Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Analytics for Trucking Featuring Warren Powell in Forbes

Before I even had a chance to glance at our most recent issue of Forbes, my husband called out to me saying that there was an interesting article in it on Calculus for Truckers. As soon as he noted the title, I responded that I bet that the article was featuring research by Professor Warren Powell of Princeton University, and I was right!

The feature article arrived with perfect timing for my Transportation & Logistics course that I will start teaching next week and it is a great read.

As Warren (I will use his first name since he has been a fellow colleague through INFORMS and various Society of Transportation & Logistics activities for a long time) notes in the article, the research of his that Schneider National has been using, dates back to the 1980s. He has also worked with yellow Freight and other major logistics providers.

According to the Forbes article:

What interested Schneider, a full-truckload carrier, was Powell's work in the field of approximate dynamic programming, which is a way to make decisions in the presence of uncertainty. Schneider needed a model that could take into account the nonobvious and sometimes random variables that affect the efficiency of thousands of drivers over weeks of time and at a high level of detail.

It is fantastic that more and more industries are realizing the importance of analytics, coupled with algorithms and simulation, to enable the exploration of policy changes on the entire system.

"The thing that's so powerful is that when someone presses us on the impact of different policy changes, we have the facts, we have the data. We can produce reports and analysis so that if someone else brought in their scientists, they would have to agree," said Ted Gifford of Schneider. "The value is to be able to take these complex business opportunities and give them a good, solid analysis."

It is certainly a fantastic time to be working in analytics and operations research!

Thanks also to Forbes for such great coverage of research that is making such a difference in practice!

Hopefully, the success of such research will enable additional applications of analytics / operations research to various industries at a quickened pace.