September 30, 2007 | Atlanta, GA
By Moinul Islam
Moinul Islam is a 2nd year Ph.D. student in the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech whose doctoral research interest is in humanitarian logistics. He graduated in 2003 from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. Below, he writes about his research focus in ISyE and the factors that motivate him.
What can be better than creating solutions that impact the lives of people who are in vulnerable situations across the globe? For me, I can't think of any better way to spend my time. I have always known my passion in life was for doing work that has the potential to make a difference, and that, in large part, is what motivated me to go for my Ph.D. in ISyE at Georgia Tech. When I joined the program, I was not completely sure what I wanted to do. But when I learned about the research in humanitarian logistics, I knew I found the perfect domain to unleash my inner interest to be able to make a positive difference in this world.
I started my professional career as a lecturer in the industrial engineering department at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, my alma mater. When I was promoted to faculty, I realized my interest in the practical implementation of best practices/theories that we talk about in school. So, I left my faculty position and joined a multinational Fast Moving Consumer Goods (also called Consumer Packaged Goods) company, working in the operations department at different capacities. Over the years, my desire to make a tangible difference eventually lead me to Georgia Tech, and it continues to motivate me as I work in humanitarian logistics in ISyE.
Coming from Bangladesh, a natural disaster-prone country in southern Asia, I have seen human suffering at a very close range. My personal experience with this motivates my research in humanitarian logistics and supply chain strategy in an effort to make non-governmental organization (NGO) operations more efficient.
This summer, under the direction of my advisors Professors John Vande Vate and Julie Swann, I was able to work with World Vision (one of the leading NGOs focused on improving the lives of children in vulnerable societies) in their supply chain transformation project. I worked in Ghana and Zambia (the pilot countries for West Africa and South African region) along with the project team. My work was part of the team's effort to design a high performance supply chain across the entire organization. I focused mainly on business process mapping and re-designing related to procurement and payment processes.
I worked with the supply chain team in Zambia to help streamline its procurement process, ensuring on time delivery to projects in 39 areas around the country. As a result, the Zambian team at World Vision generated a savings of $47,000 over three months (May-07 to July-07) which is a very significant dollar figure at the national level of operations.
My work at World Vision gave me great insight into the operating environment of NGOs at the field level, which will be very valuable in terms of my research. It was helpful for me to compare the opportunities and challenges that face the domain of humanitarian logistics to those of the corporate world. I also learned about important regional considerations during my stay in two countries, in two different regions of Africa. The differences in local settings can vary tremendously based on geographical locations. Based on my experience in southern Asia, my own preconceived ideas about the social and economic settings of developing countries proved grossly misconstrued in Africa. Basically, models which might be very effective in one setting can prove ineffective in another.
Personally, I gained exposure and appreciation of these cultural and social aspects, as well as their inherent differences in different parts of the world. Even though it's sometimes hard to see these kinds of softer issues in operational models, they have a tremendous influence. As I continue my research in humanitarian logistics, the field continues to motivate me. I enjoy using IE tools to generate a healthy bottom-line for business organizations that share my goal: to create a substantial difference in the lives of individuals who need it most.