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Campbell Receives $400,000 Grant To Study Distribution Methods

Ann Melissa Campbell University of Iowa researcher Ann Melissa Campbell wants to help businesses improve their customer service through better distribution methods. To further this research, Campbell, an assistant professor of management sciences, has received the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Early Career Development Award, which will provide approximately $400,000 in project support over the next five years.

The CAREER award is the most prestigious NSF honor for new faculty and is given in recognition of research and teaching excellence, as well as academic leadership potential. The awards, presented to researchers nationwide, are designed to recognize and support the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century.

Campbell's NSF research is titled, "Improved Service Through Improved Logistics." Logistics can be used in a variety of ways to improve customer service, Campbell says, by making it more reliable, convenient, or faster, while at the same time creating higher profits for vendors.

The research project has three themes. The first involves improving the efficiency of vendor managed inventory policies, where consumers allow a vendor to anticipate their needs and make deliveries without consumers ever placing an order. The second theme focuses on how a company can reduce the time required for delivery of products by choosing the right locations for distribution centers.

The third part of the research deals with consumer direct logistics; examples of this technology are online grocery stores such as Webvan and Peapod. With such vendors, shoppers can point and click their way to ordering a whole grocery list, and the order will be delivered to a shopper's front door at a pre-arranged time in the next few days.

"Initially, e-grocers had a hard time succeeding since they offered prices competitive with local grocery stores and charged little, if anything, for delivery to the home within a fairly strict time window. So it's not surprising that many of these initial businesses have either gone bankrupt or had a difficult time," Campbell said. "We are interested in making the delivery side as efficient as possible and evaluating small changes in the business model, such as offering customers incentives to choose a particular time window, to help such businesses succeed."

The grant funds will cover graduate students' salaries, computers and other supplies, and travel to conferences and meetings with collaborators, all in support of the research effort. Through the creation of case studies and other materials that will illustrate the value of improved logistics, the grant will also support teaching activities at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

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