Monday, December 22, 2014

Competing on Freight Service Quality in Supply Chains

Now is the time of the holiday season that freight carriers are extremely busy, with Christmas only 3 days away and with the memories of the delivery delays of Christmas 2013 still fresh.

In an article in today's New York Times, "Crunch Time for FedEx and UPS as Last-Minute Holiday Shipping Ramps Up," Hiroki Tabuchi writes that "UPS announced that it was hiring up to 95,000 seasonal workers, more than twice the number it employed last year. FedEx said it had hired 50,000 workers for the holidays. And both say they have invested heavily in infrastructure." The planning for this year reads like a large-scale military logistical operation with, according to the article,  FedEx saying that it has strengthened its contingency planning, after shippers were summarily slammed for delivery delays last holiday season.

Last year's delays were attributed to bad weather as well as a surge in online shopping after Thanksgiving. 

Last year's delivery debacles inspired us to work on time-based supply chain network competition and the outcome was the paper, Supply Chain Network Competition in Time-Sensitive Markets, Anna Nagurney, Min Yu, Jonas Floden, and Ladimer S. Nagurney, which was published in  Transportation Research E 70: (2014) pp 112-127. In the paper, we discuss that delays in holiday freight deliveries are not solely a US phenomenon but even happen in Sweden! We also highlight the use of alternative modes, notably, air freight, as was used to speedup deliveries of paraphernalia prroduced in China and associated with the Disney movie Frozen because of the immense demand in clothing and other gear. I can attest to this since one of my nieces had a full-fledged Frozen birthday party for her 7th birthday, complete with the Princesses Elsa and Anna making appearances!

According to the Times article, UPS also pressed retailers early for forecasts with its volume forecasting for this holiday season beginning as soon as its handlers got through last year’s chaos.
A company that did not forecast the demand for one of its products, is the iconic retailer, L.L. Bean of Maine. The demand for its boots has been astronomical (my daughter is one of the disappointed customers) with a backorder of 600,000 units (she hopes to get her pair sometime in February, way after Christmas). NPR had a nice segment on this topic and even noted the great Lafayette College vs. Lehigh U. 150th  football rivalry game at Yankee Stadium that I was at and blogged about. 

L.L. Bean sent us a letter explaining the situation with a gift of a boot keychain, which is now hanging on our tree.
Freight services are a critical component of effective and efficient supply chains and, oftentimes, they are taken for granted. During the holiday season they are challenged to the max. Since I love logistics and care about not only the quality of products but also the quality of freight service provision, out latest paper is on precisely that topic: Supply Chain Network Competition in Price and Quality with Multiple Manufacturers and Freight Service Providers, Anna Nagurney, Sara Saberi, Shivani Shukla, and Jonas Floden.

Happy Holidays, everyone, and may your packages arrive in time and in good shape!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

White House, the Stories of Women in STEM Will Remain Untold Because of Your Website Problems

I am a member of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) and last week I received, through its e-list announcements, the following information:

Honoring Women in STEM. The White House has posted a website with audio stories about women in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) who have contributed to critical advancements in their field. The Administration is encouraging others to submit their own stories of women in STEM who have inspired them (e.g., school teacher) to pursue a STEM degree and/or who have contributed to S&T advancements. Go here to submit your story.

After submitting the grades for my students in  my class, I decided to check out the website.
 I  listened to a number of the podcasts, which are nicely done, several of which are by the new Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith. I then proceeded to add to the stories, and wrote about my doctoral dissertation advisor at Brown University, Professor Stella Dafermos. I also added my experiences.
Then it was time to press the blue Commit button at the bottom of the above page.

And what I got is the page below.

I tweeted to to Megan Smith and also to the White House and tried over several days to submit, hoping that maybe the website problem had been fixed - to no avail.

Mr. President and Madame CTO, the stories of  Women in STEM will remain Untold, unless you fix the website! I am getting feelings of deja vu - ironic - of

Friday, December 19, 2014

Terrific Operations + Analytics Conferences in 2015 + More!

I am very much looking forward to the New 2015 Year!

The Spring 2015 semester I will be teaching two of my favorite courses at the Isenberg School and the Supernetwork Center Associates and I will be taking part in many conferences.

