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Analytics Magazine

INFORMS Initiatives: May-June 2018

FCC wins 2018 INFORMS Edelman Award

The FCC won the Edelman Award for its use of O.R. to address the rapidly growing need for additional wireless spectrum. Photo Courtesy of INFORMS

The FCC won the Edelman Award for its use of O.R. to address the rapidly growing need for additional wireless spectrum. Photo Courtesy of INFORMS

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) won the 2018 Franz Edelman Award for its use of operations research (O.R.) as part of a revolutionary approach to address the rapidly growing need for additional wireless spectrum in the United States and Canada.

The prestigious award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in advanced analytics, O.R. and management science, was presented by INFORMS at the Edelman Gala held April 16 in Baltimore in conjunction with the 2018 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research.

The FCC conducted the world’s first two-sided “incentive auction” to meet the exploding demand for wireless services by reclaiming valuable low-band electromagnetic spectrum from TV broadcasters. By purchasing spectrum from TV broadcasters and reselling it to wireless providers, the auction repurposed 84 MHz of TV spectrum for mobile broadband, next-generation “5-G” and other wireless uses, raised nearly $20 billion in revenue and contributed over $7 billion to reduce the federal deficit. In addition, operations research enabled many TV stations to remain on their original channels, saving an estimated $200 million in relocation costs.

“To be presented with the Franz Edelman Award, which recognizes the greatest achievements in operations research and analytics, is an incredible testament to the ground-breaking work of our incentive auction team,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “The auction … would not have been possible without the use of operations research tools to solve complex design and implementation challenges. We are deeply honored that our effort has been recognized with this prestigious award.”

In addition to the FCC, five other organizations were finalists for this year’s Franz Edelman Award:

  • China National Petroleum Corporation for “Natural Gas Pipeline Optimization Software”
  • Europcar for “Opticar”
  • Intel for “Multi-Echelon Inventory Optimization (MEIO) Inventory Target-Setting System”
  • Pediatric Heart Network for “Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG)”
  • Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. for “TargetingNOW and AudienceNOW”

First awarded in 1972, the Franz Edelman Award recognizes and rewards outstanding contributions of analytics and O.R. in the for- and non-profit sectors around the globe. Each year, INFORMS honors finalist teams that have improved organizational efficiency, increased profits, brought better products to consumers, helped foster peace negotiations and saved lives. Since its inception, the cumulative dollar benefits from Edelman finalist projects have surpassed $250 billion.

The conference drew more than 1,000 attendees, many of them leading professionals in analytics and operations research.

With 12,500 members from nearly 90 countries, INFORMS is the world’s largest international association of operations research and analytics professionals and students. INFORMS provides unique networking and learning opportunities for individual professionals, and organizations of all types and sizes, to better understand and use O.R. and analytics tools and methods to transform strategic visions and achieve better outcomes.

BNSF Railway receives 2018 INFORMS Prize

Pooja Dewan (front, center) receives the 2018 INFORMS Prize on behalf of BNSF Railway. Photo Courtesy of INFORMS

Pooja Dewan (front, center) receives the 2018 INFORMS Prize on behalf of BNSF Railway. Photo Courtesy of INFORMS

BNSF Railway was awarded the 2018 INFORMS Prize for its pioneering and enduring integration of operations research (O.R.) and analytics programs throughout the organization. The prize was presented at the Edelman Gala held April 16 in Baltimore in conjunction with the 2018 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research.

In just 25 years – a relatively short time in the company’s 160-year history – the O.R. and advanced analytics program at BNSF has grown rapidly to transform how the company approaches problem solving. A centralized team of operations research professionals provides invaluable guidance to the company’s leadership for high-capital decisions, using a wide range of O.R. and analytic methods including advanced modeling, statistical analysis, machine learning, image analytics, algorithm design and optimization techniques.

BNSF’s O.R. and advanced analytics team drives better decision-making in every aspect involved in the management of its 32,500-mile rail network, including train routing, crew scheduling, train building, fleet sizing, train dispatching, locomotive fueling and inspections, track maintenance and equipment distribution for an annual savings of more than $110 million.

“In addition to providing essential guidance on capital intensive strategic decisions made at BNSF, our O.R. and advanced analytics team provides advisory tools and insights to almost every department, including mechanical, engineering, marketing, transportation and service design,” said Dave Freeman, executive vice president of Operations, BNSF Railway.

The INFORMS Prize honors effective integration of operations research into organizational decision-making. The award is given to organizations that have repeatedly applied the principles of O.R. in pioneering, novel and lasting ways. Past recipients of the award include Walt Disney Company, U.S. Air Force, General Motors, Intel, UPS, HP, IBM, Ford, Procter & Gamble, and GE Research.

“INFORMS is thrilled to recognize the incredible way BNSF Railway has leveraged O.R. and analytics to transform its organization,” said Melissa Moore, executive director of INFORMS. “We look forward to seeing how it continues to utilize O.R. to identify new efficiencies in the future.”

University of Tennessee receives UPS George D. Smith Prize

University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business earned the 2018 UPS Prize. Photo Courtesy of INFORMS

University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business earned the 2018 UPS Prize. Photo Courtesy of INFORMS

The University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business received the 2018 UPS George D. Smith Prize from INFORMS for Haslam’s innovative curriculum, taught in the context of a true business environment, that prepares students to become effective practitioners.

Featuring the first analytics master’s program launched within a business school, Haslam employs award-winning faculty members who share their extensive real-world analytics experience with their students. The program’s core curriculum combines cutting-edge analytics with the fundamentals of business strategy, as well as the necessary soft skills that will help students navigate a business environment. An annual two-day Business Analytics Forum connects more than 200 industry practitioners and students to share best practices, expand industry knowledge and enable students to learn about current issues from industry partners.

