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CELDi affiliations benefit faculty, students, and maybe even you

Mustafa Sir, assistant professor in industrial and manufacturing engineering, is working through the department's affiliation with the NSF-sponsored Center for Engineering Logistics and Distribution (CELDi) with other universities to tackle issues in health care logistics.

Story by: Sarah Scully

In 2008, Chinese production of the blood thinner herapin was tainted by blue ear pig disease, 81 patients died and hundreds more had severe allergic reactions in the United States. Eleven other countries were affected as well.

University of Missouri engineering assistant professor Mustafa Sir uses this example to illustrate how supply chains in healthcare can work against the patient. “Virtually all of the pigs used to produce heparin are raised in China, a supply chain decision motivated primarily by the low cost of labor and materials. Unfortunately, this excessively lean supply chain design decision had unintended, negative consequences.”

Sir, along with faculty from the University of Arkansas and Clemson University, will be working through the Center for Engineering Logistics and Distribution (CELDi) to tackle issues in health care logistics.

CELDi is a cooperative research center sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). MU is one of nine universities involved in the research center. Companies may join the cooperative research center for $50,000, a membership fee that provides them with a company-specific research project, access to the consortium’s repository of research reports, as well center- designated software products that are produced annually.

Other universities participating in the program are the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Lehigh, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Arizona State University.

Sir’s research project focuses on the idea of supply chains in healthcare. “Obviously, disruptions can have far-reaching impacts,” Sir said. “They can become a matter of life and death.”

Healthcare supply chains have unique challenges that commercial product supply chains don’t always have. More specifically, there may be instances where a late delivery or a product disruption can result in patient illnesses or death, and cost implications in those chains are often overshadowed by a patient’s care.

“If we can successfully design and implement the proposed algorithms, they can help managers to analyze the impact of their supply-chain related decisions on the overall quality of their products as well as the total cost,” Sir said. “These algorithms can help to compare thousands of scenarios and find the best decisions.”

Sir’s project, while not for a specific company like CELDi’s other projects, is one of the Center’s projects at MU. He works with three faculty members at the University of Arkansas – Scott Mason, Edward Pohl and Sarah Root – and another from Clemson University – Kevin Taaffe. Mahmood Pariazar, a doctoral student in industrial engineering at MU, and Stacy Thompson, an undergraduate ISME student, are aiding Sir with the project.

Root, a friend and colleague of Sir, introduced the project idea and asked if he would be interested in participating in a proposal. “They needed someone with some knowledge of stochastic programming and Sarah thought that I’d be a good fit,” Sir said.

When Sir joined the team, some preliminary research was completed, but the team lacked the necessary models and had only brief conversations with people in the pharmaceutical industry. “We started reviewing previous work and looking for contacts who might help us to gain insights into the problem,” Sir said.

The research project will continue through 2010, when its $150,000 funding expires. MU’s share of the $150,000 project budget is $40,000, which is provided as a supplemental award to the original NSF funded CELDi project. Sir and his teammates plan to seek additional funding from NSF if the preliminary results are promising.

Sir’s work is only one of several projects that MU’s IMSE faculty are involved in; three other CELDi sponsored projects have professors and students working with companies. The Boeing Company and the Freight Pipeline Company both recently joined CELDi, initiating projects at MU. Boeing’s project will address designing supply chains for energy consumption, inspired by gas prices topping $4 per gallon. IMSE professor James Noble and associate professor Wooseung Jang, along with graduate student Kara Bono and undergraduates Kelsey Kotur and Adam Rubemeyer, will work on the year-long project.

The Freight Pipeline Company’s project will explore logistics issues with pneumatic freight pipelines. For this project, much of the technology required is already developed, Noble said. Therefore, the research focus is on the operation of a freight pipeline – things such as loading and unloading containers, pipeline capacity and dispatching of containers. Graduate student Gaohao Luo and undergraduate students Anna McLaughlin and Nichole Smith will participate in this project.

A third project is in its third year with Leggett and Platt. Leggett and Platt’s project explores how to efficiently consolidate and deconsolidate freight within an international network of suppliers and customers.

Undergraduate students participating in CELDi-sponsored research projects receive course credit and are eligible to graduate with honors.

At the moment, all CELDi projects are directed by IMSE faculty, but Noble is eagerly awaiting the right project to incorporate other disciplines of engineering. “We just need the right project to fulfill our desire to be a truly interdisciplinary logistics research center.”



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