Taichi Arioka

Taichi Arioka

Doctor of Philosophy candidate

How can advanced technologies be integrated into companies’ practices and help them achieve their sustainability goals? That’s the interesting question Taichi Arioka, an international student from Japan, is exploring in his PhD.

“My research topic is about integrating I4.0 technologies into the circular economy implementation, and I’m investigating how these technologies are integrated into a company’s practices aligned with its sustainability goals. I’m particularly focusing on ultra-processed food manufacturers in both Japan and New Zealand; companies that produce for example confectionary, cereals, energy bars and powdered soups.

“My career background made me interested in this topic. I previously worked as a management consultant in Japan, focusing on international business as well as on sustainability. When a client from the food processing industry asked me to look into best practice for how to deal with packaging waste, this sparked my interest in the topic. During the COVID pandemic, I also became interested in how advanced technologies helped companies adapt to this new situation. I wanted to combine these ideas to have a bigger impact on the industry and help more people with my research findings than I could if I was still a consultant.”

Taichi’s PhD research is being supervised by Associate Professor Benjamin Dehe and Dr Maryam Mirzaei from the AUT Business School.

Finding his way to AUT
His education isn’t just for himself but for his whole family, says Taichi who has received an AUT Doctoral Scholarship.

“My wife and I had always talked about raising our children in a foreign country. When I decided to take on a PhD, this seemed a good opportunity to make this come true. New Zealand was an interesting option because people here speak English and we can offer our children an English education. My wife runs her own company, working with stakeholders in Japan, and the time difference between New Zealand and Japan makes it much easier than if we were based in the US for example.”

After deciding that New Zealand was the best fit for his doctoral studies, Taichi then reached out to a few academics in his field and soon found himself drawn to AUT.

“Associate Professor Benjamin Dehe was the first person to respond and express an interest in my research. He is an expert in supply chain management, and coincidentally we’ve also both studied at the University of Manchester. We understood each other very well, had very constructive discussions and developed good chemistry. After talking to him, I stopped looking at other supervisors, we made a plan for my PhD research and I arrived at AUT in early 2023.”

Supported to thrive
He is enjoying his PhD journey, says Taichi who expects to complete his studies in 2026.

“The academics treat me as a valued department member, and I have a good relationship with the other research students here. We have a WhatsApp group, and exchange ideas and support each other when we meet.

“I’m also grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. I submitted my abstract for AUT’s Postgraduate Research Symposium and had a chance to present my work there. I was also able to showcase what I’m working on to the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply. AUT has also given me the opportunity to teach other students as a lecturer, which is a great way to familiarise myself with teaching and get on the job training for a future in academia.”

His studies haven’t been without challenges, he admits.

“Because my wife works from 1pm to midnight, during this time it falls to me to look after our two children. Managing my studies around this while maintaining a high academic standard is a challenge. Fortunately my supervisor supports me in this by being understanding and flexible with meeting times. I think that AUT is doing a good job looking after students, and the Student Hub and IT Help Desk have also been particularly helpful.”