2019 INFORMS Franz Edelman Award: World’s leading operations research and analytics applications selected as finalists

Competition recognizes incredible ways that operations research and analytics are improving how people live and work around the globe

Finalist contributions include innovations in wind energy production, environmental protection, consumer fraud deterrents, school bus scheduling, airline safety, and contract pipeline management.

CATONSVILLE, MD, January 3, 2019 – INFORMS, the leading international association for professionals in operations research and analytics, has selected six finalists for the 48th annual Franz Edelman Award for Achievements in Advanced Analytics, Operations Research and Management Science, the world’s most prestigious award for achievement in the practice of analytics and operations research (O.R.). 

For more than four decades, winners of the Edelman Award have been recognized for transforming how we approach some of the world’s most complex problems. This year’s finalists are no exception, with revolutionary contributions to wind energy production, environmental protection, consumer fraud deterrent, school bus scheduling, airline safety, and contract pipeline management. In all, finalists for the Edelman Award have contributed to a cumulative impact of over $257 billion since the award’s inception.

The finalists for the 2019 Edelman Award are:

Boston Public Schools. Half of Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) 55,000 students take a yellow school bus to one of 125 schools each day. Planning the 45,000 miles for 646 buses daily was a significant undertaking, requiring 10 people and more than 3,000 hours. BPS held a nationwide months-long challenge to produce more effective results. The winning submission came from nearby MIT, which created a new bus routing algorithm generating a solution that was 20 percent more efficient in about 30 minutes. With MIT’s support, BPS implemented the solution, resulting in the largest-ever one-year reduction in buses, leading to nearly $5 million in annual reinvestment back into schools. Developing an automated routing system has made BPS the first school district in the country to accurately map out the transportation implications from various policies. BPS has used this innovative approach in efforts to re-align bell times, estimate costs for changing transportation eligibility, and develop robust strategic plans, paving the way for other school districts to support policy decisions with analytics.

IBM. IBM Services provides information technology services for clients worldwide, designing, building, running, and maintaining critical infrastructure and IT systems. IBM competes for highly complex IT services contracts, often involving complex client engagement and negotiations. To better manage the highly resource-intensive and complex activities related to contract negotiations, IBM Services introduced analytics and operations research tools to transform subjective, time-consuming business judgments into informed decisions based on data-driven insights. This O.R. and analytics-based toolset allows IBM to negotiate with the client, optimally cost and price IT services solutions, and predict the winnability of each deal being negotiated. Since implementing these tools, IBM Services has increased its relative contract win rate, contributing a significant realized revenue increase. 

Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District and Tetra Tech. With increasingly intense and more frequent rainfall, urban wastewater collection and treatment systems are often overwhelmed by large rainfall events, resulting in a greater risk to water environments and public health by contamination from overflows of untreated sewage and storm water. As a pioneer in real-time control (RTC), Louisville MSD enlisted engineering services firm Tetra Tech to implement Csoft® as part of its Integrated Overflow Abatement Plan efforts. Csoft® isa RTC software solution developed by Tetra Tech to efficiently manage sewer networks in real-time based on rain forecasts and sensor readings. It has been successfully implemented in the U.S., Canada and France. MSD’s fully automated RTC system responds to rainfall and actual system conditions by maximizing all available storage, conveyance and treatment capacities. Excess water is diverted and temporarily stored until it can be redirected toward the appropriate treatment plant. The system has saved MSD over $200 million in infrastructure costs, while improving the community waterways.

Microsoft. Businesses and consumers purchase a diverse portfolio of physical and digital products and services online. The dynamic nature of shopping patterns and the adversarial posture of fraudsters make it challenging to stop fraud without interrupting legitimate customer purchases. In the U.S. alone, retail fraud amounts to tens of billions of dollars lost. Microsoft has tackled this problem by developing an innovative Fraud Detection System based on state-of-the-art AI, operations research, and automation. This new system employs a multi-stage decision-making paradigm that applies progressive machine learning (ML) models at each stage and co-optimizes these models across the decision chain to maximize profitability. Microsoft has thus dramatically reduced its Fraud Loss Rate resulting in $75 million annual savings and improved both its False Positive Rate and the Bank Acceptance Rate of legitimate purchases generating over $1 billion in additional revenue. This innovation is highly portable and Microsoft is working to make it available to its enterprise customers.

Spanish National Aviation Authority (AESA). The International Civil Aviation Organization dictates that each nation must develop a State Safety Program (SSP) to develop a preventative approach for aviation safety oversight and management on a national level. These programs enable strategic decision-making and resource allocation to support hazard identification, risk evaluation, safety assurance, and safety promotion. The Spanish National Aviation Authority (AESA) partnered with the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences to introduce analytics methodologies to support the SSP process. Their methodology, the Risk Management in Aviation Safety (RIMAS) tool represents the first time advanced analytics techniques have been utilized in a preventative approach to civil aviation, and manages all the objectives of the SSP as well as the various stakeholders, including air carriers, traffic controllers, airport services providers, and various national aviation safety agencies. Since RIMAS was implemented, it has enabled AESA to realize a 25 percent reduction in annual equivalent safety costs, or nearly $230 million in savings. 

Vattenfall. As one of Europe’s largest producers of electricity Vattenfall is currently expanding its wind energy operations significantly. Operations research (O.R.) techniques are playing a vital role in this, realizing hundreds of millions of dollars in savings. In the design of wind farms, Vattenfall combines O.R. techniques with technical knowledge, commercial insight and system design to achieve estimated savings of $11-$17 million per wind farm, and more than $170 million overall. By focusing on two complex components of offshore wind park design, wind turbine location and routing for offshore electrical cables, Vattenfall is able to maximize its power output, expand its pipeline, and is on track to reach its target of enabling a fossil free living within one generation. In addition to maximizing energy production, these O.R. techniques enabled Vattenfall to minimize immediate costs relating to turbine foundations and cables, as well as life-time costs, such as cable losses. 

About the Franz Edelman Award

First awarded in 1972, the prize is named in honor of Franz Edelman, who founded the Operations Research division within RCA, one of the first corporations to embed operations research as a business imperative. 

Previous winners of the Franz Edelman Award include the 2018 winner Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as well as Holiday Retirement, UPS, IBM, Syngenta, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Hewlett-Packard, and General Motors, among others. The 2019 Edelman Award will be presented at the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research in Austin, TX on April 14-16.

For more information on the Franz Edelman award, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkVDcwzs6Ik.


With 12,500 members from nearly 90 countries, INFORMS is the largest international association of operations research (O.R.) and analytics professionals and students. INFORMS provides unique networking and learning opportunities for individual professionals, and organizations of all types and sizes, to better understand and use O.R. and analytics tools and methods to transform strategic visions and achieve better outcomes. 

Visit www.informs.org or @informs.


2019 INFORMS Franz Edelman Award: World’s leading operations research and analytics applications selected as finalists

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