Keywords applicable to this article: dissertation, thesis, topics, lean and six sigma in supply chain
management, sustainable supply chain management, sustainable procurement, sustainable logistics
capabilities, sustainable production, sustainable transportation, sustainable warehousing, sustainable
distribution
By:
Sourabh Kishore, Chief Consulting Officer

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Suggested Topics for Dissertations and Thesis Research
Projects in Lean, Six Sigma, and Sustainability in the areas of
Procurement Management, Supply Chain Management,
Inventory Management, and Distribution Management
I am happy to present the second part of the article on dissertation and thesis topic development in the fields of Procurement Management, Supply Chain
Management, Inventory Management, and Distribution Management. This is an extension of our original article in these fields, accessible through the
following link:

Link to the first part of this article for topic development in the areas of logistics and supply chain
performance, integration, aggregation planning, effectiveness, efficiency, IT and technologies in supply
chain management, and cloud supply chains and manufacturing.

This article explores many newer topics of research in supply chain management and its associated domains categorized under four broad research areas.
The article largely covers the research areas of lean and six sigma and sustainability in supply chain management. Each area presents opportunities for
studying a number of practices and the factor variables (both mediators and moderators) associated with it, and their interrelationships. The studies
proposed are mostly positivistic, deductive, and quantitative employing inferential statistical methods like ANOVA, MANOVA, Multiple Regressions,
and advanced Multivariate Statistical Modelling and Analysis comprising of Exploratory Factor Analysis using Principal Component Analysis,
Confirmatory Factor Analysis, and Structural Equation Modelling. Please visit our page on Multivariate Statistical Modelling and Analysis for further
details on analysing and optimising the measurement constructs. You may also consider in touch programmes (action research), organisational
ethnography, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and phenomenology as appropriate qualitative methods for deriving deeper knowledge about
the variables and their possible interrelationships after completing the quantitative part (I mean, employing methodology and data triangulation using
quantitative data and analytics).The descriptions of the areas and their associated practices are presented as the following:

(A) Lean and Six Sigma in Supply Chain Management:

Lean and six sigma are two philosophical approaches that are focused on enhancing the capabilities of an organization for achieving quality excellence
in cost effective ways. Lean philosophy advocates optimum use of resources, elimination of wastes, and costs reduction. Six sigma advocates elimination
of defects and errors in a quality system in such a way that defects per million of opportunities shifts multiple sigmas (a sigma is the standard deviation)
away from the mean of a million measurements of the target quality statistic in a normal distribution curve. At the sixth sigma from the mean of the target
quality statistic, the defects per million opportunities are only 3.4 and the accuracy level of the process task is 99.9999980%. This is called the six sigma
quality level. This target may not appear to be feasible in many processes because one may not be able to visualize the targeted mean of a quality statistic
in a million opportunities accurately, and the targeted statistical mean of the quality statistic in a million measurements may be shifting periodically.
Hence, the philosophy of six sigma is not about achieving this statistical quality target albeit is to achieve a culture of listening to the voices of customers
(that is, collecting and analyzing data on the concerns raised and feedbacks provided by the customers) continuously, performing quality measurements
continuously, performing continuous improvements, striving for excellence, and data-driven statistical thinking. The model for achieving these cultural
changes and the resulting systems and processes is called DMAIC (define, measure, analyse, improve, and control). Lean and six sigma philosophies can
be combined for achieving excellence in supply chain management with the help of the following practices:

1. Management commitment by setting directions and allocation of funds and resources
2. Monitoring and control by top management
3. Process reforms championships for managing changes
4. Cost consciousness through skewing of the costs and the expenses incurred towards the goals aligned with the voices of customers (concerns raised
and feedbacks provided by the customers), and the most essential business objectives and goals
5. Quality consciousness and orientation in the processes, tasks, and deliverables
6. Elimination of wastes: here wastes refer to the processes and tasks that poorly or do not contribute to the primary business objectives such as
shareholders' wealth creation, customer satisfaction, productivity, innovation, efficiency, sustainability, and compliance
7. Elimination of defects: here defects refer to deviations from requirement specifications in execution of processes and their tasks
8. Multi-skilling of employees for expanding their working domains
9. Aligning every policy, process, and tasks to the voices of customers
10. Lean consumption of internal resources
11. Lean consumption of external and natural resources
12. Lean strategies of operations (like, maintaining transit warehouses, reducing transportation size for better volume consumption per trip, just-in-time
production, just-in-time inventory replenishment, demand-linked lean distribution, etc.)
13. Strategic supplier relationships
14. Vendor-managed inventory
15. Just-in-time
16. Cellular manufacturing design (as against continuous flow assembly lines design)
17. Demand pull strategy
18. Flexible and agile capabilities in the final stages of production (like, delaying assembly of finished products until the orders have been confirmed)
19. Toyota Production System (TPS) and Total Quality Management (TQM) principles, and their relationships with lean and six sigma philosophies
20. Competencies and capabilities to process small / tiny batches of orders in large numbers with significantly varying specifications as demanded by the
customers

