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JOINOLOG Logistics Hackathon

The German Jordanian University (GJU) in collaboration with JOINOLOG and HELP Logistics has held from 18th to 20th of May, a JOINOLOG Logistics Hackathon in its innovation center. 

The successful Hackathon event focused on humanitarian logistics challenges in the region. Participants were about 30 GJU students from various backgrounds, including technology, logistics, and humanitarian sectors.  

They gathered to come up with possible solutions to three main challenges in delivering aid efficiently and effectively to camps and beneficiaries: 

  • Challenge 1: Ensuring the delivery to/of the aid materials to the actual beneficiaries 
  • Challenge 2: Estimating the quantity of the aid materials per family 
  • Challenge 3: Alternative collectors 

During the event, teams worked hard, brainstorming innovative solutions, and developing prototypes to improve humanitarian logistics operations. They tackled key aspects such as supply chain management, transportation, distribution, and information management systems. 

The Hackathon fostered a spirit of collaboration, with participants sharing their expertise and leveraging cutting-edge technologies.

Throughout the event, mentors and sector experts provided guidance and support to the teams, ensuring a robust exchange of ideas and the practical application of solutions (soft skills, financing, business models, prototyping and ideas pitching). Participants had the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals and GJU professors, gaining valuable insights on complex challenges faced in humanitarian logistics. 

At the conclusion of the Hackathon, teams presented their solutions to a panel of judges, consisting of industry experts from HELP Logistics, ACTED, a JOINOLOG member and a GJU logistics professor. The presentations showcased innovative approaches, demonstrating the potential for significant positive impact in humanitarian logistics operations. 

The event sparked a sense of enthusiasm and commitment among the participants, as they witnessed the transformative power of technology in addressing humanitarian challenges. Collaborative efforts, creative thinking, and the drive to make a difference were at the heart of this successful Hackathon, paving the way for future advancements in humanitarian logistics in Jordan. 

Lean SCM in VUCA Times

As Supply Chain Management became a staple in logistical practice around the world, many related business processes were optimized according to lean management principles. They revolve around growing efficacy and/or efficiency and therefore cutting process costs. In SCM, this was and is often realized by eliminating perceived waste and streamlining aspects of the supply chain. Just-in-time deliveries (saving warehousing costs) or wide-ranging reduction of lead times (elimination of wasted time) could be examples of this. This style of management is obviously beneficial: In a competing environment, it was and is vital to use resources as efficiently as possible – an attitude which also resonates with the reality of the looming climate catastrophe. While the logistics sector is not the most climate friendly, the lean management of its supply chains (beyond logistics) can cut costs dramatically and secure the success of lean practicing Logistics Service Providers, who are able to provide competitive options in transportation and warehousing.

The term VUCA describes an environment characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. These factors signify unpredictability – an obvious enemy of lean management, which relies heavily on a flow of demand and supply, which, if not completely constant, is required to at least be foreseeable in nature (e.g. seasonal). Recent events could make the case for a VUCA environment in SCM: Financial collapses, inflation of prices and growing interest rates make for a volatile fiscal environment. Wars and unrest, embargoes and sanctions make logistical processes uncertain. Related fast changing political relationships cause complexity and ambiguity in legal aspects, not just for Jordan and Germany.

The combination of this current environment with the lean management trend causes a growing fragility of the chain’s links. This is (at least partially) due to one sided optimization, which usually exclusively takes the overall financial costs into consideration. Therefore, it perceives buffers and wiggle room in processes as a waste of resources, the elimination of which occasionally does not even stop for safety stock, as its holding is perceived as an unnecessary expense. This practice proves to be a nightmare for the management of associated risks, which rise with every tightening of the supply chain, as the pressure on each link grows. A commonly cited risk influencing the supply chain’s performance is single sourcing, highlighting the shaky reliance on a low number of suppliers to realize low prices through high volume and exclusivity – while insufficiently considering the threat of an outage. Other lean tactics involving different parts of the supply chain contain their own risks, be it in sourcing, production or delivery. As environments become more volatile, uncertain, complex or ambiguous, risks of a tight supply chain multiply, causing ruptures in a streamlined system that is laid out for a predictable setting. 

