UPS tackles the TSP

Complied by Barry List

The INFORMS archive of podcasts continues to offer provocative conversation with leading O.R. practitioners and thinkers. The latest podcasts include INFORMS veteran Ralph Keeney of Duke University on brainstorming and Maksim Tsvetovat on sentiment mining. Visit www.scienceofbetter.org and www.informs.org to download the latest selections.

Remember to share your news making research with the INFORMS Communications Department. Contact INFORMS Communications Director Barry List at barry.list@informs.org or 1-800-4INFORMs.
And now, excerpts from O.R. in the news:

Jack Levis and the UPS algorithm

The problem of route optimization that UPS works on is actually a well-studied math problem, the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP). It makes sense, then, for UPS to partner with academia. Levis was elected to the board of directors of an organization called INFORMS (the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science). He’s the only board member without a PhD.

“It’s a funny marriage, because I’m always the dumbest person in the room,” he says. “But then again, I’m the person in the room who has actually implemented this advanced mathematics. It’s a wonderful way for UPS to get what the latest research is, but UPS gives back to INFORMS as much as we get.”

Fast Company, Jan. 3

IIA analytics predictions for 2013

This year, as in past years, [Tom] Davenport presented IIA’s view on the challenges and opportunities for analytics users, and product and service providers for the coming year. The IIA faculty and participants engaged in a lively discussion around eight key predictions for 2013:

  1. Big data market will see a spate of mergers, acquisitions, and closures with many start-ups failing
  2. New cross-industry corporate entities will form based on the competitive importance of newly aggregated data
  3. The current shortage of data scientists will continue as companies make do with small analytics teams
  4. The mystique of the data scientist will persist throughout the year, but the lines between data scientists and other analytics professionals will blur
  5. Personalized, cross-channel, customer-driven analytics will transcend product-driven analytics
  6. Companies will identify which applications of machine learning will yield the greatest return
  7. Interactive and dynamic data visualization tools will grow in prevalence and influence, but will not become commonplace
  8. Escalating numbers of high-profile data security breaches will drive development of sophisticated, predictive analytics

– SFGate, Dec.20, 2012

TNT Express, ORTEC recognized for 2012 Edelman win

The important role of operations research in driving supply chain benefits was in full display at last month’s OPTIMUS 2012, ORTEC’s annual forum in Atlanta. Many of the company’s key clients were there, including Walmart, Coca-Cola, General Mills and Clorox. In the case of Coca-Cola, for example, the company has saved $500 million in 10 years through a variety of initiatives, including improved loading and routing of its 10,000 trucks (see “Coca-Cola Enterprises: Better Trucks, Happy Drivers, Lower Costs”). And in Walmart’s case, the company developed a hybrid solution for routing and load design, and expanded its network design to include its grocery unit, which resulted in a 69 percent improvement in its private fleet efficiency over its 2005 baseline.

But the case study that caught my attention the most was TNT Express, the winner of this year’s prestigious Franz Edelman Award, presented annually by the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).

– Logistics Viewpoints, Dec. 12, 2012

Benefits of combining data with empathy

Knowing how to optimize business processes and technology only takes companies so far. Success in volatile environments requires learning how to apply data compassionately in response to new opportunities and risks.

– MIT Sloan Management Review, Fall 2012, by INFORMS editor Ritu Agarwal and Peter Weill

O.R. to fight homelessness

Abraham Lincoln long ago charged the nation with the duty to “care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan.” NPS operations research student Marine Corps Maj. David Coté has tried to do just that in his seven years of work as a volunteer with the Veteran’s Village of San Diego, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping homeless veterans access the resources and assistance they need to get back on their feet.

Upon learning about data analysis and modeling in his O.R. curriculum at NPS, Coté found a way to apply his studies to the cause that had long been close to his heart. Come graduation in December, Coté’s master’s thesis research will have produced a tangible model for helping treatment providers identify homeless veterans most at risk for early exit from a treatment program.

– Defense Video, Nov.9, 2012

Predictive analytics gains in insurance industry

According to a recent survey, the use of predictive analytics is on the rise in the insurance industry.

Insurance providers are increasingly interested in data or analytics solutions to help manage producers and improve their performance, according to a recent survey.

Trilogy Insurance & Financial Services partnered with Insurance Networking News to survey more than 100 insurance industry professionals on the current state of predictive analytics in the insurance sector. According to the research findings, insurance providers have made investments in analytics tools over the year but are just beginning to realize the significance of technology to help manage provider performance.

The top three benefits of insurance companies’ current data and analytics solutions are customer segmentation, improving the competitive advantage of insurance carriers and retaining existing insurance customers.

– EWeek, Oct. 11, 2012

Six lies of big data

Our InformationWeek 2013 Big Data Survey shows that some companies are making progress. For example, most have built the required infrastructure and support various roles, in terms of primary data users; about one-third say they encourage wide access to information for business users. However, when it comes to data acquisition and use models, the wheels start to fall off. There are major gaps in data analysis, even for the most common types of information: transaction data, system logs, e-mail, CRM, Web analytics.

Worse, fewer than 10 percent of the respondents to our survey say that ideas for promising new data points are primarily driven by a collaborative or cross-functional team within their companies.

– Information Week, Oct. 31, 2012

Barry List (Barry.List@informs.org) is the director of Communications for INFORMS.