a colleague from the Vienna University of Economics and Business where I taught a course and gave a seminar this past March, but also colleagues from South Africa, and even the University of Maryland, who congratulated my department on out latest hire, Dr. Adams Steven (yes, the plural of Adam is correct), who will be joining the Isenberg School of Management this Fall. Of course, it was also very enjoyable to hear Dr. Alex Ellinger of the School of Business at the University of Alabama speak yesterday on the journal that he edits and on the topics that he foresees as being important research areas for the future.
The Swedes certainly know how to put on a conference with style plus a lot of intellectual content.

I have been treated to sessions with papers on various aspects of supply chains and applications and have especially enjoyed the ones on food since some of my most recent work (with Dr. Min Yu) has been on competitive food supply chains published in the European Journal of Operational Research.

Here, at NOFOMA, I have learned about biosensors to track food quality, computing to capture data from sensors as fish moves through the supply chain (from Iceland to the Gothenburg fish auction) to calculate various quality metrics -- temperature days, for example, and that platinum and gold are being used to assess microbial content in food! Of course, new business models will be needed, as well.

I care very much about product quality, especially that in food, so I have been captivated by the talks that have combined technology with conceptual frameworks and real-life applications and blend business with engineering -- so cool! I also very much enjoyed a session on humanitarian logistics and it was nice to see Dr. Gyongi Kovacs again, who had taken part in the Humanitarian Logistics: Networks for Africa Workshop that I had organized at the Rockefeller' Foundation's Bellagio Center on Lake Como, Italy.

The Work in Progress sessions have also been wonderful with vibrant, constructive discussions.I especially enjoyed one on transport topics, in which one of my hosts at the School of Business, Economics and Law, Professor Johan Woxenius, along with two colleagues, presented their work on transport efficiency with a focus on freight KPIs in Sweden.

And, how can you not enjoy a conference in which the conference bags/totes (with Chalmers on them) on precisely in the color scheme of the outfit you select. Plus, since Swedes do it with syle, my colleagues also had to show me their colorful socks as part of their conference attire. I think that the stars and stripes were chosen to make me feel at home.

I am looking forward to aother great day at NOFOMA -- many thanks to the organizers, the presenters, and to the reviewers of the conference papers for a great event!