Design and protection strategies for critical infrastructure systems and supply chains

Lead Research Organisation: University of Kent
Department Name: Kent Business School


Infrastructure systems and supply chains are at the basis of societal functions and reach into every aspect of modern life. Examples of these vital systems include goods and service distribution networks, emergency services, financial services, transportation and telecommunication networks, electrical power grids and water supply systems among others. Unfortunately, recent world events have demonstrated that even the strongest supply chains or infrastructure systems can be extremely vulnerable to unforeseen events. The World Trade Centre terrorist attack in 2001, the Tsunami in December 2004, and hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which hit the US gulf coast in 2005, are only the most dramatic evidence of the precariousness and vulnerability of our critical infrastructure to natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Other less catastrophic but more frequent incidents, such as plant fires, industrial accidents, labor strikes and power outages, can also have costly and, sometimes, harmful implications, especially if the incapacitated or destroyed supply line provides essential services or goods (e.g., hospitals, drugs, vaccines).In view of all these risks and hazards, there has been a heightened awareness and concern over the past few years for increasing the security and reliability of infrastructure and supply systems that may be subject to potential external disruptions. Planning against possible disruptive acts of nature or terrorism is an enormous financial and logistical challenge, especially if one considers the scale and complexity of today's logistic systems, the increasing interdependence among numerous system elements, the variety of threats and hazards, and the prohibitive costs involved in securing large numbers of system components. Since it is generally impossible to secure all assets, it is important to devise systematic approaches for identifying critical elements, optimize the protection of key system components and even build new systems which are inherently robust. Optimization techniques can play a significant role in this respect.Over the last few years, a few optimization models have been developed for identifying supply chain configurations that are both reliable with respect to disruptions and economically cost-effective in terms of infrastructure investment (design models). Additionally, new models have been proposed recently which can be used to improve the reliability of infrastructure systems that are already in place and for which a complete reconfiguration would be too costly (protection models).The overall objective of this project is to develop a suite of new optimization models in both of these reliability-related research areas. In particular, new modeling approaches will be developed to overcome some of the overly simplified assumptions which characterize existing models, to capture additional complex issues arising in systems reliability planning, and to reflect the diversity of possible application settings. As an example, future modeling efforts should aim at incorporating various combinations of the following issues: (1) different operational protocols of the systems (cost-based vs. standards-based supply models); (2) different types of hazards (expected models for natural disasters vs. worst-case models for premeditated attacks); (3) different underlying models (facility location, network, multi-echelon supply models); (4) stochastic aspects such as random numbers of possible losses and component-specific failure probabilities; (5) different degrees of facility protection (protected components may be completely immune to attacks and failures, have a lower probability of being disrupted, or preserve part of their operational capabilities depending on the level of protection investment); (6) multiple objectives (operational costs, lost-sales cost, system efficiency, coverage, risk level). Both exact and heuristic techniques will also be developed to solve the newly proposed models.


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Description The development of mathematical models for identifying critical infrastructure components and sound protection plans for supply chains can provide significant benefits to various commercial and government organisations. As a by-product of the EPSRC research project, collaborations involving non-academic partners have been undertaken to exploit the project findings. In 2010, a consultancy project has been conducted for the DSTL. Discussions for further collaborations with the DSTL are currently underway. As an example, a research application should be put forward in due course via the Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) - a unit within the DSTL - so as to explore possible applications of the proposed protection planning models to critical infrastructure and utility networks in the UK. In 2012-2013, the PI has also been engaged in a European funded project titled 'MEthodological Tools for Railway Infrastructure Protection' (METRIP). The project was led by ANSALDO, a leading technology company operating in the global Railway's Mass Transit Transportation Systems business. Within this project framework, the PI has leveraged on the findings of the EPSRC project to develop advanced decision support tools for increasing the protection of critical railway infrastructure systems (RIS). Overall, the research work conducted during this EPSRC project has placed the management science research group at the University of Kent in a leading position in the field of infrastructure protection planning. The models developed as part of the project have set the ground work for an entire new line of research within the Operational Research literature and have attracted the interest of other researchers and practitioners in the field. The PI has presented her work on critical infrastructure protection at more than 20 international conferences and received invitations to give two plenary sessions, a tutorial and several research seminars at leading institutions across the UK, Europe and the US. She has now published several papers and book chapters on this topic in top-ranked operational research and geography journals. Her work and that of the two PhD students funded by the EPSRC grant have received international recognition. The PI has been nominated by the Institute of Operational Research and the Management Sciences - Section on Location Analysis (INFORMS-SOLA) for the highly prestigious Lanchester Prize for her contribution to the location analysis discipline. The PhD student, Federico Liberatore, has won several national and international prizes for his doctoral dissertation. The esteem by which this work is viewed is further demonstrated by the frequent requests the PI has received to referee papers in the subject area, cover editorial roles, be a member of scientific committees at international meetings and take part in European projects. As an example, she is currently collaborating with researchers at the University of Coimbra, Portugal to refine and exploit the project findings for optimizing flood emergency logistics operations. The project also includes collaboration with the Portuguese Civil Protection. It is clear that the theories and methodologies developed within this project are been exploited by international academics and researchers and have greatly contributed to the advancement of the discipline.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Education,Transport
Impact Types Cultural,Economic