Urban Lifelines and Supply Chains: Enhancing Resilience and Sustainability with Foundational Technologies

An urban community is an intricate network connected by a myriad of functional systems and subsystems, including civil structures, underground spaces, multi-modal transportation, telecom, energy grids, retail facilities, food systems, and healthcare facilities, all operating with unique spatial and temporal dynamics. Supply chains play a pivotal role as they enable the flow of resources between urban agents, critically supporting the operation of complex urban lifeline systems, such as healthcare facilities, retail food outlets, and other key services where resilient and efficient delivery is essential. In turn, the functioning of many interdependent infrastructure systems (e.g., communication, energy, and transportation) affects supply chain operations. Urban lifeline systems and supply-chain networks are not immune to disruptions caused by natural events and health crises; instead, they are considerably vulnerable, partially attributed to such interdependencies. As we have witnessed globally over the last five years, the COVID pandemic has severely impacted global and regional socio-economic activities, including the operations of supply chains and many critical lifeline facilities (e.g., healthcare, transportation, and other labor-intensive facilities and sectors). Natural disasters, especially those due to extreme climatic events, have also caused significant disruption to supply chains and other socio-economic activities, leading to trillion-dollar annual losses worldwide.

In light of transformative advances in several foundational technologies – 5G communication, Edge/Cloud computing, AI, Robotics, the Internet of Things, and Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs, or known as blockchains) – we envision that the flows of goods, services, and data across multiple agents and subsystems can be implemented with some novel characteristics. These include real-time responsiveness, automation, decentralization, adaptability, scalability, transparency, immutability, self-correcting capabilities, system robustness, and efficient post-disruption recovery. While adopting these foundational technologies has the potential to achieve efficiency and resilience, it may also produce adverse footprints and consequences that impair sustainability in the environmental, social, and economic dimensions. For example, DLTs or blockchains are not necessarily green regarding energy consumption and carbon emissions. Implementing automation (e.g., through aerial or ground robots or driverless vehicles) in supply chains requires constructing new infrastructure systems or repurposing existing systems, such as large-scale manufacturing of batteries and charging infrastructures, which may not be environmentally benign. As supply chains and urban lifelines form a mega network, data sharing and interoperability are far more critical for sustainable operation; however, due to privacy and security breaches (cybersecurity threats), heterogeneous organizations are unwilling to share their in-organization data with other parties.

In this topical collection, we seek novel theoretical, analytical, and empirical studies that address the opportunities these technologies present and the complexities they introduce for improving urban lifelines and supply chains. This collection also seeks contributions that explore the complex balance between efficiency and equity in urban supply chains, emphasizing how technologies can address disparities while considering the trade-offs necessary to promote inclusive growth. We invite researchers from global communities in civil and environmental engineering, geosciences, energy, operations research, supply chain management, computer science, information systems, statistics, mathematical sciences, and other related disciplines to overcome the technical and societal hurdles arising from adopting foundational technologies. We expect that our collective endeavor may chart a course toward modern urban systems that are not only technologically advanced but also sustainable and resilient. Solicited topics include, but are not limited to:

• Use of novel data (e.g., GIS, satellite, sensors) and analytics/AI (e.g., data visualization, time series, econometrics, machine learning, spatiotemporal analysis) to identify, monitor and predict risk factors.

• Temporal and spatial modeling and analysis of supply chain risks in urban lifeline systems.

• Analytical modeling of environmental and socio-economic implications of deploying automated transportation solutions and operations in urban supply chains.

• Application of analytical techniques, e.g., optimization, simulation, machine learning, for modeling novel urban lifelines and supply chains with new technologies, e.g., drones, autonomous vehicles, robotics, Internet of Things, etc.

• Design and develop decentralized solutions for data portability challenges in supply chain and urban lifeline management.

• Design of urban lifeline systems (logistics, food, healthcare) with emerging or transformative technologies.

• Modeling and post-disaster restoration of critical infrastructure systems considering interdependencies.

• Supply chain network design with foundational technologies, e.g., 5/6G communication, Internet of Things, blockchain, 3D printing, renewable energies, etc., to achieve efficiency, resilience, and sustainability.

• Innovative strategies for managing, planning, routing, and scheduling of resources (equipment, labor, supplies/materials) that not only enhance efficiency and resilience but also conscientiously address equity concerns, contributing to the overall sustainable practices in urban supply chains.

• Empirical studies (case study, survey, interview) on novel urban lifelines and supply chains with new technologies.


  • Haitao Li

    Dr. Haitao Li is a professor at University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is currently Chair of the Supply Chain & Analytics Department and Director of Laboratory of Advanced Supply Chain Analytics. His research centers on develo** models and algorithms that combine the complementary strengths of descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics/optimization. His research interests include resource constrained project scheduling, supply chain optimization, mathematical programming, metaheuristics, and stochastic modeling and optimization. He serves as an associate editor of the Journal of the Operational Research Society.

  • Shakiba Enayati

    Dr. Shakiba Enayati is an assistant professor at University of Missouri -St. Louis. Her research interests include Mathematical Programming and Optimization of Health Care Systems, Decision Making under Uncertainty, Predictive Modeling for Health Outcomes and Disease and Patient Management. Her primary research interests are in analytical modeling and optimization of stochastic/dynamic complex systems as applied to healthcare and service systems.

  • Yi-Hsin Lin

    Dr. Yi-Hsin Lin is an associate professor at Southeast University. Her research interests include international construction, blockchain technology and application, circular economy and waste recycling, green economy and low-carbon development. She serves as a reviewer in many journals, such as Journal of Management in Engineering, Automation in Construction, Habitat International, Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics and etc. She is currently the director of Engineering Management Research Branch of Architectural Society of China.

  • Preetham Goli

    Dr. Preetham Goli is an associate teaching professor at University of Missouri-Kansas City. He primarily teaches power systems engineering courses emphasizing on power system operation and control, power system protection, and distribution system modeling and analysis. His research interests include distribution system analysis, electric vehicle grid integration, power system restoration, cybersecurity issues in power systems, and power engineering education. He received the UMKC Teaching Excellence Award for the academic year 2020-2021. Dr. Goli obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Houston in 2014.

  • Touhidul Hasan

    Dr. Touhidul Hasan is an assistant professor at University of Missouri-Kansas City. His research interests include privacy-preserving data publishing, information security, Blockchain applications, and IoT privacy and security.


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