In progress Behavioral operations essays



This PhD Project aims to deepen our understanding with regard to how workers of different operations within the supply chain, portraying differing behavioral characteristics, perform differently in the presence of external stimuli.
The first study establishes the role of Safety Specific Transformational Leadership of road transport managers and supervisors, as well as the influence of individual driver behavioral differences, in predicting risky driving behavior and productivity of truck drivers in cargo transport.
The second study aims to establish the role of process initiation control, as well as the influence of individual picker behavioral differences, in predicting productivity, work commitment and work satisfaction of order pickers in warehouses utilizing Automated Guided Vehicle Pick Support Systems.
This study aims to establish the role of workload, as well as the influence of individual worker behavioral differences, in predicting the tradeoff between accuracy and productivity of quality inspections, with application in airport baggage security screening.
The fourth study investigates the role of organizational ownership structures (franchise vs family owned) and leadership, as well as the influence of individual worker behavioral differences, in predicting employee performance in operations within restaurant settings.


behavioral operations; behavioral characteristics; truck driving; transformational leadership; safety; order picking; automated guided vehicle; control and autonomy; quality inspection; security screening; workload; organizational ownership structures; restaurant

Time frame

2016 - 2020


Detailed Ph.D. project descriptions do not yet exist, these will be prepared in cooperation with the PhD students. The following gives a list with a brief description of potential PhD projects.

Subtheme: Supply Chain Management

The research on Supply Chain Management focuses on the management of complete supply chains, rather than on individual parts of the supply chain. This theme covers topics such as collaboration and information exchange in supply chains and contracting. Also closed loop supply chains, involving both forward logistics and reverse logistics, are studied. The research methods are either empirical, or based on mathematical modelling. An example project is the following:

  • Collaboration and Innovation in Complex Supply Chains: Modern supply chains are global and involve many different players and stakeholders. The problems that these supply chain face are often too complex to be solved through optimization by one single firm within the supply chain. Rather, supply chains can be considered as complex adaptive systems in which many decentralized decision makers have to collaborate to search for improvement, where the optimal path to follow needs to be learned step by step. Examples for such problems are supply chain spanning sustainability initiatives, or projects that intend to improve global supply chain security. This PhD project intends to find answers for the question how to organize such collaborative problem solving in supply chains in the face of complexity and uncertainty. Key of the project is to combine a relevant grounding in global supply chain practice (facilitated by excellent contacts to e.g. the Port of Rotterdam) with state-of-the-art modeling methods. Please email dr. Fabian Sting for more information:

Subtheme: Terminal Optimization

The research on Terminal Optimization focuses on developing theories, and quantitative optimization models and tools to improve the design, operations, and planning and control of terminal processes. Such terminals include warehouses, port and railway terminals, and trans-shipment centers with the related material handling systems. Our research resulted into insight into the relations between layout, storage strategies, order batching, and picker routing methods. The developed design principles (layout, system selection) are currently used by several warehouse design companies. An example project is the following:

  • Stochastic models for the design of automated warehousing systems. Complex automated warehousing systems require sophisticated stochastic models to adequately describe and predict the consequences of variability in processes like picking, transporting, sorting, and buffering. These models have proved their value in supporting practical operations and decision making in, for example, warehouse layout, order scheduling, and product storage. In this project we aim to make a big leap forward in the development of stochastic models, and in particular queuing models, for the design of automated warehousing systems and their interfaces with manual processes. The proposal focusses on the study of stand-alone components, such as storage and retrieval systems, as well as complete warehousing concepts, such as dynamic picking systems, or combinations of picking and sorting systems in interaction with manual processes. Ultimately we envision a hierarchical modelling approach: the results of the stochastic models will provide input to the optimization of the warehouse design. For further information: prof.dr. René de Koster:

Subtheme: Transportation Management

The aim of the research on Transportation Management is to improve the performance of passenger and cargo transportation systems, usually based on the application of simulation and mathematical optimization methods. Within the Smart Port program, research is carried out focusing on improving the transport connections between the Port of Rotterdam and the Hinterland via rail and barge, and on security and compliance in international transportation. Furthermore, due to our close cooperation with Netherlands Railways (NS), much research focuses on optimization of railway systems. Specific topics of this subtheme include robustness and reliability of transportation systems, fleet composition, city distribution, the effective use of information, and revenue management.