The above list is a representative set of practices that influence planning, adopting, implementing, operating, and controlling lean and six sigma systems
and processes following their philosophies. Each of these practices may be supported by a number of underlying factor variables acting as mediators and
moderators. One may consider studying these practices and their variables separately through in touch programmes (action research), organisational
ethnography, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and phenomenology as in qualitative studies or investigating their interrelationships through
hypothesis testing and testing of structural constructs (complex relationships models) in quantitative studies. This is a vast research area that requires
significant contributions by students and professionals. The existing empirical knowledge of lean and six sigma in supply chain management is
inadequate requiring significant research efforts as it is very valuable for achieving quality excellence in cost effective ways. Please visit our page on
Multivariate Statistical Modelling and Analysis for further details on analysing and optimising the measurement constructs.

In addition to the suggestions above, please contact us at consulting@etcoindia.co or consulting@etcoindia.net to get more
topic suggestions and to discuss your topic.

Dear Visitor: Please visit the page detailing SUBJECT AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION pertaining to our services to view the broader perspective of our
offerings for Dissertations and Thesis Projects. Please also visit the page having
TOPICS DELIVERED by us.
Please visit the
the first part of this article for topic development in the areas of logistics and supply chain performance, integration, aggregation planning,
effectiveness, efficiency, IT and technologies in supply chain management, and cloud supply chains and manufacturing.
With Sincere Regards, Sourabh Kishore. Apologies for interruption; please continue reading.

(B) Sustainable Supply Chain Management:

Many scholars have attempted to derive definitions of sustainability. However, the stereotyped outcomes of such research studies have evolved a modern
theory that there cannot be a single most valid scientific definition of sustainability. Hence, sustainability is viewed as a framework of three large areas
interacting with each other for ensuring that humanity-centric problems that can challenge the long-term survival of humanity can be identified and
addressed. This framework is widely referred as the Triple Bottom Line (TBL), which comprises of three large areas: Economics, Environment, and
Empowerment. Some literatures also refer to it as the Triple-E model. The practices under the three areas in the Triple Bottom Line / Triple-E model
pertaining to supply chain management are the following:

Economics:

1. Enhancing the role of supply chain competencies in achieving business performance
2. Effective management of financial risks of supply chain management
3. Enhancing cost effectiveness by reducing costs and improving productivity
4. Enhanced effectiveness and efficiency of manufacturing plants
5. Enhancing the accuracy and timeliness of supplies and demands forecasting
6. Enhanced effectiveness and efficiency of procurement, production, logistics, transportation, and distribution
7. Enhanced controls on inventory management to meet demands effectively
8. Eliminating dysfunctional phenomena, like order rationing, beer gaming, and bullwhip effect
9. Implementing activity-based costing in supply chain management
10. Keeping the variance of key performance metrics within the tolerance limits

Environmental:

1. Checking of and reducing the depletion of critical atmospheric layers
2. Measuring and reducing the carbon footprint on transportation channels caused by movements of freight ships, commercial vehicles, and freight
airplanes
3. Measuring and reducing greenhouse emissions that may be aiding the ongoing global warming and related climate changes
4. Implementing green standards in the processes of all the echelons of a supply chain
5. Exploring, adopting, and implementing global standards for handling of hazardous materials
6. Measuring and reducing harmful radiations in a supply chain causing hazards to people, plants, and species
7. Lean approach towards consumption of natural resources
8. Measuring and reducing pollutions of all forms
9. Taking appropriate actions for preventing harms caused to species and biodiversity
10. Applying appropriate green labelling and green instructions on the packages in transit, storage, and distribution