The combination of lean SCM and an extensive VUCA environment poses a growing threat to reliable processes and is a potential risk factor in a time of multiple uncertainties. Logisticians on the ground have to consider these new circumstances in their activities. Closely timed sequences are to be reviewed regularly in changing conditions, safety measures are to be reevaluated constantly to guarantee a robust and functional supply chain. It could be helpful to keep in mind that just like in tackling the climate catastrophe, the short-term profits and costs are not the only worthwhile measurement. 

Research on the relationship of lean methods and uncertain environments is an immensely important field to ensure the integrity of supply chains. Innovative projects on this topic can be conducted in the developing JOINOLOG center. 

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JOINOLOG – Seminar Series 

Idea and Vision 

JOINOLOG’s main objective is the creation of a seamless network of logistics stakeholders in Jordan. By connecting all vital players in the field, the project seeks to promote research conditions and innovation transfer. One of the key steps that will help realize this project concept is the seminar series that recently took off under the umbrella of JOINOLOG. 

The event series is aimed towards all actors of logistics in Jordan, with its principal goal being the connection of these groups and the exchange of current ideas and trends. 

To this end, JOINOLOG invites two logistics experts per seminar edition. With a given umbrella term, they present current hot topics of their sector. The event includes two speakers from different backgrounds to reflect differing points of view and wider expertise. The first speaker is from Jordan, while the other is an international speaker. 

JOINOLOG’s vision of collaboration in the logistic sector is realized by the interactive form of the event: The ensuing discussion on the given topics brings fruitful results and encourages networking between actors, which otherwise might not have interacted. By bringing them together, JOINOLOG aims to discover similarities and project synergies which can be used by further cooperation of the participants, ultimately strengthening the innovative power of logistics in Jordan. 

Process and Execution 

To prepare the seminar, it is critical to identify an umbrella topic – a theme for the event that both speakers and the audience will be interested in. With this, the team can pick a suitable pool of candidates for the speakers, in both the national and international dimension. A date is set which will consider usual and international business hours. Thereafter, the availability and interest of the speakers is verified. Lastly, the practical and technical preparation begins by identifying a suitable platform, marketing the event, and finalizing the timeframe. One of the project directors moderates the seminar edition and leads the discussion and panel.  

The seminar’s duration is around 70-90 minutes, with the first speaker presenting his part, followed by the second speaker and lastly a Q&A period takes place along with a panel discussion between the presenters and the audience.  

First Edition of JOINOLOG Seminar Series: Digitalization 

The first seminar of the series took place on the 19th of September 2022. The vast topic of “Digitalization in Logistics” was presented by two speakers. Mr. Rafiq Alotti, Country Manager at Hapag-Lloyd AG in Jordan, who talked about Digital Business and Transformation in Logistics”. His presentation emphasized the importance of introducing digital solutions to modern logistical challenges. The second speaker, Mr. Hein Kerstgens, Corporate Representative and Director Board Projects at Rhenus SE & Co. KG, who gave a presentation on Digitalization of a Tri-modal Hinterland Container Network – COLA, the example of Rhenus’. In fascinating case studies of his company, Mr. Kerstgens provided examples from logistical practice, in which the digital transformation is being executed. 

In the seminar, opportunities, benefits, and challenges of the path towards digitalized logistics and the importance of the ongoing transformation towards digitalization were conveyed to an interested audience. The speakers also shed light on current success cases of digitalized companies and captured advantages of digitalization.  

The seminar had a successful takeoff with many logisticians, logistics students and interested people attending and participating in the discussion. Future seminar editions will cover a range of different topics, such as sustainability in supply chains, humanitarian logistics, innovation in logistics and current trends in logistics. 