Examples projects within this subtheme are the following:

  • Planning concepts for synchro-modal transportation. This project will focus on the planning and execution of synchro-model transport services on freight transportation networks. Transport services are synchro-modal if modes and routes are determined in a dynamic way, based on shippers’ demand and available capacity. The aim is to develop new planning concepts that take shippers’ preferences (price, quality, volume, time and place of delivery) and available transport capacity as inputs. The planning concepts will be developed under various levels of information exchange and collaboration/competition among vertically and horizontally aligned organizations. The performance of the planning concepts under these varying organizational arrangements will be evaluated and compared. For more information, please contact prof.dr. Rob Zuidwijk:
  • Truck platooning in freight distribution. A truck platoon is essentially a group of trucks automatically driving very close together to reduce fuel consumption by lowering aerodynamic drag. A set of new technologies, collectively referred to as cooperative adaptive cruise control (CACC), enables trucks to drive closer to each other than when driving manually. Truck platoons can be scheduled in advance or formed en route. While there has been much attention for the technological issues, it is still unclear which coordination mechanisms and planning concepts are most suitable to support the deployment of platoons in practice. This PhD project focuses on the development and comparison of new optimization approaches that help to maximize the benefits and adoption rates of platooning in the context of freight distribution. For more information, please contact dr. Niels Agatz:
  • Big data in urban traffic and transportation. Traffic and transportation processes generate massive amounts of operational data. The potential of these data goes beyond straight monitoring, considering their use to actively manage capacity, influence behavior, analyze patterns, describe present states, and forecast future developments. This is especially relevant in the context of cities, which are increasingly concerned about the impact of traffic and transportation on the urban environment and the safety and well-being of citizens, as well as about the accessibility of urban infrastructure. The realization of these benefits is less straightforward, as it requires investments in a proper data infrastructure, advanced skills in business analytics, and a clear view of business strategy, which can be prohibitive, even for larger organizations. The aim of this project is to develop big data applications traffic and transportation, specifically within the realm of urban environments. For further information: dr. Jan van Dalen:
  • Punctuality in public transport. Public transportation in cities is subject to strict regulations regarding the punctuality of the services rendered. Depending on the concession, charges due to failing to meet punctuality agreements may be substantial. Punctuality of public transportation in an urban context is typically affected by a myriad of city-related factors. Deviations from timetables may be caused by events like congestion, road construction, car accidents, or by bad weather. Punctuality of public transportation may also be influenced by changes in the social configuration of neighborhoods due to aging or wealth. The aim of this project is to develop a structural approach to monitoring punctuality, to identify causes for punctuality breaches, to forecast punctuality, and to develop approaches for improving punctuality. For further information: dr. Jan van Dalen:
  • Passenger oriented disruption management in public transport. This project focuses on disruption management in public transport, where the aim is to uphold as much as possible service for the passengers in disrupted situations. The project aims at understanding how passenger behavior can be used as input and possibly be influenced in such situations, so that the remaining system capacity can be utilized most effectively. Real-time disruption management strategies are developed based on mathematical optimization models for rescheduling the timetable, and the vehicle and crew schedules. In the rescheduling process, the inherent uncertainty in disruption management processes is taken into account. This project is carried out in close cooperation with Netherlands Railways, and builds on the earlier research carried out in this area. For further information: prof.dr. Leo Kroon:

Subtheme: Purchasing and Supply Management

Our research on Purchasing and Supply Management focuses mainly on relational and contractual governance in buyer-supplier relations, and on purchasing strategy. The domains where we study these processes have been extended from manufacturing sectors to the public and service sectors, where for instance research is currently conducted on the use of performance-based contracts in healthcare and public infrastructure, and its impact on product and process innovation.

