Total Cost Analysis in Logistics : Practical Execution, Learning, and Teaching in Higher Education

Sammanfattning: Cost is considered a crucial factor in much decision-making in private and public organisations. Therefore, the ability to calculate total estimated costs for different alternatives is important. However, such total cost analysis is a challenging task. Providing students with the knowledge and skills needed for total cost analysis is therefore relevant in several disciplines within higher education.Within logistics management, total cost analysis is for decades by several scholars regarded as a ‘cornerstone’, a fundamental part of the discipline. However, except for describing the basic steps and presumptions, the literature does not give much support concerning how to conduct such analyses, or which the difficulties associated with total cost analysis are. This blank space in literature is not limited to the logistics discipline, it stretches throughout many disciplines. Neither does literature cover how to teach to support students’ learning of total cost analysis.Hence, to address the lack of research, the purpose of this thesis was formulated as follows: To contribute to the understanding of conducting, learning, and teaching total cost analysis.Three research questions were shaped to address each part of the purpose: conducting, learning and teaching.RQ1 What challenges are connected to the process of conducting total cost analysis?RQ2 What thresholds are there for learning how to conduct total cost analysis?RQ3 How can total cost learning be supported by suitable educational methods?The research questions are connected to each other in the sense that the challenges of conducting total cost analysis (RQ1) indicate within which areas total cost learning is difficult, and thereby where thresholds are to be investigated (RQ2). Further, knowledge about the learning thresholds is needed to discuss suitable educational activities (RQ3).The research was conducted by a combination of literature reviews and multiple case studies at four Higher Education Institutions, where both teachers and students were approached. The findings for RQ1 were developed in an abductive procedure walking back and forth between literature and cases. A twelve-step process for total cost analysis was defined, and specific challenges associated for each of these steps. Regarding learning thresholds (RQ2), perceived difficulties with learning total cost analysis were identified in the case studies. These difficulties were then analysed against threshold characteristics available in literature. This resulted in the identification of four total cost learning thresholds. Literature on constructivist-based teaching was used to suggest teaching methods to support learning (RQ3). These types of activities proved to match the ones most appreciated by teachers and students in the studied cases. The twelve-step process provides a more structured and holistic view of total cost analysis than previously available in the logistics literature. The description of challenges with conducting total cost analysis is novel, not only within logistics, but also generally, why this is a major contribution from this research. Aspects regarding teaching and learning connected to logistics, and to total cost analysis, are very sparsely addressed in literature, which makes the findings concerning learning thresholds and teaching methods valuable.The findings are believed to be useful for different stakeholders. First and foremost, teachers can use the findings for designing programs, courses, and course modules which cover the important aspects of total cost analysis with help from educational activities supporting the students’ learning. Second, for organisations where total cost analyses are conducted, the suggested process with its steps and associated challenges can be used to achieve better total cost analyses, and in turn more substantiated decisions. In the longer perspective, better education on total cost analysis at Higher Education Institutions will further strengthen the total cost competence in organisations, thereby improving the total cost-related decision making.Total cost analysis is not unique for the logistics discipline. Although focus in the study has been on Higher Education Institutions providing logistics courses, the findings are to a high extent believed to be relevant also for other disciplines dealing with total cost analysis.  

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