Airport queues, Big Data & more

Complied by Barry List

The INFORMS archive of podcasts continues to offer provocative conversation with leading O.R. practitioners and thinkers. It includes recent interviews with Gary Cokins of SAS on analytics’ antidote to the failure of large corporations, former Management Science Editor in Chief Wally Hopp and Roman Kapuscinski on ways to save American manufacturing, and Rob Dees on the measure of a soldier. 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 the news:

O.R. and airport queues

“ ‘It’s simply a matter of a saturated queue, and you solve that with either more servers or shorter processing time,’ says Alfred Blumstein, a professor of operations research at Carnegie Mellon University who co-wrote a 2008 article on using technology in airline-passenger prescreening programs ...

“Prof. Blumstein, for example, who waited for over an hour at Heathrow two weeks ago, suggested moving people sooner from the main queue into shorter lines before each desk to ‘shorten the dead time.’ The risk, though, is that the person already at the desk takes longer than average to clear. That can lead to frustration if others who were further behind in the queue get served first.

“Or as Richard C. Larson, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals who goes by ‘Dr. Queue’ for his studies on waiting in line, puts it, ‘Welcome to the Olympics! We have for you an Olympic-sized queue delay, along with violation of fair play!’ ”

Wall Street Journal, May 4

O.R. shortening airport queues

“Beyond staffing, experts in queuing and operations efficiency had a few ideas for improving the passenger experience. Laura McLay, an industrial engineer at Virginia Commonwealth University who waited at Heathrow for two hours for an immigration check last month, noted that signs at various points in lines suggesting the wait from that point is, say, 45 minutes are a bad idea. ‘People will get even more impatient if they are promised a shorter wait,’ she said.

“ ‘One idea is to provide incentives for people to arrive at lower demand times,’ said Sheldon H. Jacobson, professor of operations research and industrial engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For instance, airlines could inform ticket buyers of average waiting time when they are buying flights, or even charge more for flights arriving at peak times, and less for those that land when immigration halls are empty…

“ ‘I would imagine that mobile agents would introduce new inefficiencies,’ McLay said. ‘The agents would need extra time to move from gate to gate and then set up.’

“Added Arnold Barnett, professor of management science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, ‘That step should help, so long as the transfer times are not so great as effectively to reduce the number of agents on the job at a given time.’ ”

Wall Street Journal, May 4

CDC’s Edelman breakthroughs

“[Eva K.] Lee says users can enter different parameters into the system, which analyzes ‘what-if’ scenarios and ‘runs in seconds’ before returning results. Data is input into the system manually as well as received in real-time feeds, she says.

“ ‘RealOpt has been used in hundreds of drills and dispensing events, including anthrax preparedness events and seasonal flu/H1N1 vaccination events, and has accurately predicted staffing needs and dispensing operations,’ wrote Lee, in a summary on the technology, which was a finalist for the INFORMS 2012 Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Operations Research and the Management Sciences.”

Input/Output, May 2

Analytics in the oil/gas industry

“The oil and gas industry boasts some of the most advanced geologic and chemical science in the world. But it is not the science that is holding the industry back. It is the inability to manage and coordinate data, extract insight and increase productivity that costs the industry billions each year. From the discovery of new reserves, to streamlining global operations, to maximizing the yield of old and new wells, the industry is leaving money and product on the table.

“That’s why new technologies like predictive analytics, which can help assess and forecast the performance of wells, facilities and pipeline systems, are so important. Analytics can help companies gain greater visibility into overall field and refinery performance, essential to more comprehensive reporting, better forecasting, faster responses and higher quality decisions and actions.”

Houston Chronicle, May 1

The smarts for Big Data

“The latest research from Techaisle shows the almost shocking speed with which the midmarket is seizing on business analytics as an essential enterprise solution. That doesn’t mean, of course, that no obstacles stand in the way of wider and faster adoption.

“A survey of 800 small to midsized businesses already engaged with business intelligence tools revealed that over a third were already interested in automated ways of tackling very large quantities of data, including unstructured data. Admittedly, this is a very small sample of the U.S. mid-tier, but taken together with other trends – like the surge in data management adoption by large and medium corporations – it is suggestive of a tangible trend.”

Internet Revolution, May 1

O.R. and the War on Drugs

“ ‘For every complex problem,’ H.L. Mencken wrote, ‘there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.’

“That is especially true of drug abuse and addiction. Indeed, the problem is so complex that it has produced not just one clear, simple, wrong solution but two: the ‘drug war’ (prohibition plus massive, undifferentiated enforcement) and proposals for wholesale drug legalization.

“Fortunately, these two bad ideas are not our only choices. We could instead take advantage of proven new approaches that can make us safer while greatly reducing the number of Americans behind bars for drug offenses.”

– INFORMS member Jonathan Caulkins, et. al, Wall Street Journal, April 21

ROI of business analytics increases significantly as solution matures

“Defying typical enterprise software ROI cycles, business analytics increase return on investment substantially as the solution matures and is extended to handle ‘big data’ beyond the firewall including social media and partner ecosystems. A Nucleus Research analysis of 60 deployments shows that an average ROI of 188 percent in the initial automation phase grows to an average of 1,209 percent in the later predictive phase.”

Nucleus Research, May 1

MSOM study shows quality hospitals sacrifice patient satisfaction

“It may seem counterintuitive, but adopting mandated quality measures could hurt patient experience – at least in the short-term, according to a study scheduled for publication in Manufacturing & Service Operations Management.”

Fierce Healthcare, April 2

ERP, analytics and management science

“But at the end of the day, what may be emerging is a world where ERP vendors will be the masters of all things accounting, transaction and regulatory based. Analytics vendors will be the ones providing insights to executives as these vendors have no problem embracing third-party data, data that is less precise than that found in audited financial statements, etc. In a business world that moves at an increasingly faster clip, ERP solutions are just not as relevant or aren’t the most relevant solutions around. Businesses need solutions designed for a new generation of business, workers, economic volatility and more. Businesses need software vendors that are re-writing the rules of management science and not just re-implementing the management techniques of the Industrial Age.”

– Brian, Sommer, ZDNet, March 18

March Madness O.R. model would reduce team travel costs by a million

“Operations researchers Sharif Melouk and Burcu Keskin at the University of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa, developed a method to reduce travel distances when assigning teams to the initial tournament game locations. The method maintains the guidelines expressed by the NCAA, such as rewarding top teams with games relatively close to home and avoiding early-round battles between teams from the same conference.”

InsideScience, March 9