  • Performance-based contracting in service triads. Recently there has been an increasing interest in outcome-based or ‘performance-based’ contracts both in practice and in the academic literature. Traditional contracting literature, however, has focused on the context of a dyadic buyer-supplier relationship. Little or no research has been done on performance-based contracting in triadic relations, where a buyer contracts a supplier to deliver services to the buyer’s customers. This project uses and extends prior literature, in particular classical transaction cost, agency and management control theories, and the emerging literature on inter-organizational triads, to study the antecedents and effects of contractual and relational governance, in the specific context of performance-based contracts in buyer-supplier-customer triads. For further information: prof.dr. Finn Wynstra:
  • Performance-based healthcare procurement. In many countries, healthcare spending is on the rise and projections of spend seem to indicate that current healthcare systems are unsustainable in the long run. Policymakers in various countries are looking for ways to make high quality and accessible health care services available to their citizens against affordable public and private costs. Some countries, like the Netherlands and the United States, have chosen to implement a system of regulated competition, in which healthcare purchasing is separated from healthcare provision. The idea is that healthcare providers compete to deliver healthcare services to the people that are represented by the healthcare purchasers (e.g., insurance companies or employers). Healthcare providers compete on a combination of quality and price, and are incentivized to provide high quality care at a competitive price. This project investigates how incentives for cost containment, quality and accessibility can be designed in the pre-contractual and post-contractual phases of the healthcare procurement process. For further information: dr. Erik van Raaij:

Subtheme: Behavioral Operations

The research in Behavioral Operations Management focuses on the impact of human factors on company performance, next to planning and control systems. We study the role of humans (managers, workers) in operational processes, in particular the effects of systems design, organizational climate and leadership on worker behavior, well-being and performance, including innovation. We study leader behavior, decision making, and implied worker behavior in interaction with systems, in contexts relevant to society. Example projects in this subtheme are the following:

  • Impact of leadership and behavior on operational performance. Operational performance in distribution, retail, warehousing is largely determined by process organization, systems and procedures. However, research has shown that also leadership and worker behavior have significant, additional, impact on operational performance measures such as productivity, quality, labor turnover, accidents and incidents, and individual measures like motivation and job satisfaction. In this project we focus on the impact of leaders and workers on performance. Focus is on delivery (ecommerce) and warehousing in close cooperation with companies such as DHL, Coolblue, and others. Methods are empirical data analysis and experimentation. Profound knowledge of data analysis methods is required. For further information: prof.dr. René de Koster:
  • Team decision making and performance: A behavioral study of the Sales & Operations Planning process. The Operations Management (OM) field witnesses a rapidly growing interest in behavioral research, but virtually all studies focus on individual decision-making. How teams make decisions is largely ignored – which is remarkable because operations and supply chain management decisions (sales & operations planning processes) are typically made in teams. Our research focuses on identification and analysis of cognitive and motivational biases that play out in sales & operations planning, including regulatory focus (a yet uncharted area in behavioral OM) and investigates the power of team reflexivity – the extent to which teams reflect on and modify their functioning – to mitigate such biases. For further information: dr. M. Schippers:
  • Online goal-setting intervention enhances student retention and academic performance. The current project will use an online intervention that has shown to be been extremely successful in raising academic performance and retention rate of students. Especially clearly defined and articulated goals give students purpose and meaning. In the current project, we aim to advance our understanding of these effects by investigating (a) specific changes in student behavior as a result of participating in this program and (b) the extent to which the program enhances academic performance of students in a problem-based learning context, and (c) the testing and implementation of an advanced goal-setting app developed for high-school students. For further information: dr. M. Schippers:

Supervisory Team

René de Koster
Professor of Logistics and Operations Management
  • Promotor
Jelle de Vries
Jelle de Vries
  • Daily Supervisor