Shortly after the 1st of the New Year, there will be the 2015 INFORMS Computing Society Conference in Richmond, VA, January 11-13, at which we will be presenting our latest work on our NSF Future Internet Architecture project. The title of our paper is: A Game Theory Model for a Differentiated Service-Oriented Internet with Duration-Based Contracts, Anna Nagurney, Sara Saberi, Tilman Wolf, and Ladimer S. Nagurney. The paper will be published in the Proceedings of ICS 2015. Sara is one of my doctoral students who is also a 2014 Isenberg Scholar.

Then, on February 7, 2015 (no travel needed for us for this one for us), the second Women of Isenberg Conference will take place at, of course, the Isenberg School of Management! I have been asked to speak on the Building Your Brand panel. This should be very engaging and fun and no power point is needed! Last year I enjoyed the inaugural Women of Isenberg conference very much  and blogged about it. It was extra special to see one of my former undergrads and Supernetwork Center Associates, Christina Calvaneso there. Christina was funded, in part, under one of my NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) grants.

Later in February I will be going to a conference in Florida: World Congress on Global Optimization: WCGO 2015, Gainesville, FL, February 22-25. There I will present work with one of my doctoral students, Dong "Michelle" Li:: Supply Chain Performance Assessment and Supplier and Component Importance Identification in a General Competitive Multitiered Supply Chain Network Model. By that time I suspect, given last year's fierce winter in New England, I will need to see some greenery and experience some warmer temps!

In March, 2015, to coincide with my Spring Break, I will have the pleasure of speaking in Berlin, Germany. Last summer I was an invited speaker at a workshop in Erice, Sicily on energy, and a member of the audience liked my presentation so the good word spread. I will be speaking in Berlin on "Sustainable Supply Chains for Sustainable Cities." The conference should be very interesting. It  is on Φ·SOE Fachverband Physik sozio-ökonomischer Systeme (Physics of Socio-Economic Systems Division), German Physical Society, March 15-20. So nice to see my name on the elegant conference flier! Danke schon!

(Some folks like to present the same talk at multiple venues - I like to present different talks!)

In April, 2015, it will be time for the INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research, Huntington Beach, CA, April 12-14. I had such a marvelous time last year at the Boston Analytics conference, at which I spoke on Cybersecurity and Financial Services, that I had to submit a proposal to speak in CA. We'll see if the proposal is successful! Center Associates Professor Jose Cruz of UConn and Professor Zugang "Leo" Liu of Penn State Hazleton will both be going to this conference.

In early May, to coincide, inconveniently, as also happened last year, with our UMass graduations,  the POMS conference will take place in DC. All of my doctoral students and I have submitted papers for presentation there and I have another one submitted with a former student who is a Center Associate, Dr. Min Yu of the University of Portland.

Once the semester is over with, there will be more travel, of the international kind. I am a co-organizer of the conference, 2nd International Conference on Dynamics of Disasters (DOD 2015)
Kalamata, Greece, June 29-July 2, 2015, which should be outstanding (but I am a bit biased, I must say). The Organizing Committee consists of academics and practitioners from around the globe.In Spring 2015 I am again teaching my course, Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare, so the conference will be very synergistic.

Then it will be time for the EURO XXVII Annual Conference, Glasgow, Scotland, July 12-15,  My great colleague and Supernetwork Center Associate, Professor Patrizia Daniele, invited me to speak in her session, which will also have Professor Tyrrell Rockafellar as a speaker. He is renowned for his work in optimization!

Faculty and even doctoral students are jet-setters but conferences are extremely important venues for knowledge exchange and, of course, networking! Plus, one's institution gains from the enhanced visivility!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Business School Perspective on Top 5 Analytics Predictions for 2015

INFORMS has a great new communications social networking platform for its members called INFORMS Connect and today I enjoyed the question posed by Barry List, the Communications Director of INFORMS, to Glenn Wegryn, the President of the INFORMS Analytics Section. 

Specifically, Barry asked Glenn what are the top 5 analytics predictions for 2015?
I found Glenn's answers thought-provoking and terrific so I have reprised them below along with some commentary.

The comments are timely since, just yesterday, we had our end of the semester faculty and staff meeting at the Isenberg School Management at which the strategic plan drafts, primarily from an undergrad perspective, were presented by each of the 7 departments. Clear themes emerged, based on input from industry, as to how we can be a "Destination of Choice."  The top theme and focus, based on presentations given by several of the department chairs was that of Analytics.

