Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Edelman Award: The Oscar of O.R.

The 2008 Edelman award winner is...(drum roll please...)

The Netherlands Railways!
Traffic on the railway nearly doubled between 1970 and 2006, but its timetable had not changed, leading to commuting problems...

Restructuring increased the percentage of trains arriving within three minutes of schedule from 84.8 percent in 2006 to 87 percent in 2007, while the number of passengers increased 2 percent in the first six months of 2007.

Profit, meanwhile, rose $60 million and the changes made additional capacity available...
Read more about it here. Or watch the YouTube reward ceremony here - pretty dramatic stage, eh! That's why it's the Oscar of Operations Research. :)

SiMMOR going to CORS Conference in Quebec City: May 12 - 14, 2008

The Canadian Operations Research Society (CORS) is holding its annual conference in Quebec City, Canada on May 12, 13, & 14th.

Team SiMMOR - Simulation by Masters of Management in Operations Research, is going to the beautiful and classy Quebec City! We are invited to present our simulation project as the top 5 finalists on the simulation competition of "Slim Nortons" restaurant operation on May 12-14th, 2008.

The team SiMMOR is composed of 4 members:
Details of the conference can be found here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Making Decisions at Procter & Gamble: O.R.

Procter & Gamble (P&G), a $76 billion dollar company in annual sales, with 138,000 employees, and operating in over 80 countries, relies heavily on operations research for answer these questions and making important business decisions, such as:

  • which brand should be used for new products

  • how to choose suppliers to procure and source materials

  • how to use forecasting to deal with the factors impacting international trade and finance

  • how much inventory to store and where

  • how to keep and attract workforce talents for the company

It is obvious that OR applications in businesses can make a company very powerful, but it takes the OR talents who can talk business to do it. To quote Brenda Dietrich, an IBM fellow at IBM’s Watson Research Center:

There’s a gap between the math professionals and the nonmath executives in
many companies. The companies who have people who can walk into a business meeting and tell executives how to use OR tools are the ones who’ve got the edge. Deployment is no longer done just by the math people; analytics has become much more usable by a broader set of people within an organization.

Click here to view the full article.

Applications of Operations Research to Business

A great video on critical OR applications to almost any businesses for getting the competitive edge, and what a manager needs to understand in order to take advantage of the OR powers.

See how businesses like UPS and Procter & Gamble are using OR to solve their important business problems and making informed business decisions.

Click here for the video.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Killer Presentation Skills

Steve Job like presentation skills are hard to pull off, unless you are a celebrated Toastmaster with a wealth of experience in presentation. However, here are some very helpful pointers to make a synchronized and seemingly effortless presentation!

  • make your theme clear and consistent
  • create a headline that sets the direction for your meeting
  • provide the outline
  • opens & close each section with clear transition
  • make it easy for your listeners to follow your story
  • demonstrate enthusiasm
  • wow your audience
  • sell an experience
  • make numbers and stats meaningful
  • analogies help connect the dots for your audience
  • make it visual
  • paint a simple picture that doesn't overwhelm
  • give 'em a show
  • identify your memorable moment and build up to it
  • rehearse rehearse rehearse
  • "And one last thing..." give your audience an added bonus to walk away with
  • a strong opening, a strong closure, and an encore with "one more thing"

  • 10 hours to rehearse for a new 30-minute presentation. It may sound like a lot, but if you want Jobs-style drama, you need to know your material cold.
  • A Vision: If your topic can’t be summed up in 10 words or less, it’s too broad.
  • A Clear Structure: An organized speech is easier for the audience to follow.
  • Visuals: Eye-catching graphics form the basis of the most compelling slides.
  • Dramatic Flair: A few time-tested storytelling devices help build excitement.

Click here to view the video.

Click here to see the full article.

Operations Research & Movie Scripts

What has OR got to do with movie scripts? What has the geek world got to do with the Sunset Boulevard in the Hollywood hills? Well on.

Warning to studio readers — two marketing professors at the Wharton School could very well put you out of a job.

Actually, Z. John Zhang and Jehoshua Eliashberg (plus a bevy of co-authors) claim that their goal is merely to augment your special talents, not replace them. But the paper they published in Management Science magazine in June called 'From Story Line to Box Office: A New Approach for Green-Lighting Movie Scripts' establishes a statistical model for analyzing screenplays and predicting whether a resulting movie will be successful at the box office. Which, if accurate, would render your silly personal judgments obsolete.

Greenlighting, or putting a screenplay into active production, relies mostly on the subjective intuition of readers and executives (plus a studio calculus derived from the budget and the past record of the film's genre and potential cast). It's a system that can produce, shall we say, spotty results. Zhang and Eliashberg hope to take some of the guesswork out of it. Their model combines textual analysis (paragraph construction, frequency and distribution of words, etc.) with structural analysis (a clear premise, a surprise ending, and the like) using 22 yes-or-no queries that are posed and then cross-referenced.

— Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Forecasting or Palm Reading?

A study says that
forecasting “experts” don’t do much better than novices — or, for that matter, guessing — when it comes to predicting the future.
I've been taking a forecasting class, and find the topic rather fascinating. However, as in the course of my study of different forecasting methods, it seems that in a lot of cases the best forecast is the naive forecast - which is simply guessing using current values.

I suppose what it really comes down to is that most things cannot be predicted with great accuracy - how else would we have surprises and excitements in life?! However, it does pay to spend time to analyze information or data that would greatly influence a person/company's decision. If one can find a good forecasting model, then great - life is easy! If not, then at least you know you cannot forecast it well. Move on and don't waste money finding "experts" for forecasts. This is when one needs to consider contingency plans very carefully to deal with variability!

For more information on the study mentioned above: