Recognised in the top 100 Most Influential Women in the Supply Chain industry*, Dr Hermione Parsons is strengthening supply chains and getting freight moving for a prosperous post-COVID future.
On the move
A life-long passion for industry research and disentangling how different systems operate in society began when Dr Parsons was studying a Master of Urban Planning degree and living across the river from the Port of Melbourne.
“I’d see the international ships arrive loaded high with containers, hear the noises of the transport machines at the port and watch the stevedore businesses,” says Dr Parsons.
“The colour and movement of industrial landscapes at the port, in the wholesale markets, in distribution centres and on the farm are fascinating.”
These early experiences led her to specialise in integrated intermodal port-freight logistics during her Masters degree and study fresh produce supply chains during her PhD. More recently, she has investigated the auction trading systems for seafood and flowers in the northern hemisphere and the way in which e-commerce consumer behaviour wastes so much energy globally.
“How the systems interact along end-to-end supply chains between farmers and retailers and consumers, particularly relating to food traceability, continues to be a key part of my work.”
Previously the Director of a supply chain and logistics R&D centre at another university, Dr Parsons understood the requirement for cross disciplinary expertise.
“I knew we needed to move to find a new home – a university that was strong across many disciplines, that understood and worked well with business, and that invested in astonishing innovation,” she says.
“We chose Deakin above five other universities as the new home for our centre and we haven’t looked back!”
Supply has typically been a male domain, but Dr Parsons’ Wayfinder: Supply Chain Careers for Women initiative challenges this assumption. The program creates new opportunities and awareness across the community to attract women to the industry.
“This is vital for the success of our international and domestic supply chain since the industry is characterised by an ageing male population with no replacement workforce in sight and the supply chains of today are complex requiring higher level skills and knowledge,” Dr Parsons reveals.
In the aftermath of the pandemic, a highly skilled, knowledgeable and contemporary workforce is more critical than ever to ensure Australia’s supply chain competitiveness and protect the wellbeing of our community and world.
Moving in the right direction
The most impactful research in the supply chain industry addresses critical issues that no company nor government department can solve alone.
“Often policy developers and non-supply chain businesses make incorrect assumptions about how supply chain and logistics systems work and this can result in massive infrastructure investment that cannot succeed,” says Dr Parsons.
A few years ago, the team undertook a major research project on the replacement port for the Port of Melbourne. The resulting insights convinced the government to change their policy direction.
“I love working on industry research to address real problems and separate reality from myth.” - Dr Hermione Parsons* B2Global Consulting (2020)
CSCL questions and answers
We sat down with Hermione to find out more about CSCL.
What is the Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics (CSCL) and what inspired you to become its Director?
CSCL is Australia's leading research centre focusing on freight logistics and value-added supply chains. We’re a cross-disciplinary Centre and work with government and industry partners to answer pressing questions about the design and management of supply chain and logistics networks.
Having worked in various government agencies and consulting, I realised that Australia needed to improve its understanding about the way supply chains work so we could make positive and effective investment decisions for our long term future.
What do you think distinguishes CSCL from its competitors?
We work in true partnership with business, and are demand driven – choosing what is needed above what we want to study as individuals.
How do you see CSCL contributing to Deakin's strategic priorities? What are your priorities for the Institute?
Deakin’s strategy recognises the importance of supply chains research from a cross-disciplinary perspective.
The pandemic has certainly shown this to be a critical area of research – vaccine supply chains and logistics, empty supermarket shelves, the cessation of air travel to and from Australia, which means our highly valuable and perishable exports can’t get to international markets and supplies of vital products and components that we used to import cannot enter the country. From health to cyber security, intelligent systems, defence, business planning, law and marketing, supply chain research is vital to get the product and the research to market.
What are some of the major projects the Institute is working on?
At the moment we are undertaking R&D programs that address some critical issues for Australia’s future through our partnership programs in food traceability, urban logistics and talent and capability, especially attracting a new pipeline of women entering supply chain and logistics careers.
Higher Degree by Research
What disciplines are you looking for in your HDR students and how can prospective students engage with your institute?
Students can come from any background. Commonly, students have studied engineering, business or law, which are all relevant, but my background in geography has proven invaluable.
How do HDR students contribute to the work the Institute is doing? Where do you see your current HDR students working in the future?
Our students very often work on our industry research and study topics that are relevant to our major stakeholders – they are important members of our team.
What advice can you provide to a prospective student looking to work in the same field?
You will never be bored, and this topic is so vast in terms of geography and cross-disciplinary need that you can make a difference by studying supply chain and improve our world.
What's something you wish you knew when you were starting out your career?
That a financial education is essential no matter what you are studying and no matter what career path you choose. I find it boring but it’s absolutely essential in the public and private sectors.
The future of CSCL
What do you think will be some of the most exciting or ground-breaking uses of CSCL’s research in 10-20 years’ time?
CSCL’s research will improve and develop e-commerce and “free delivery” and assist with understanding the impact of millennials and their consumer patterns on the environment and the world.