Empowerment:

1. Creating employment opportunities for the local communities in the supply chain
2. Developing healthy relationships with the local communities affected by the operations of a supply chain
3. Creating employment opportunities for the displaced people and expatriates travelling long distances in search of well being
4. Identifying and eliminating all possible unfair employment practices
5. Exploring, adopting, and implementing global standards for occupational health and safety and labour management practices
6. Exploring, adopting, and implementing global standards for protection of workers when exposed to harsh working conditions
7. Eliminating gender inequality
8. Eliminating corruption and money laundering practices
9. Multi-skilling of employees for building an efficient workforce
10. Eliminating child labour

The triple bottom line practices presented above form a representative set, which can be expanded through extended review of literatures. Each of these
practices may be supported by a number of underlying factor variables acting as mediators and moderators. One may consider studying these practices
and their variables separately through focus group discussions and interviews in qualitative studies or investigating their interrelationships through
hypothesis testing and testing of structural constructs (complex relationships models) in quantitative studies. This is a vast research area that requires
significant contributions by students and professionals. Latest studies have linked lean and agile practices and lean six sigma philosophies with
sustainability practices of supply chain management. Hence, the practices and their corresponding factor variables in research areas A and B (explained
above) can be combined in the same studies. You should be careful not to overload your study with too many practices and their factor variables. I suggest
keeping the focus on one independent practice and one dependent practice in a master research. As a ballpark, such topics may comprise of six to twelve
factor variables in their initial structural theoretical constructs (called initial measurement models). At PHD level, you may choose two independent and
two dependent practices in your topic design. As a ballpark, such topics may comprise of fifteen to twenty-five factor variables in their initial structural
theoretical constructs. These variables may include both the mediators and the moderators. Please visit our page on Multivariate Statistical Modelling and
Analysis
for further details on analysing and optimising the measurement constructs.

Another emerging area in sustainable supply chain management is "market-orientation of sustainability capabilities for achieving competitive advantages
in supply chain management". A number of studies have been conducted in past five years but this area is so much complex and in demand that many
new studies can be designed. The fundamental question is raised by the business stakeholders of a company: what is the return on investments on
sustainability for a business? The economics area of triple bottom line model addresses this question to a good extent, but answers need to be explored in
the environment and empowerment areas, as well. Recent studies are gradually building the theoretical foundation but a lot of new studies are desired in
this area.

In addition to the suggestions above, please contact us at consulting@etcoindia.co or consulting@etcoindia.net to get more
topic suggestions and to discuss your topic.

(C) Sustainable Procurement:

Normally, sustainable procurement should have been a part of sustainable supply chain management. However, this research area is studied separately
because sustainable procurement has been standardized in the form of a structured and organized framework included in the legal and regulatory
systems for
public procurement in UK, EU, and Australia based on the research and analysis by Sustainable Procurement Task Force (SPTF) of HM
Government (UK), Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA, UK), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), professional
designs (such as IBM's Maturity Model for Sustainable Procurement and INSEAD report on sustainable procurement design), and large number of
academic research studies. Sustainable procurement largely follows the lean and agile designs and the triple bottom line model of sustainability. The
differences in sustainable procurement as compared to sustainable supply chain management are the following:

1. There is a structured and organised legal and regulatory framework for sustainable procurement in place.
2. Every government and public sector organisation is expected to maintain a complete documented standard for sustainable procurement.
3. The documented standard should comprise of organisational strategies and policies, operating processes and tasks, controls, criteria for
decision-making, information systems, and all the additional documentation of contracts, records, communications, and suppliers' compliance reports.
4. The life cycle of each sustainable procurement project is defined and published.
5. There are clear guidelines defined by DEFRA and UNDP on measuring sustainability in the entire raw materials acquisition, production, packaging,
storing, transportation, and distribution life cycle operated by suppliers.
6. The guidelines also include measures, indicators, and measurement methods for suppliers' sustainability auditing.
7. All the internal and supplier audit and assessment records and related compliance reports are published.
8. The concept of framework agreements is implemented as a part of the sustainable procurement practices.