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JOINOLOG Survey Results: Different Output Groups – Different Outlook

The goal of JOINOLOG is the coordination of logistical stakeholders. With JOINOLOG’s support, they are encouraged to conduct projects together. The output of these projects was the topic of JOINOLOG’s first survey: What should the logistical project partners aim for? What is needed and, equally important, what is doable in a limited framework of temporary cooperation?

To answer these questions, the first survey by the JOINOLOG project was conducted. Professionals in the logistical field were presented with the collected possible project outputs. They were asked to rate the item’s value of the logistical sector in Jordan and the feasibility of the output by collaboration among stakeholders.

Four groups of possible output are distinguished:

Innovation as Output – Improvements in logistical products or processes

Trainings as Output – Transfer of skills and knowledge between logistics business and academia

Scientific Output – Academic discussion of and solutions to practical challenges

Start-Ups as Output – Fresh businesses aimed towards logistics in Jordan

The matrix below shows the survey’s results in respect to the four groups:

All output proposals were rated on average above the score of 7, no proposed outputs were considered not valuable or not feasible.

JOINOLOG Survey Results: Average Feasibility and Value of Outputs

Apparently, outputs in each group were always considered of similar values to each other. The best ratings were given to the trainings that could be conducted throughJOINOLOG, close second would be the innovations the projects could achieve.

Both scientific output and start-ups as output were considered slightly less valuable and feasible. This could be due to the survey’s audience, consisting of mostly business focused logistical experts on LinkedIn. Trainings and innovation will most likely be of more value to this demographic.

These results will help the JOINOLOG project to present future cooperations with appropriate project goals, which they can achieve and will be of value to the logistical landscape of Jordan.

The project team thanks all participants for taking part in the survey!

Let’s collaborate to innovate

JOINOLOG as a project, but also as a conceptual vision, aims to stimulate more collaboration between industry partners, scientists and policy makers from the MENA region and beyond. A core reason why we believe that such collaboration can be rewarding for everyone involved is that we are convinced that a successful and diverse collaboration can result in innovation. More precisely, it can result in innovations that actually address the needs of the industry and, ultimately, the society. The idea of research collaboration for innovation is not new and in the following  article, we are presenting two well-known cases and one very personal excellent case that inspired us.

JOINOLOG would not exist without the internet, the one tool that allows us to communicate and collaborate seamlessly, even if we are not physically in the same place or even the same continent or timezone. This one of the most disruptive innovations of our lifetime came into being in the late 1980s and is generally credited to Tim Berners-Lee. He set up the first web server, as well as later the first modem in CERN, the research center of the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva. That center was built and funded by the European Union to unite the brightest minds in nuclear science and related fields of research in one location. The results of this interdisciplinary and international research excellence center are, indeed, outstanding, not just in the case of the internet. 

Granted, CERN might be an unfair comparison to JOINOLOG: Being founded by an EU resolution and receiving significant funding from all EU member states, it naturally is larger in size and volume than JOINOLOG will ever be. The manifold of partners is also unlikely to be reached by JOINOLOG – or many other research institutions indeed. But CERN is by far not the only good practice that shows how disruptive innovations are being made at research centers through collaborative activities.

Another disruptive digital innovation that did change the world undisputedly is the MP3 technology. The genesis of the technology was described by a German professor in the 1980s, but it was only when a larger group of researchers collaborated that the technology could be standardized and further developed to hit the market. The main research work was coordinated by a German private research institution, but also involved several universities and technology companies from the US, France, UK, Germany and Japan. Only through this strong collaboration could the innovation ever become an industry standard that is widely accepted and ever since further developed. Again, collaborative research of vastly different stakeholders led to a disruptive innovation.

Finally, the German part of JOINOLOG, the team of Fulda University of Applied Sciencesaround Prof. Michael Huth, is based at a research center itself. The “House of Logistics and Mobility” (in short: HOLM) is a German collaboration center that brings together industry partners and universities from all over Germany and even beyond. It was founded by the State of Hesse and received funding from the state for a few years, but is now self-sustainable. As a research team, we have benefited again and again from the close proximity of some of the largest logistics companies in Germany, who all have offices next door to ours. Several research consortia came together for projects this way and some resulted in tangible and applicable outcomes, which entered the market as startups. 

