Centre for Intelligent Supply Chains

Industry 4.0 and digital technology are rapidly transforming logistics and supply chains. Specialising in disruptive technologies and data analytics, the Centre for Intelligent Supply Chains brings industry and academia together to enable organisations to improve strategic decision-making through data-driven competitiveness, growth and efficiency.

The research centre combines leading-edge academic expertise with practical relevance to benefit organisations through contract research, consultancy projects, and advanced training and development services. Our research is published in top-ranked scientific journals and developed in partnership with industry to solve real-world business challenges.

As a part of the School of Economics, Finance and Law at ARU, we offer a variety of taught programmes including MSc Supply Chain and Logistics (with placement), degree apprenticeships, executive short courses, and customised training programmes. Our industrial partners include Felixstowe Port (UK), Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Simarco Logistics, Wincanton Logistics and Oracle.

Our core areas of expertise are machine learning, data mining, sustainability and circular economy, multicriteria decision-making, supply chain modelling and simulation, fuzzy sets and theory and process management. We have industry expertise across the healthcare, automotive, and transportation sectors.

Knowledge transfer is at the core of the Centre’s development - even the launch of this Centre was funded by Innovate UK and Hexcel Composites Ltd. We have successfully delivered several Knowledge Transfer Partnerships funded through Innovate UK and ERDF, and working in collaboration with NHS, Felixstowe Port (UK), Simarco, Hexcel Composites Ltd, Essex County Council, and Chelgate Ltd.

The leading research and consultancy advice provided by us creates significant impact for various stakeholders. We are working with Felixstowe Port to improve the utilisation of rail transport from the port to inland destinations. By implementing a Big Data-driven optimisation tool, we are able to improve forecasting accuracy at container level by 70%, which leads to significantly improved port operational productivity and economic and environmental efficiency.

Hexcel Composites Ltd

Our collaboration with Hexcel Composites Ltd developed more integrated processes including key supply chain-wide policies, procedures and service level agreements for use across 24 manufacturing plants in nine different countries. This resulted in better information flow, communication and process efficiency. A scalable and adaptable end-to-end supply chain management framework was created, which was flexible for future growth.

The collaborative forecasting led to significantly more accurate forecasts, enabling more focus, alignment and synchronisation between demand and supply. The availability of 24/7 powerful, real time access to key performance data and metrics with drill-down capability for better visibility and decision-making is used by 250 key personnel across the business – a first for Hexcel. Active Service Management was implemented, which increased the on-time despatch by 13%, which led to a speedier realisation of £13m revenue.

Read more about hexcel composites ltd.

Hutchison Ports, Felixstowe

Since 2016, alongside colleagues from the University of Liverpool, we have had a research and innovation relationship with Hutchison Ports, Felixstowe. The collaboration has been focused on integrating leading-edge technology into their smart network, operations and business processes, thereby supporting the port’s sustainable growth.

Key elements of the relationship are projects aimed to:

  • Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the port’s rail terminal operations.
  • Develop a Big Data driven optimisation tool for yard management: improving forecasting accuracy at the container level, resulting in significantly enhanced port operational productivity as well as economic and environmental efficiency.

By stimulating trade and technological growth across the region, these projects will help strengthen the Freeport status awarded to Felixstowe and Harwich, ultimately enhancing competitiveness against continental operators. Additionally, increased utilisation of technology and rail transport will effectively tackle challenges of port and traffic congestion, amongst the associated positive environmental impact. Lastly, it will create conditions for a more competitive economy, supporting higher employment and delivering smart growth through an effective investment into a sustainable future.

Read more about hutchison ports, felixstowe.

Supply chain sustainability

Supply chain sustainability offers a holistic view of supply chain operations and processes that have continuous accountability for risk and negative impacts on the environmental, social, economic and legal aspects of a supply chain's components.

Main topics:

  • green supply chain management
  • three-R principle (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle)
  • reverse logistics

Disruptive technologies and supply chain transformation

The application of Industry 4. 0 facilitates digitalisation and improvements in logistics and supply chains, mitigating supply chain risks, enhancing operation efficiency and effectiveness, enhancing supply chain resilience and responsiveness, maintaining market share and entering new markets.

Main topics:

  • technology innovation and application, including internet of things, drones, robotics and automation, automation and augmented/virtual reality
  • technology driven supply chain innovation

Big Data analytics and machine learning in supply chain

Big Data analytics is an all-encompassing term for techniques to analyse Big Data characterised by high volume, velocity, variety and veracity. Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) for data analysis, based on the idea that systems automatically learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention. Big data analytics and predictive analysis using machine learning can improve supply chain performance by improving visibility, resilience, responsiveness, and robustness.

Main topics:

  • machine learning
  • text mining
  • data mining
  • Big Data analytics
  • time series forecasting
  • predictive analysis

Operational research in supply chain management

Operational research (OR) uses advanced analytical methods and scientific approach to determine the best solution to the problem and help make better decisions.

