Understanding the Impact of the Supply Chain

Dr. Edgar Blanco is Research Director at the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics. Since joining MIT in 2005, he has partnered with academics, business leaders, NGOs, and governments to study the environmental impact of transportation logistics and supply chain systems. 

Dr. Edgar Blanco is a Research Director at the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics. He is widely recognized as a leader in assessing the impact of transportation and supply chain systems, and his work – much of it focused in Latin America – has created strong partnerships among academia, industry, governments, and NGOs.

Taking a chance on academia

Blanco earned his PhD from the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and spent five years working in the corporate sector before accepting a one-year appointment as an MIT Research Associate in 2005. “I wasn’t initially all that interested in academia,” says Blanco. “But then I came here (to MIT) and found this world of people who truly love what they’re doing. This place has the feel of a startup.”

Blanco decided to remain at MIT and has now completed nearly a decade of important research on carbon-efficient supply chains, mobile computing and logistics, and improving crisis response systems. He credits MIT with infecting him with what he refers to as the sustainability bug. “I’m an operations person. I like to move trucks and help companies make money. But MIT made me see the importance and possibilities for research in the area of sustainability.”

 

I can’t think of a single part of MIT that’s not somehow involved in sustainability. It’s part of the culture, and that makes it a great place to do this work.

 

His interest in sustainability and expertise with logistics and supply chain systems led Blanco to join with the MIT Materials Systems Laboratory in developing the Leaders in Environmental Assessment and Performance project, known as LEAP. Led by produce distributor Chiquita, the LEAP project has grown to become a consortium of organizations – including ASICS, HP, and Lockheed Martin – who want to better understand the environmental impact of their supply chains.

While setting up a logistics and supply chain research center in Colombia, Blanco became interested in the challenges facing high-density urban areas. This became the basis for the MIT Megacity Logistics Lab, a project that studies how urban logistics can support more sustainable growth in fast growing cities. “I want to provide city governments and planners with a template for analyzing urban logistics,” Blanco says. “The goal is that it will inform policy and urban design in future cities.”

Blanco remains committed to leveraging his technical expertise to conduct research that has a positive impact on the world, and says that MIT is a place that shares his commitment to sustainability. “There are lots of smart people at MIT, but that’s true of organizations all over the world,” Blanco says. “The difference is that here we are trying to make change not just by building things, but by creating new knowledge. That’s something I’m proud to be part of.”