Top 5 Analytics Predictions for 2015
by Glenn Wegryn, President, INFORMS Analytics Section and Principal, Analytic Impact LLC 

2014 proved to be a winning year for analytics. Going by the number of conferences devoted to the topic of analytics and attendance, including this year's record-breaking INFORMS Annual Conference in San Francisco, all indications are that it will continue to prosper.  Here I present five of the most important predictions regarding analytics capabilities for 2015.

#1 What's in a name? There will be continued effort, albeit not fully resolved in 2015, to converge on a common definition of what analytics is. INFORMS' official definition is "...the scientific process of transforming data into insight for making better decisions."  There are numerous other definitions or positions on what analytics is, but a middle ground needs to be found between the data-centric definition of analytics (What can the data tell us?) and the decision-centric version (What is the problem we're trying to solve?). Indeed, I view analytics as a bridge to converge the two in peaceful co-existence. Most importantly, it provides an easier point of entry for decision-makers to embrace, organize around, pay for, and ultimately benefit from all of the tools in the shed.  The more we play in the same sandbox, the bigger the castle we can build together.

Glenn makes an excellent point here. Several of the departments, from my own, the Operations & Information Management Department, to Sports Management, to Marketing, as well as Hospitality and Information Management, noted the importance of analytics in the curriculum as well as in our MBA program. However, there are clearly different perspectives. I would expect that some of the primary tool-based courses would be taught by my department since that is where the expertise lies in terms of stats, optimization, modeling, and even on a wide spectrum of applications, etc. What is critical to emphasize is that analytics is not just about the past and forecasting the future but, as Glenn said, it is about making decisions, and I emphasize better decisions, whether it is in profit or nonprofit organizations, government, or even in your personal life!
#2 Business Analytics programs will continue to grow. There are now over 100 business schools in the U.S. that have, or have committed to launch, curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate levels with degrees or certificates in Business Analytics [1]. No doubt there will be more in 2015. Clearly the B-Schools have heard the call from McKinsey [2] and others [3] on the significant gap projected between the supply and demand for talent in the analytics space, particularly in the predict-and-decide advanced analytics skills. In 2015, the more established programs will dig deeper and continue to fine tune the curriculum while newer programs will close the gap quickly. The more successful programs will leverage the breadth of academic disciplines (computer science, operations research, engineering, math and statistics, marketing, finance, and others) to strengthen their programs.

We are on board with you, Glenn! An excellent example of a very successful program is at the School of Business at UConn, which is headed by my former PhD student at the Isenberg School, Dr. Jose M. Cruz.  Jose is the Director of the Master's program in Business Analytics and Project Management.  With Jose's degrees in computer systems engineering, math, plus an MBA with a concentration in Finance, and a PhD in Management Science, he is interdisciplinary in one body!  

I am very pleased that one of my former undergrads, Emily Covill, is now pursuing a Master's at NCState in analytics with a dream of working in sports analytics!

#3 Fraud and Security. With the number of security breaches on major corporations being reported almost weekly, such as at Target, The Home Depot and more recently at Sony Pictures, there will be a significant increase in investment across the board in safeguarding commerce and privacy on the Internet. The importance of applying analytics methods - from using decision analysis to guide investment choices, to statistical methods, to detect-and-anticipate breaches and optimization models, to improve infrastructure design for safety, reliability and performance - will accelerate and continue to grow in 2015.

Thanks for making this point, Glenn! We have benefited from 2 grants received from the Advanced Cyber Security Center (ACSC) and are continuing to research such issues. Last year, I had a fabulous time at the Boston Analytics conference and spoke on Cybersecurity and Financial Services.  Some of my latest research on the topic is in the paper,  A Multiproduct Network Economic Model of Cybercrime in Financial Services.

#4 Collaboration and Communication
 (aka the soft skills) will emerge as the difference-maker not only in getting the best talent hired into the most coveted roles, but also in enabling more recognition and value to organizations that utilize analytics. Soft skills are important to educate, sell the value of, and, ultimately transform the culture within departments and organizations. But more importantly, these soft skills are essential to clearly convey the context of the problem and to recommend a course of action for a decision-maker to take. That can span from intelligent bots interacting effectively with users in an on-line application, to independent practitioners seeking to build repeat business with a client, to boardroom analysts able to think on their feet and able to describe in plain language the options available and facilitate a decision. Communication includes effective use of visual capabilities from Tufte-proud graphics to interactive, data-rich, drill-down tools as a means, and not an end, to a better decision.