Main topics:

  • supply chain network design
  • multi-echelon inventory optimisation
  • supplier selection
  • port management (container loading and discharging)
  • production planning and scheduling

Process improvement in supply chain

Process improvement includes being able to use key data more thoroughly by employing business intelligence tools, and developing integrated processes to improve performance by reducing lead time and increasing velocity. The centre has strong expertise and interest in automobile and aerospace products manufacturing.

Main topics:

  • better service capabilities
  • lean and agile supply chain
  • Six Sigma
  • innovation and improvement in supply chains

Consultancy project with Chelgate Ltd. London, developing a suite to online education in finance and data analytics, 2017-2019. Project funded: £45,000. Project lead: Dr Ying Xie. Academic participants: Tom Stacey, Dr Handy Tan and Dr Larisa Yarovaya.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Hexcel Composites Ltd, developing supply chain policy and procedures, creating visibility of supply chain performance and metrics and improving service performance, 2015-2018. Project funded: £180,000. Academic supervisors: Dr Helen Benton and Dr Swetketu Patnaik.

Low-Carbon KEEP with Llewellyn Smith, funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), 2014-2015. Project funded: £79,253.36. Academic supervisors: Dr Helen Benton and Naowarat Lewis.

Low-Carbon KEEP project with Cost Centre Services Ltd, funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), 2014-2015. Project funded: £34,116.67. Academic supervisor:Dr Ying Xie.

Project Management Course for Russian Railways, funded by Russian Railways. 2013. Developer: Dr Helen Benton.

Consultancy project with Shanghai DingXun Industrial Group Ltd. P.R.Chna, providing consultancy advice on the sustainable development of real estate in China, 2011-2012. Project funded: £60,000. Principal Investigator: Dr Ying Xie.

Read more about more projects.

Project Sponsor Amount Period
Training programme for HuNan University of Finance and Economics, P. R. China (innovative teaching pedagogies and research development) State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, China £18,000 2019
Training programme for WuHan Polytechnic University, P. R. China (innovative teaching pedagogies) WuHan Polytechnic University £6,000 2018
Training programme for Vice Chancellors from 21 Chinese universities (entrepreneurship) Ministry of Education of P. R. China £2,000 2017
ACCA short course for TaiHu University, China TaiHu University, China circa £65,000 per year Ongoing
International Business short course for Guangdong University of Science and Technology, China Guangdong University of Science and Technology £8,000 per year Ongoing
Education training programme for Business Academy Southwest, Denmark Business Academy Southwest, Denmark £3,500 per year 2016

Academic staff

  • Dr Helen Benton: supply chain sustainability, process improvement in supply chains and supply chain learning
  • Dr Swetketu Patnaik: inter-organisational relationships (strategic alliances) and change management
  • Tom Stacey: Disruptive technologies and supply chain transformation, process improvement in supply chain
  • Brendon Shaw: disruptive technologies and supply chain transformation, process improvement in supply chain
  • Dr Teng Teng: disruptive technologies and supply chain transformation
  • Dr Ying Xie: Big Data analytics and machine learning in supply chain, supply chain sustainability, operational research in supply chain management

PhD researchers

  • Mohammad Al-Junidi: Potential determinants of productivity in the Jordanian industrial shareholding companies including the impact of the Arab spring crisis
  • YaHui Chen: Big Data analytics in manufacturing supply chain management: multiple case studies
  • Ioannis Dermitzakis: Supply chain risk management frameworks in food and drink SMEs
  • Hassiba Fadli: Evaluating the impact of designed thinking education for sustainability on business students in the UK
  • Manali Surati: Revolutionising supply chain management with Big Data business analytics in the UK

  • Dr Taye Timothy Osadiya (2020): Perceptions of effectiveness of subsidiary of a multinational corporation’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) practice (supervised by Dr Ying Xie and Dr John Webb)
  • Dr. Romas Malevicius (2019): Education for sustainable development in business and management studies: learning history (Supervised by Dr Beatriz Acevedo and Dr Helen Benton)
  • Dr Basim Al-Jabhan (2016): Supply chain risk management: A case study on the maritime transport firms in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (supervised by Dr Helen Benton)
  • Dr YiQing Zhao (2016): Sustainable supply chain management in the Chinese building construction industry (supervised by Dr Ying Xie and Dr Nektarios Tzempelikos)
  • Dr Stephen Nwanchor Elem (2014): Transformation towards sustainable living under global education system - international students' experience (supervised by Dr Kofi Karley and Dr Helen Benton)
  • Dr Mahmood Ali (2013): Decision support for operational ERP implementation in small medium enterprises (supervised by Dr Ying Xie)
  • Dr. Brynn Deprey (2011): The internationalisation process of small and medium sized management consultancies in the UK (supervised by Prof Lester Lloyd-Reason and Dr Helen Benton)

Supply chain digitisation

On 12 March 2021, we held a free webinar in partnership with Cranfield University. Four academic researchers and industrial experts discussed how to shape business transformations and drive digital transformations in supply chains in order to achieve the target of zero net carbon emissions in the UK aviation industry by 2050.