The students may like to study the effectiveness of the above practices in public sector and government organisations through qualitative studies
involving in touch programmes (action research), organisational ethnography, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and phenomenology. In
addition, the research topics in sustainable procurement may be designed to cover the following:

1. Various practices and factor variables related to the DEFRA and UNDP standards for sustainable procurement
2. Performance measures, indicators, and performance measurement methods in product lifecycle performance assessment and sustainable procurement
standards
3. Supplier auditing and assessment
4. Sustainable procurement life cycle planning, implementation, monitoring, control, and reporting
5. Various designs and implementation of framework agreements
6. Practices and their factor variables related to sustainable procurement effectiveness and efficiency
7. Strategic supplier relationships; role of suppliers in effective sustainable procurement
8. Economics of sustainable procurement
9. Market orientation of sustainable procurement
10. Competitive advantages achieved because of sustainable procurement practices
11. Excellence in processes and tasks related to sustainable procurement
12. Continuous improvements in sustainable procurement through six sigma

Currently, this research area has been addressed by a number of qualitative studies following in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and critical
literature analysis. This research area requires a number of quantitative studies for investigating the interrelationships between practices and their factor
variables. As recommended above, master studies may comprise of one independent practice and one dependent practice, and their corresponding factor
variables; and PHD studies may comprise of two independent and two dependent practices, and their corresponding factor variables. Please visit our
page on Multivariate Statistical Modelling and Analysis for further details on analysing and optimising the measurement constructs.

In addition to the suggestions above, please contact us at consulting@etcoindia.co or consulting@etcoindia.net to get more
topic suggestions and to discuss your topic.

(D) Sustainable Logistics Capabilities for Industrial Engineering Excellence in Production, Transportation & Warehousing, and Distribution:

Sustainable logistics capabilities study is a part of sustainable supply chain management. However, there are many research topics related to industrial
engineering in achieving sustainable logistics, which may not be covered in the triple bottom line framework studies under sustainable supply chain
management. The following is a representative list of topics on industrial engineering excellence for sustainable logistics capability development in the
fields of production, transportation, warehousing, and distribution:


1. Sustainability in different phases of plant logistics operations
2. Impact of sustainability on logistics costing (such as lot quantity, inventory carrying, transportation and warehousing, and order processing costs)
3. Sustainability in reverse logistics for returns, warranty claims, and recycling
4. Sustainability in manufacturing cycle, jobs, buffering, and assembly planning
5. Sustainability in enterprise resources planning
6. Sustainability in materials requirements planning (MRP II)
7. Sustainability in inter-stage material feeds, job preparation tasks, buffers, and machine operations
8. Sustainability in management of loading / unloading areas, docking stations, internal transportation, spaces and cubes, storage and retrieval systems
(like, conveyor belts), heating, cooling, boilers, water circulation, power supplies, power distribution, pipelines and valves, other similar industrial
systems, and the end-to-end infrastructure of machines and tools
9. Sustainability in transportation networking management and vehicle routing (both internal and external)
10. Sustainability in configurations and assembly of finished products
11. Sustainability in safety stock and forecasting management
12. Sustainability in managing arrivals, departures, and internal lead times of transit buffers
13. Sustainability in procurement planning and inventory replenishment
14. Sustainability in assembly and disassembly networks
15. Sustainability in third party and fourth party logistics management and in vendor managed inventory management


Many more topics of sustainability in industrial engineering excellence can be added. ISO 14000 series standards, OHSAS 18000 series standards, and
many academic studies cover about sustainability in industrial engineering excellence. These topics can be researched through detailed process
modelling, process layout study, system dynamics modelling, and Taguchi's method. Some of the tools recommended for these studies are ARENA,
VENSIM, MATLAB, and Taguchi's templates
.

Please feel free to contact us at consulting@etcoindia.co or consulting@etcoindia.net to get
recommendations of your research topics or discuss the research topic you have chosen.

In the first part of this article, you will find many more research areas and opportunities that are still highly pursued in higher education in the field of
supply chain management and its associated domains. You may like to access the article by clicking the following link:

Link to the first part of this article for topic development in the areas of logistics and supply chain
performance, integration, aggregation planning, effectiveness, efficiency, IT and technologies in supply
chain management, and cloud supply chains and manufacturing.
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