These, and many other examples are what inspires and drives us to promote interdisciplinary and international collaboration between policy makers, scientists and industry partners. We are and remain convinced that only such broad initiatives can and will ultimately result in innovations that truly satisfy the needs of the society, industry and sciences.

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Introducing Members of the Project Advisory Board (PAB)

We are delighted to welcome the following members to the JOINOLOG Advisory Board! This first structural part of the emerging JOINOLOG network regularly meets to decide on strategic issues brought forward by the project team. This way, the PAB forms the center’s aspects since its foundation in May 2021. 

The board consists of four expert professionals working across the breadth of a diverse logistics landscape.  
Each of our four Advisory Board members brings with them a wealth of relevant experience developed at the highest levels of logistics focused organizations.  

 These members are: 

  • Hakam Abul Feilat, representing AQABA Logistics Village (ALV) 

The general manager of Aqaba Logistics Village and an all around professional with over 20 years of experience in logistics, shipping, transport, and warehousing with international and local companies in the region. Mr. Hakam obtains excellent organizational skills with a unique combination of strength in sales and processes, in addition to knowledge and responsibility for Production and Logistics in various fields. 

  

  • Dr. Mahmoud Abuhussein, representing The Higher Council for Science and Technology (HCST) 
Dr. Mahmoud Abuhussein

The Director of the International Cooperation Department at the Higher Council for Science and Technology with more than 7 years of extensive experience in the field of research and technical project research. Dr. Mahmoud has an extensive set of skills in research and development (R&D), technology transfer and Inter-departmental Cooperation.

 

  • Fares L. Abudayyeh, representing the Ministry of Transport 
Mr. Fares L. Abudayyeh

A highly accomplished freight forwarding and clearance expert with progressive experience in management roles within multiple areas. Mr. Fares has extensive managerial experience in the international freight & logistics business, mainly in Jordan and Middle East. He joins the PAB as current Director of Transport and Trade Facilitation Unit at the Ministry of Transport. 

  • Martin Ohlsen, former Logistics Director of the World Food Programme 
Mr. Martin Ohlsen

An international expert in supply chain management, Mr. Martin has spent much of his professional life leading humanitarian efforts for the UN World Food Program (WFP) across diverse geographies, organizing food assistance in the most challenging of environments, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq and various Central and West African countries. As a Director at its Rome HQ, he ran the WFP’s worldwide transport & logistics division, and as a Country Director in the Democratic Republic of the Congo he managed a large country program. 

Mr. Martin offers international consultancy services related to the coordination and management of project in the humanitarian context and has a variety of strengths in advisory, consultancy, mentoring & humanitarian supply. 

We at JOINOLOG are thrilled to have such national and international knowledgeable and talented professionals forming our Advisory Board. Their expertise will play a valuable role in guiding JOINOLOG in future success and expansion. 

Why do we need JOINOLOG in Jordan?  

In a country like Jordan, logistics plays a vital role. The logistics and transportation sector accounts for over 8.2% of the GDP and is expected to grow in demand from 5% to 6% by 20301. An innovation center can be a supporting factor in achieving and maintaining these KPIs in a more sustainable and efficient way. The logistics sector in Jordan can be described as business-friendly, with 325 licensed transportation and logistics companies operating in Jordan in 20182

There is a massive space for improvement in the field of logistics in a country like Jordan, where logistics can become a main leading industry. The overall objective of the project JOINOLOG is the conception of an innovation center for logistics that will be the first of its kind in this field in Jordan, which will support the vision of improving the overall quality and system of logistics.

JOINOLOG has many aspects that can support the landscape of logistics and supply chain in Jordan, one of the important offerings that JOINOLOG can provide is to create a network that will link together all vital players and will serve a wide range of beneficiaries to promote research conditions, innovation transfer and governance structures.  