Several of the department chairs yesterday emphasized the need for more opportunities for students to enhance their communication skills, including, through additional writing and experiences. Our students have many student clubs that they engage in and do community service, all forums for building additional communication skills. Plus, several departments, including my own, have student groups taking part in a variety of regional case competitions with excellent results. 

#5 The INFORMS Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) Program will continue to increase in importance as a qualification of skills and experience. Longer term, as the supply of analytic talent catches up to demand, the CAP program will be recognized as an important differentiator for employment. Currently, the number who are either currently certified or are signed up to take the exam exceeds the rate of the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, over the same period [4]. To that end, INFORMS should begin a campaign targeted to the "buyer" of analytics to grow awareness of this certification in their hiring decisions.

This is a marvelous initiative on INFORMS' part and for professional communities - thanks for all the hard work!

[1] Research from INFORMS Masters in Analytics Committee, presented at the 2014 INFORMS Annual Meeting (link).
[2] McKinsey Institute: Big Data: The next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity. May 2011
[3] InformationWeek Reports: Big Data Widens Analytics Talent Gap
[4] Presentation, Meeting of INFORMS Board of Directors, November 9, 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Getting Great News While on the Train - You are a Fellow!

When one gets some very good news (or bad), one remembers that very moment - from what you were doing when you heard the news to where you were when you received it.

Nowadays, much good news comes via email and, with smartphones, the messages can be received almost anywhere.

While on a recent trip to NYC, via the MetroNorth train from New Haven, I was engrossed in my New York Times and enjoying the journey. I love riding trains. My husband reached for my smartphone and decided to check my email and said, "You have a message from Oxford University."

I suspected that this was a decision on my application to be a Visiting Fellow at Oxford, a dream I had harbored for a while.

And indeed, it was!  The message said that a letter inviting me to take up a Visiting Fellowship had been posted and the sender stated that "I take great pleasure in attaching a pdf copy."

The letter, a hardcopy of which I also subsequently received via Royal Mail,  stated that I had been offered the fellowship for the 2015-2016 year for the trinity term, which is the term that I had requested.
I will be a Fellow at All Souls College at Oxford and will be researching supply chains and quality, a topic that I a very passionate about since it impacts so many products that affect consumers from pharmaceuticals and food to high tech and durable products.  Almost every day, one reads about quality failures of suppliers, some with devastating effects on human lives.

According to the letter, I will be provided with a workroom in the college, will have free accommodation at Oxford, and will have meals at Common Table (yes, capitalized). The atmosphere and support will be incredible.

One can become a Fellow of a professional society (for example, I was so honored to become a Fellow of INFORMS and also RSAI). One can also be a Visiting Fellow, as at Oxford, and other universities that have such programs, as well as at Institutes. For example, in 2005-2006 I was a Science Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, one of the best experiences that I have ever had, and where I wrote my Supply Chain Network Economics book.

I am so honored to have this great opportunity at one of the greatest universities in the world!

And, amazingly, On December 4, 2014, at our wonderful tribute to Gene Isenberg, after whom our School of Management at UMass Amherst is named, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the grandsons, Stefan, who had recently graduated from Oxford! He told me about the unique place that All Souls College has at Oxford and its exceptional library. I know that I will be inspired tremendously and will do my utmost to contribute to research and the life of the college while I am there and afterwards. Also, Stefan told me that he has appeared in several recent episodes of the PBS Masterpiece Mystery Inspector Lewis series (a followup on the Inspector Morse series), which takes place in Oxford, with many of the characters affiliated (fictionally) with Oxford University,  I became captivated by this program while being a Visiting Professor in Gothenburg (the Swedes show a lot of British TV programs).

A list of the Visiting Fellows this year is comprised of an economist, lawyers, literature scholars, and an astronomer, to start, with renowned universities such as Harvard and Stanford represented. I thrive in interdisciplinary settings such as Radcliffe, so am so looking forward to experiences that I know will be truly special.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Holiday Cookie Supply Chains - Putting Operations Research into Practice

This morning I gave the final exam to my Logistics & Transportation students and also collected their project papers, which I am enjoying reading very much.

The field of Logistics & Transportation has so many great applications!

And, since this is the holiday season, it is a perfect time for putting Operations Research into practice by executing my holiday cookie supply chain.

