Special issue on humanitarian relief chains in honor of Professor Benita Beamon

Burcu Balcik (Department of Industrial Engineering, Ozyegin University, Istanbul, Turkey)

Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 2042-6747

Article publication date: 7 December 2015


Balcik, B. (2015), "Special issue on humanitarian relief chains in honor of Professor Benita Beamon", Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Vol. 5 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/JHLSCM-10-2015-0040



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Special issue on humanitarian relief chains in honor of Professor Benita Beamon

Article Type: Guest editorial From: Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Volume 5, Issue 3.

This special issue was organized to commemorate Professor Benita Beamon, who passed away on November 29, 2014, at the age of 48, after a courageous fight against colorectal cancer. By the time this special issue is published, it will almost be the one year anniversary of Benita passing away. She is missed hugely.

Professor Beamon was passionate in using her expertise in supply chain and production systems to deal with the problems that matter to the world and to people. She was a pioneer in humanitarian logistics research. She developed effective performance measurement systems, coordination techniques, and quantitative models to support decision making in humanitarian relief chains. She had a unique vision in identifying what is important for the research and practice of humanitarian logistics. She worked closely with practitioners from humanitarian organizations. Benita’s work in humanitarian logistics has been an inspiration to many researchers throughout the world. I had the privilege of working with Benita during the years 2004-2008 at the University of Washington as a doctoral student. Back in 2004, research in humanitarian logistics was scarce; I was very lucky to have Benita as my advisor, who had recently published a paper that defines the humanitarian relief chain and describes its unique characteristics (Beamon, 2004). Nevertheless, I often thought that it may be too risky to focus on such a new and unestablished area. However, I do not remember a single moment that Benita was disheartened about our work. Her passion and excitement for humanitarian logistics research was admirable. I remember her saying “this research is for extending the carpet; filling the gaps in the carpet is much easier.”

It has been my honor to organize this special issue to commemorate Benita Beamon and her work in humanitarian logistics. I would like to thank the publishers for not hesitating a moment when accepting the organization of this special issue. I would also thank all invited authors who submitted a paper to this special issue, and the referees who gave me tremendous help in making this special issue possible.

This special issue includes a total of five papers, each of which touches on Professor Beamon’s research in humanitarian logistics at different angles. The issue starts with a study by Tabaklar, Halldórsson, Kovács and Spens “Borrowing theories in humanitarian supply chain management,” who present a literature review of the theoretical approaches used in the field of humanitarian supply chain management (HSCM). As stated in Tabaklar et al.’s paper, the volume of publications in the field of HSCM has significantly increased since 2009. Note that most of Benita Beamon’s articles addressing HSCMs are published before 2009, indicating her immense contribution to the advancement of the field in its early years. Tabaklar et al. examine 279 articles that were published in scientific journals during the period of 1995-2014 to identify the theories and frameworks used to study HSCMs, which may be borrowed from other established disciplines. The authors find that the majority of the studies in this emerging field can be associated with two main disciplines: supply chain management and operations research.

The second paper in this special issue is written by Haavisto and Goentzel on the topic of “Measuring humanitarian supply chain performance in a multi-goal context.” The authors focus on performance measurement in humanitarian organizations and present an empirical study that explores how to measure performance in a humanitarian context, where operations have multiple simultaneous goals. The authors perform a case study at the International Rescue Committee to identify the misalignments that arise between the organization’s goals and performance objectives. This paper extends the earlier work of Benita on performance measurement in humanitarian relief chains; Beamon and Balcik (2008) is one of the first articles that define performance metrics and a performance measurement system for humanitarian relief chains. Haavisto and Goentzel’s paper brings further attention to the need for looking at humanitarian performance measurement along with an organization’s short term and long term goals and operations.

The next paper in the special issue is by Krejci, who presents a simulation model to study coordination in humanitarian relief chains in “Hybrid simulation modeling for humanitarian relief chain coordination.” In this work, Krejci integrates an agent-based simulation model that represents interactions among autonomous agents (such as relief organizations, donors) and a discrete-event simulation model that allows the flow of relief supplies in the relief chain. Krejci’s paper is related to Benita’s work in different ways. Benita studied coordination both in traditional supply chain (Xu and Beamon, 2006) and humanitarian relief (Balcik et al., 2010) settings. Also, Benita used her expertise in simulation modeling to support inventory management in a complex emergency setting (Beamon and Kotleba, 2006). Krejci’s paper provides a basis for future studies that will focus on developing models to understand and analyze different coordination mechanisms in humanitarian relief chains.

Next, Jahre and Fabbe-Costes explore the use of modularity and standardization in humanitarian relief chains to improve responsiveness in their paper “How standards and modularity can improve humanitarian supply chain responsiveness: the case of emergency response units.” The authors present a conceptual framework and a systematic literature review on modularity and standardization, and also a case study on the Emergency Response Units (ERUs) in the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Society (IFRC). As we know, most of the studies in humanitarian logistics literature focus on pre-positioning as a preparedness strategy, where relief supplies are held in inventory before a disaster at strategic locations around the world to be mobilized quickly after the disaster. One of Benita’s works also addressed the problem of locating supplies at strategic locations around the world (Balcik and Beamon, 2008). Jahre and Fabbe-Costes’s paper highlights the need for exploring the use of other preparedness strategies such as modularity and standardization to improve responsiveness and flexibility of humanitarian relief chains.

Finally, Kunz, Van Wassenhove, McConnell and Hov focusses on fleet management in their paper “Centralized vehicle leasing in humanitarian fleet management: the UNHCR case.” The paper presents the challenges of fleet management for humanitarian organizations and demonstrates how fleet management can be improved by using a centralized fleet management strategy. The authors present a case study to analyze fleet management at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) before and after the introduction of the new Internal Leasing Program. This paper is a collaborative work of academicians and practitioners and an example that illustrates the value of exchange of knowledge and experience between practice and academia. Such collaborations are essential for us to follow Benita Beamon’s legacy and perform impactful work that strongly grounds to the practice of humanitarian relief.

Dr Burcu Balcik - Department of Industrial Engineering, Ozyegin University, Istanbul, Turkey


Balcik, B. and Beamon, B.M. (2008), “Facility location in humanitarian relief”, International Journal of Logistics, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 101-121

Balcik, B., Beamon, B.M., Krejci, C.C., Muramatsu, K.M. and Ramirez, M. (2010), “Coordination in humanitarian relief chains: practices, challenges, and opportunities”, International Journal of Production Economics, Vol. 126 No. 1, pp. 22-34

Beamon, B.M. (2004), “Humanitarian relief chains: issues and challenges”, Proceedings of the 34th International Conference on Computers & Industrial Engineering, San Francisco, CA, November 14-16

Beamon, B.M. and Balcik, B. (2008), “Performance measurement in humanitarian relief chains”, International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 4-25

Beamon, B.M. and Kotleba, S.A. (2006), “Inventory modeling for complex emergencies in humanitarian relief operations”, International Journal of Logistics: Research and Applications, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 1-18

Xu, L. and Beamon, B.M. (2006), “Supply chain coordination and cooperation mechanisms: an attribute-based approach”, The Journal of Supply Chain Management, Vol. 42 No. 1, pp. 4-12