INFORMS NEWS: Roundup of Roundtable’s spring meeting

By Jeff Winters

Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach, Calif

The Spring 2015 Roundtable Meeting was held on April 11-12 at the Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach, Calif., in conjunction with the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research.

The meeting theme was “Roundtable Companies” and featured four talks by Roundtable member organizations describing their groups and projects.

To provide a networking opportunity, an outing was held on Saturday afternoon that featured a whale-watching cruise out of Long Beach, Calif. The group was fortunate to see a sea lion and dolphins, along with three whales. The cruise resulted in many memorable photos.

The main program started off with a presentation by Dayana Cope from Disney. Dayana’s team supports “parks and resorts” and “on-site” analytics. The “fast pass +” is moving customers from pure queuing models to a blend of queuing and reservations systems, trying to optimize guest experience for both plan ahead visitors and last-minute visitors. Most of the modeling Dayana’s group does is related to forecasting, simulation, and optimization.

The next speaker was David Hunter, from the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). The IDA provides unbiased research and analysis to the U.S. Department of Defense. David spoke about the importance of taking a “field trip” to customers to better understand the nature and scope of their issues. David provided a fascinating review of a project his group completed to understand differences in Veteran’s Administration funding by state. Their group’s research indicated that state funding levels vary by the nature of the affliction, as well as the conflict the veterans were involved in.

The third speaker was Larry Megan from Praxair. Larry’s group is primarily focused on B2B analytics, localized supply chains, and is comprised of centralized talent. Larry’s group monitors numerous remote, unstaffed chemical plants. Larry related that Praxair productivity is tightly linked to analytics and is a key to their culture.

The final speaker of the meeting was Doug Mohr from UPS. Doug’s group provides algorithms and software to support UPS’ transportation network and hub system. Doug related that small applications designed for decision support analysts can greatly improve decisions and provide significant return. Doug also mentioned that advanced analytics is not required for every problem. Sometimes simplicity wins over complexity.

William Browning, Roundtable president-elect, reviewed results from the Roundtable Strategic Planning Meeting held in January in Washington, D.C. The Strategic Planning group reviewed all facets of the Roundtable (meetings, membership, finances and governance) and developed plans to keep the Roundtable healthy and effective well into the future.

The meeting featured a two-hour discussion session titled, “What does the Roundtable think?” and included breakout sessions to discuss several questions important to the industry.

The meeting was well attended with 26 member representatives, three alternate member representatives and one member representative guest in attendance. Cara Curtland (HP) and Tim Merkle (Steelcase) both attended as first-time member representatives.

The spring meeting concluded with a “Dutch treat” networking at the Watertable restaurant located in the hotel.