I must admit, since my students have been so good this semester, I spoiled them today. The exam was at 8AM so they needed some support. I brought in the holiday cookies below, which I baked last night after a day filled with meetings. Several of the students used the "carrot" of a cookie as a reward for finishing the exam whereas some indulged even before.
The raspberry filled cookies above are Swedish cookies from a recipe that my wonderful Office Manager at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg provided me with (and she even gave me a plate of them that she had baked about a year ago - so special)!

A holiday cookie supply chain just may be the most delicious one - I had to, first,  procure the ingredients: the flour, sugar, confectioner's sugar, vanilla, eggs, plus marzipan, almond paste, candied cherries, M&Ms for decorating (the mitten cookies above), pecans, rum, walnuts, coconut, chocolate, corn syrup, maraschino cherries, and raspberry jam. These are the major ingredients of my holiday cookie supply chain this year. And, of course, you need parchment paper (a savior for professional bakers as well as me since it saves the cookies and reduces cleaning time), wax paper (for rolling out nicely the shaped cookies), cookie baking trays, a rolling pin, cookie cutters,  and nice plates,  wrapping paper, and ribbons for the deliveries.

When we research and teach about  product supply chains I always emphasize the production processes and I have felt like a cookie manufacturer lately.  The production process is very much an assembly line process but there are tasks that one does simultaneously - for example, while batches are baking, I am preparing the next batch. Since many cookies bake quite quickly - such as the ones pictured above (about 13 minutes), one can  do the processing quite efficiently. Plus, rum balls don't need to be baked and are favorites among our neighbors!

Then there is the cooling, and,  in the case of my famous rum balls, it is actually best if they are stored for a few days - so storage is another important activity.

Below are some of the cookies that I have baked this holiday season - all gone!
 Packaging is another enjoyable aspect of processing holiday cookies.

And, of course, distribution is what gets the cookies delivered to the consumers! In my case, so far this year, there have been many deliveries - to our wonderful neighbors, to the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter members and guests at our party last Friday, and to my students today! Plus, rather than just local deliveries, we have also made some shipments through mail.
There is nothing like putting Operations Research into practice for the enjoyment of many! Besides, what is better than playing with dough and decorating cookies during a time in the academic calendar that is quite hectic!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Physical Internet and Supernetworks

Now is that special  time of the year when surprise packages arrive at your door!

Recently, I received such a package with a letter inside from Dr. Russ Meller, well-known in logistics and transportation circles. The letter started with:

Dear Supporter, (crossed out with "Anna" handwritten over it) 

Along with this note you'll find a copy of the first book published on the Physical Internet (The Physical Internet: The Network of Logistics Networks). There were only 100 published - so, hang onto this collector's item!

The image of the book is above and it  is co-authored by Eric Ballot, Benoit Montreuil, and Russel D. Meller.

I felt very special getting a copy and expressed by appreciation in a Thank You message to Russ!

I have almost finished reading the book, which I am enjoying very much. It is a glossy production, not surprising, since it was published in beautiful Paris. There are numerous figures, networks images, bar charts, and tables.

The basic premise is that "Like the Digital Internet that conveys data, the concept is to connect and synchronize all logistics networks to create a collaborative and robust physical network of networks, capable of continually optimizing the shipment of "encapsulated" goods of many times and sizes."

Performance indicators are provided, including the impact on environmental emissions and the optimization of both the operator's and customer's economic models. There are also mini case studies throughout.

When I read "network of networks" I immediately thought of Supernetworks!

And, coincidentally, our supernetwork research group has been, for over a decade, contributing to the vast literature on supply chains with a focus on the network aspects.  Also, for the past 3 years we have been working on ChoiceNet, an NSF-funded multiuniversity project to develop an economy plane for the Internet. In fact, my collaborator, Professor Tilman Wolf, spoke on our project just this past Friday in our INFORMS Speaker Series.

Interestingly, in contrast to what the authors of the new book emphasize, we are doing the converse. We are bringing ideas from supply chain networks to the Future Internet Architecture(s) using network theory, game theory, variational inequality theory as well as projected dynamical systems theory. The work is multidisciplinary, as it should be, since knowledge about engineering, computer science, economics and operations research/management science are needed to explore all the relevant issues.

It is very exciting to see the commonalities being bridged from a supernetwork perspective! 

For some background on the foundation of the Physical Internet, see the paper by the book's co-authors.