Sunday, June 27, 2010

Travel, being an OR consultant, and another blog

Activities on the ThinkOR blog has been a bit thin in the last month or so. Summer has arrived and we have been busy enjoying it as much as we can in London. So far it's been a great half year: Exeter UK, Istanbul, Bursa, Ayvalık, Bergama (Pergamon) TR, Riga LV, Berlin DE, Milan, Venice, Padua, Verona IT, the Algarve PT, New Delhi, Agra, Udaipur IN, Bahrain BH, Malaga ES, Reykjavik IS, and of course Canada and the US. Not bad, eh?


To travel this much for leisure (18 countries last year), and to cover as many interesting cities as possible that span the continents, i.e. objectives; to not break the bank, to use as few vacation days as possible (we've only used 9 so far), to avoid anticipated bad weather, to not leave work too early for flights, and to not overdo it to tire ourselves out, i.e. constraints; means that we need an optimised strategy. We travel on weekends and use bank holidays as much as possible. We travel budgetly with lean (polite for 'cheap') airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair flying out after 5pm on a Friday, to trade off between more time in the destination and the cost of 1 extra night of hotel, as well as a peak rate for flights after 5pm. We make a judgment on the trade off between the central location of hotels with the higher cost usually associated. We also need to do our research on the temperature and the likelihood of rain for the cities on our list, and line the cities up with the weekends we would like to travel, but our list is often dictated and changed by the destinations of the airlines and the routes on sale. Our part time job is a travel agent, because it is quite time consuming. However, we usually plan a couple months in a batch process, and don't need to think about it again once it's in the diaries. It's kind of fun planning it, and more fun zipping away every second or third weekend.

Being an OR consultant

I just started a new job at Capgemini Consulting's operational research team. Already did one project with a major consumer product manufacturing and distribution company. Very interesting project, in which I enjoyed working on modelling their supply chain and the cash to cash cycle, and the impact of one seemingly simple decision's impact on the bottom line. This is exactly what OR is for - helping businesses make more informed decisions. The project was quite short and intense. I feel like one of the most important attributes OR people bring to the table in situations like this is what and when you can use averages, what assumptions are ok and what would come back and bite you in the butt. Perfection mostly takes second seat to delivery deadlines. It reminded me of what an advisor told me at uni, "what you learn at school will get applied very little in real life, because businesses never have the time to give to an OR guy to properly figure out the problems and solutions. They want quick answers and they want it now."

Another OR blog

Capgemini has a very cool group of OR people, and they have an OR blog too! Figure it Out. Check it out. Interesting articles on the real life applications of operational research, particularly relevant to UK topics. Of course, I will be writing for them too, as soon as I acclimate a little bit.

P.S. We at ThinkOR are very honoured to be named as one of the favourites in the OR blog world by Maximize Productivity with IE & OR Tools. Thank you very much. It is a real honour. Please let us know any topics you'd like to read about more, and we will try our best to research and write about them.