To achieve the previously mentioned goals, JOINOLOG has already been in contact with multiple parties who are active in the logistics field. Such as the Jordan Logistics Network (JLN), future collaboration will focus on logistics related seminars and activities. Or HELP Logistics, with whom a productive cooperation on humanitarian logistics can be achieved. These examples stand for many other stakeholders who have shown interest in JOINOLOG and its mission. 

The focus is on collaboration through joint research projects, training and events, exchange of content and promotion of innovation in logistics. The center’s orientation will be vital to its sustainability, thus offering a platform for sustainable collaboration among logistical stakeholders.  

Therefore, another important aspect of the creation of JOINOLOG is that it can support in developing new opportunities through the cross-sectoral communication and interaction created through its platform and beneficiaries.  

JOINOLOG will additionally serve as a supporting pillar for university students, business professionals and members to propose related research topics to be considered for further research development under the umbrella of JOINOLOG. Through this participatory approach, the research of the center’s projects will always stay close to real needs the industry and society perceives. 

One other, but particularly dominant aspect of JOINOLOG is that it offers clustering opportunities. This point especially has multiple advantages that can be reflected on the Jordanian landscape. The first advantage is that through clustering, knowledge will increase, which will benefit all related parties. Seemingly unrelated organizations will be able to collaborate through their shared interest in scientific solutions to logistical challenges. Also, through clustering innovation transfer will be done more efficiently.  

Jordan can sustainably benefit from investing in an innovation center like JOINOLOG, especially with the considerable growth in the transportation and logistics sector. Jordan’s geographical location makes it a focal point for the MENA region, demonstrating the need for coordinated logistical efforts. 

1 Sector Profile Logistics and Transportation, Jordan Investment Commission 2017. 
2 Sector Profile Logistics and Transportation, Jordan Investment Commission 2017. 

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Visit to Amman

From November 29 to December 3, the German members of the JOINOLOG project team finally had the opportunity to visit Amman again and meet the Jordanian team members as well as other stakeholders and potential future partners. The long overdue trip, which had to be postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, gave the entire team a chance to get a better picture of the opportunities at hand, but also of the challenges ahead. 

The two equal project partners, the Amman-based German-Jordanian University (GJU) and the Frankfurt-based Research Center for Logistics at Fulda University of Applied Sciences (FUAS) conducted meetings throughout Amman, hosted a student workshop and visited the GJU campus in Madaba, 25 km south of the Jordanian capital.

At GJU’s main campus, the JOINOLOG team met with Dr. Ralf Rosskopf, the university’s Vice Dean for International Affairs, to discuss potential future JOINOLOG events at GJU, as well as regular collaborations on networking events aimed at linking academia and economy more closely. Dr. Rosskopf informed the JOINOLOG team of the ongoing development of research clusters at GJU, as well as the new Deanship of Innovation, Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship, which aims to support student-led start-ups even more in the future. Vice versa, the JOINOLOG team presented Dr. Rosskopf with its vision of holding regular “Industry Talks”, informal get-togethers that bring together academic experts and business leaders.

Following the fruitful exchange with Dr. Rosskopf, the JOINOLOG team met Ms. Britta Kaehler and Eng. Jamil AlKhatib from GJU’s Office for Industrial Links, as well as Dr. Nidal Shwawreh, the Dean of  Innovation, Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship, for a working meeting. The group held a lively discussion about a planned hackathon that JOINOLOG and GJU aim to organize in close cooperation in the second half of 2022 .

Finally, the JOINOLOG team moved to GJU’s campus in central Amman to hold a 60-minute student workshop. During the workshop, two groups of Masters students used the brainwriting method to narrow down the three most relevant current logistical challenges in Jordan. The results will be used as a basis for shaping the research agenda of JOINOLOG in future.

In addition to these meetings between different departments of the project’s two main stakeholders, GJU and HFD, the team also held several meetings with some of the leading experts in the field of logistics in Jordan. 

