Cristina Gigola: Humanitarian Logistics to Lessen the Effect of Catastrophes

In September 2013, Manuel was the most destructive hurricane of the season. The state of Guerrero was especially hard hit, affecting more than 200,000 people and damaging some 25,000 homes. At that time, Dr. Cristina Gigola already had extensive experience in logistics issues, as she had been investigating them in all their complexity since the late 1990s: supply processes, business logistics and supply chains, among others. The serious situation in that region of Mexico revealed to her the need to apply her knowledge to a different area: humanitarian logistics.

Cristina Gigola’s Academic Background

Cristina Gigola received an undergraduate degree in mathematics in her native country, Argentina. She remembers that when she went to the Universidad Nacional del Sur ready to enroll in the chemistry program, which was the tradition in her family, someone suggested that she study mathematics for a few semesters, because she might have a future in astronomy. Dr. Gigola thought it sounded like a good idea. Upon completing her training in mathematics, she was invited to do postgraduate studies in France.

Logistics, the process that allows the world of production and consumption / Photo:@Timusu (CC)

Cristina liked the idea of getting to know that country and developing in the field of computer science, although she didn’t know much about computers. A few years later, she received a doctorate from the University of Marseille and she arrived in Mexico to begin teaching at the National Polytechnic Institute.

Years later, in 1991, she was invited by ITAM to conduct research during her sabbatical year, and she joined the Department of Business Administration. In that period of her professional life, her research revolved around numerical analysis and optimization. Dr. Gigola said that “since my arrival at ITAM everyone has treated me very well” and for that reason she decided to stay at our Institute.

Evolution Toward Interest in Logistics

Logistics-related issues entered her life in the late 1990s. The logistics revolution was reaching its maturity after the great changes caused by the arrival of the Internet and the new information technologies. The Department of Business Administration understood that this was an area of opportunity to develop in the coming years and she led the way: She researched the subject and connected her numerical skills with the problems presented by business logistics.

Since then she has taught all kinds of classes, workshops, conferences and seminars related to the subject to undergraduate and engineering students.She started as a professor of the Department of Business Administration and then later in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations where she had to further these essential areas as an outstanding mission for the business world.

Logistics as a Work Philosophy in a Company

Industrial Engineering is a discipline dedicated to the design, innovation, improvement, installation and administration of integrated systems. These systems of human resources, materials, equipment and technologies are organized by the efficient and effective production of manufacturing and services. On the other hand, Engineering Operations is a discipline dedicated to the development of methods, techniques and systems to support decision-making processes. The scope of these disciplines has recently expanded, thanks to its application in the improvement of the provisions of high added-value services such as the distribution, transport and supply of goods, communication and information services, and security and medical services.

Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations

Her expertise in supply chains led her to coordinate a certification course for Executive Development of ITAM, which she has taught for more than 15 years.

In 2011, the #SoyLogístico Association, the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Communications and Transportation recognized her academic career in the area of logistics by awarding her with the National Logistics Award, known as the “Galardón Tameme.” Dr. Gigola says that what she is most proud of is finding successful students who remember her advice in the classroom.

September 19, 2017: Reflections of Cristina Gigola

After Hurricane Manuel, the career of Cristina Gigola and her areas of interest took a new direction. She realized that her knowledge could be of great help in this and other disasters. Since then, she has developed research projects, published documents, been a thesis advisor, and participated in multiple activities related to the so-called humanitarian logistics, a branch of logistics that specializes in the organization, storage, transportation and delivery of supplies to people and areas affected by natural disasters.

As Dr. Gigola points out in a recent text, humanitarian logistics is essential to improve response procedures in Mexico and there are many problems in the correct application in catastrophic events on a recurring basis.

Volunteers to the rescue during the September 19, 2017 earthquake / Photo: @xolotl (CC)

This is her thinking on the September 19, 2017 earthquake and the delicate issue of collection centers:

The collection centers in Humanitarian Logistics are generally temporary and located in unsuitable places, and are attended by volunteers who take time to organize the work. Many of the initiatives that are carried out in the business environment could be taken into account so that these centers could be centers of flow and not warehouses where the space occupied by what is unnecessary is greater at times than what is necessary, with high levels of waste. An important factor in this regard is the selection of the donation. Badly organized, and in most cases unnecessary, donations provoke chaos and often frustration.”

Gigola, C. (2017) Retos en la Cadena de Suministro de Ayuda Humanitaria Voraz Boletín de la Sociedad Mexicana de Investigación de Operaciones, Vol. 2 nª 1, pp. 12-17.


Cristina Gigola today


Recently, Dr. Gigola participated in the collection center that ITAM students organized in response to the September 19, 2017 earthquake. She recalls that she was surprised by the extraordinary response of the community in this center. Although she gave some talks to the participating students, their organization exceeded her expectations.

Weeks before, in July 2017, she had changed her role as a researcher of the Academic Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations when she decided to retire from it. However, she says that “one never retires from what they like to do,” so she continues teaching at the institute. iin her free time, she has resumed other activities that she loves, such as gardening, playing the piano and cooking.



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