Behavioral Operations in Logistics
In the world of logistics, a considerable share of all work is automated and performed by machines or robots. An examination of the existing logistics research reflects this image, since a substantial share of the studies focus on automated processes, and perfectly predictable systems. This is however not the whole picture. People play an essential role in almost every node in a supply chain as well, and when human behavior is involved things become less predictable. The roles of people in supply chains range from more managerial tasks such as decision-making to operational tasks such as order picking and driving. Especially the role of human behavior in this latter category of operational tasks is an underresearched topic. This dissertation aims to contribute to theory and practice by investigating exactly this issue: which behavioral factors and individual characteristics of people influence the outcomes of logistical processes, and to what extent? This question is addressed in five chapters, each of which focuses on different individual characteristics, a different research context, or a different methodological approach.
In chapters 2, 3, and 4, we used behavioral (field) experiments to investigate the performance of different order picking tools, systems, and incentive systems. Furthermore, we examined the role of picker personality and regulatory focus, a mindset that influences how people perceive goals and act, in this context. The result show it is important consider individual differences when determining which people to deploy in a particular task and how to motivate them. Doing so can result in a substantial increase in performance and corresponding reduction of wage costs.
In chapter 5 we study the relationship between safety-specific transformational leadership (SSTL), a leadership style geared towards fostering safety, on warehouse accidents, and the determinants of this leadership style. We show that prevention-focused leaders are more likely to display SSTL, which in turn relates to a lower number of accidents. This result can help companies to select and train the right manager to foster safety in their warehouse.
In chapter 6 we investigated the role of individual characteristics of truck drivers in predicting driving performance in terms of safe driving behavior and productivity. Several personality traits significantly influenced performance. For example, more conscientious drivers displayed more dangerous driving behavior. Furthermore, the results suggest that a certain minimum level of safety conscious is necessary for truck drivers to reach top levels of productivity. The productivity difference between drivers scoring high and drivers scoring low on safety consciousness was approximately 7.5%, translating to time savings of about 3 hours on the average trip in our sample.
As a whole, this dissertation aimed to obtain more insight into the influence of several behavioral aspects and individual differences in the context of logistics. We found that the consideration of individual differences and behavioral aspects helps to more accurately explain and predict the outcomes of multiple different logistical processes and outcomes. These insights offers numerous opportunities to improve and refine existing models in operations management.
Watch the video on behavioral operations.