At HELP logistics, the team learned more about HELP’s activities on the ground in Amman, Jordan and in the wider region, while briefing them about JOINOLOG and its current status and plans for the future. Both sides identified several fields for potential future cooperation. In particular, HELP and JOINOLOG discussed how they could work together on the planned hackathon, but also beyond that, e.g. in the field of humanitarian logistics research.

At Maersk, the JOINOLOG team met Rakan Madi, country manager for Jordan and Iraq. Mr. Rakan emphasized that Maersk is fully supportive of the project and is very comfortable with the collaborative approach that the team seeks to pursue. He made valuable proposals for additional potential partners JOINOLOG should contact and, in return, appreciated JOINOLOG’s plans to hold “Industry Talks” and conduct webinars in the future. 

Finally, before returning to Germany, the JOINOLOG team met with the team of the Jordan Logistics Network (JLN). The two founders, Ismat Yassin and Majd Alasmar, have built  a virtual network of logisticians across the country over the last few years and have become the prime source for information for many industry personnel. JLN and JOINOLOG are determined to work closely together in the future to carry out activities across Jordan, such as a job fair or a series of workshops or webinars. 

In the only virtual meeting of the week, the JOINOLOG team met with its Project Advisory Board (PAB). In interesting and productive discussions among the board, important structural developments were suggested. The members of the PAB gave valuable input on the center’s strategic direction, which the project team will implement.

An extremely interesting and productive week lies behind the JOINOLOG team, bringing the logistics center for innovation closer to reality.

JOINOLOG’s Origin

Idea to Innovation Center

The journey of the Jordan Innovation Center for Logistics started in 2018. In a Flying Faculty cooperation between Hochschule Fulda and German Jordanian University (GJU), a discrepancy was discussed: How come Jordan has so many bright young students and innovators, but still many challenges and little innovation in the logistical sector? One answer to this question could be the apparent lack of coordination and cooperation in the logistical field, especially regarding research and innovation. Other conclusions could point out the insufficient representation of logistics as an academic field – no university but the GJU was offering related degrees.

Following these learnings, the idea to bundle all stakeholder groups, from logistical forwarders to political actors and start-ups, in one collaboration network was born. An imagined Jordan Innovation Center for Logistics was going to tackle the challenges in logistical practice by bringing together all interest groups of the sector. Their combined strengths were to initiate research projects and trainings to ultimately improve the applied logistics in the whole Hashemite Kingdom.

A grant scheme regarding innovation in the Middle East by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) was applied for and granted. Between November 2018 and October 2019, the preparation phase of JOINOLOG was conducted. The feasibility of such an innovation platform was the focus of this year: Can a center like this sustainably exist in the Jordanian logistics landscape? How does the Jordanian landscape in research and logistics look like in detail? Which actors were required in this endeavor? Hochschule Fulda led the research in this phase, visiting Jordan and conducting workshops, while staying in close coordination with GJU. Multiple students from the Jordanian university were working on the project in Germany, providing valuable insight exceeding their research. The preparation phase was supported by associated partners in both countries as well, representing the different stakeholder groups in logistics. Private companies took part just like public actors and associations, all participating in workshops to describe the circumstances, in which they can imagine JOINOLOG coming into existence.  

The preparation phase’s results were distinct: Yes, an innovation center for logistics is possible, needed and wanted by the local logisticians and researchers. By adequately communicating these results to the Federal Ministry, Hochschule Fulda secured funding for another three years for JOINOLOG, which is considered the second phase of the project.

This so-called implementation phase in JOINOLOG’s development was started in February 2021. Since then, GJU is officially co-conducting the project and a Project Advisory Board (PAB) was chosen.

The next three years will bring the Jordan Innovation Center for Logistics into existence, with initial research projects and trainings taking place within this timeframe as well. A network of Jordanian logisticians of all professions will collaborate to improve the practice of logistics sustainably, using innovative technology and research-based procedures. The logistical start-up will find a home in Jordan’s rich innovation landscape, working tirelessly on the future of the sector.