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The ever-increasing demand for fresh and healthy products raises the economic importance of managing Agri-Fresh Produce Supply Chain (AFPSC) effectively. However, the literature review has indicated that many challenges undermine efficient planning for AFPSCs. Stringent regulations on production and logistics activities, production seasonality and high yield variations (quantity and quality), and products vulnerability to multiple natural stresses, alongside with their critical shelf life, impact the planning process. This calls for developing smart planning and decision-support tools which provides higher efficiency for such challenges. Modelling and simulation (M&S) approaches for AFPSC planning problems have a proven record in offering safe and economical solutions. Increase in problem complexity has urged the use of hybrid solutions that integrate different approaches to provide better understanding of the system dynamism in an environment characterised by multi-firm and multi-dimensional relationships. The proposed hybrid simulation-based planning framework for AFPSCs has addressed internal decision-making mechanisms, rules and control procedures to support strategic, tactical and operational planning decisions. An exploratory study has been conducted using semi-structured interviews with twelve managers from different agri-fresh produce organisations. The aim of this study is to understand management practices regarding planning and to gain insights on current challenges. Discussions with managers on planning issues such as resources constraints, outsourcing, capacity, product sensitivity, quality, and lead times have formed the foundation of process mapping. As a result, conceptual modelling process is then used to model supply chain planning activities. These conceptual models are inclusive and reflective to system complexity and decision sensitivity. Verification of logic and accuracy of the conceptual models has been done by few directors in AFPSC before developing a hybrid simulation model. Hybridisation of Discrete Event Simulation (DES), System Dynamics (SD), and Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) has offered flexibility and precision in modelling this complex supply chain. DES provides operational models that include different entities of AFPSC, and SD minds investments decisions according to supply and demand implications, while ABM is concerned with modelling variations of human behaviour and experience. The proposed framework has been validated using Table Grapes Supply Chain (TGSC) case study. Decision makers have appreciated the level of details included in the solution at different planning levels (i.e., operational, tactical and strategic). Results show that around 58% of wasted products can be saved if correct hiring policy is adopted in the management of seasonal labourer recruitment. This would also factor in more than 25% improved profits at packing house entity. Moreover, an anticipation of different supply and demand scenarios demonstrated that inefficiency of internal business processes might undermine the whole business from gaining benefits of market growth opportunities.
Mesabbah, M. (2017) Hybrid simulation-based planning framework for agri-fresh produce supply chain. Doctoral thesis, DIT, 2017.