Understanding how a supply chain network functions, grows and evolves can be difficult for those who have not taken an intensive, semester long course in the subject. Penina Orenstein, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Computing and Decision Sciences in the Stillman School of Business, has produced award-winning research that allows for a better understanding of the subject. Her research links financial supply chain vendor data with network visualization software, to create a visual map of a company's supply chain, identify its structure, examine its evolution and explore how structure influences performance.
"It's an emerging idea. All of the research and textbooks assume how a supply chain works," says Orenstein. "With this developing research, we may have to re-think how supply chains are analyzed, using a new paradigm of supply chain structure."
A supply chain network encompasses the process of transferring raw materials into finished goods, and the links between manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, retailers, and vendors. A new understanding of this process will allow companies to capitalize on customer value and achieve a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Orenstein is the recipient of both the Seton Hall Digital Humanities seed grant, and the Seton Hall Digital Humanities Scholar Grant (2016-2017). In addition, Orenstein was a "Best Paper Award" winner at the SCMA (Supply Chain Management Association) International Symposium in 2016, collaborating with Stillman MBA graduate, Eric Shim. In June, she will travel to Israel to present her research at the POMS (Production and Operations Management Society) International Conference, and then in October hopes to present her findings at the CSCMP (Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals) Academic Research Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia.
Home Depot Supply Chain Network
The idea for the research study began when Orenstein sought to answer – what does a supply chain look like? Looking at the diagram of Walmart or Home Depot, one can observe a dense network topology at the network's core as well as a small number of hubs (high concentration nodes), numerous low concentration nodes, and terminal nodes that have no suppliers at all. The relative proportions of high to low concentration nodes are a hallmark of a 'scale-free' network, which is one of the central themes of this research. More than providing a visual representation, Orenstein predicts her continuing research will provide insight into customer behavior and preferences as well as how key supply chains select and build their supplier base.
"The research will generate a body of knowledge which will help explain how modern supply chains develop, evolve and change as a result of modern societal demands," notes Orenstein.
The creation of models, analyses and algorithms will also emerge from the research, bridging the data with decisions related to the design, planning and operation of a supply chain network. The study will measure how a supply chain's structure influences financial performance and provides a competitive advantage. Additionally, it will allow for the identification of critical, vulnerable parts of the supply network to protect a supply chain from attacks or failures.
"A data-driven understanding of modern supply chain networks is critical in today's world to continue to build and enhance the supply chains of the future," shares Orenstein.
Orenstein is conducting her latest research as a student-faculty collaboration with undergraduate and graduate business students.
Walmart Supply Chain Network
Ethan Chee, Business Administration, information technology management major, has provided invaluable service to the research process.
"Ethan produces solid work. I admire how he has approached this project; he really stands out to me in his diligence and dedication," says Orenstein.
With an original focus on the retail industry, the research is expanding in both the types of industries studied, including pharmaceutical, electronics and telecommunications, and the number of years of financial data that she and her team are analyzing. In addition to her dedicated student collaborators, Orenstein invites researchers to join her in further developing this emerging paradigm shift of understanding the value of supply chain networks.
Orenstein's research interests include mobility management in transportation and wireless networks, the topological structure of supply networks and computer aided learning of quantitative material. Her research, which includes both contributions to theory and practice and to the scholarship of teaching, has appeared in the Journal of Networks and Spatial Economics and Wireless Personal Communications. She has also presented her work both at POMS, INFORMS, MSOM and at the SCMA. In addition, her work on the application of new teaching methods featured at the NBEA 2010 Conference on Business Education.