The program culminates in a capstone experience during which student teams partner with a corporate client on a challenging analytics project. Upon completion, the teams present their recommendations to executives from the client companies, most of which are Fortune 500.

“This award recognizes what truly makes business analytics here so impactful, with balanced programs that give our students experiential learning opportunities to apply their knowledge and the opportunities to connect with industry in a meaningful way,” said Stephen L. Mangum, dean and Stokely Foundation Leadership Chair at Haslam. “We appreciate having our faculty and the entire department of Business Analytics and Statistics honored in this way.”

Named in honor of the late UPS Chief Executive Officer – a champion of operations researchers at a leading Fortune 500 corporation – the UPS George D. Smith Prize is created in the spirit of strengthening ties between industry and the schools of higher education that graduate young practitioners of O.R. The prize is awarded to an academic department or program for effective and innovative preparation of students to be good practitioners of operations research or analytics.

“By combining a well-rounded curriculum with exposure to real-world problems in an actual business setting, the Haslam College of Business MSBA is ensuring that its graduates will have a unique experience that sets them apart from other young talent entering the field,” said Melissa Moore, executive director of INFORMS.

The award was presented at the 2018 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research.

Optimizing investments: Student team competition

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem won the O.R. & Analytics Student Team Competition. Photo Courtesy of INFORMS

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem won the O.R. & Analytics Student Team Competition. Photo Courtesy of INFORMS

Balancing risk to achieve a high-performing investment portfolio is a challenge for the most seasoned investment manager. Student teams from around the world showed that they are more than ready for the challenge at the second annual O.R. & Analytics Student Team Competition held during the recent 2018 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics and Operations Research in Baltimore. A group of students from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, successfully used O.R. and analytics to create a competitive equity portfolio to win this year’s event following a daylong series of presentations.

This competition, organized by INFORMS, was created to challenge students to apply their considerable talent to develop solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the world today. The problem and funding for the 2018 competition was provided by Principal, a leading international retirement savings and asset management company with millions of customers in more than 80 countries.

Eight international teams comprised of both graduate and undergraduate O.R. and analytics students competed in this year’s competition. They each used the same data sets and software options to develop an equity portfolio optimization framework that improves the balance between risk and return on investment. In addition, the students were required to maintain a diverse portfolio that was fully invested at all times.

“The O.R. & Analytics Student Team Competition is unique in its ability to highlight the incredible talent of the next generation of young O.R. and analytics professionals,” said Melissa Moore, executive director of INFORMS. “By challenging students with complex, real-world problems, the competition provides them with valuable experience that will set them apart from their peers.”

“Our team is thrilled for the opportunity to not only compete against so many talented teams, but to challenge ourselves in ways that will better prepare us for the future,” said Adina Marciano, student team leader. “This competition has shown us that we have the solid educational foundation necessary to launch successful careers.”

In addition to the team from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, seven other universities were finalists in the 2018 competition:

  • Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Republic of Korea
  • Özyein University, Turkey
  • Queen’s University, Canada
  • Universidad de los Andes, Colombia
  • University of Belgrade, Serbia
  • University of Bern, Switzerland
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.

Prior to the conference, finalists were selected by a panel of industry and academic experts based on each teams’ use of the full analytics process, from framing the problem to methodology selection, data use model building, and quantitative analysis.

“Principal is proud to support this year’s O.R. & Analytics Student Team Competition and highlight the essential role that data management plays in addressing the many complex problems of financial investing and management,” said Joseph Byrum, chief data scientist, Principal Financial Group.

The INFORMS Analytics Body of Knowledge

“The INFORMS Analytics Body of Knowledge” (ABOK) is a comprehensive compilation of the core concepts and skills with which a professional in analytics should be familiar. It is being produced and will be maintained by members of INFORMS and published by Wiley. ABOK will serve as the means by which the academic society or professional association communicates its vision, both internally and externally. It will do so by providing those interested in the development and application of the tools of analytics with a means for understanding what analytics is and how analytics can be used to solve complex problems, make better decisions and formulate more effective strategies.

The team producing ABOK includes the Editor-in-Chief Jim Cochran, the ABOK Steering Committee chaired by Terry Harrison and 13 authors. The table of contents follows:

Chapter 1: “Introduction to Analytics,” Philip T. Keenan, Jonathan H. Owen, and Kathryn Schumacher, General Motors

Chapter 2: “Getting Started with Analytics,” Karl Kempf, Intel Corporation

Chapter 3: “The Analytics Team,” Thomas H. Davenport, Babson College

Chapter 4: “The Data,” Brian Downs, Accenture LLC

Chapter 5: “Solution Methodology,” Mary E. Helander, IBM T.J. Watson Research Center

Chapter 6: “Model Building,” Gerald G. Brown, Naval Postgraduate School

Chapter 7: “Machine Learning,” Samuel H. Huddleston and Gerald G. Brown, Naval Postgraduate School

Chapter 8: “Deployment & Lifecycle Management,” Arnie Greenland, CAP, University of Maryland

Chapter 9: “Blossoming the Analytics Talent Pool: Nurturing the Analytics Ecosystem,” Ramesh Sharda, Oklahoma State University and Pankush Kalgotra, Clark University

Appendix: “Writing and Teaching with Cases,” James J. Cochran, University of Alabama

Each chapter has been reviewed by independent analytics professionals for correctness, completeness, comprehensiveness, conciseness and clarity. Each chapter also includes relevant portions of interviews with several analytics professionals.

“The INFORMS Analytics Body of Knowledge” is expected to be available late this summer, and it will be updated regularly to reflect changes in the dynamic field of analytics.

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INFORMS Computing Society Conference
Jan. 6-8, 2019; Knoxville, Tenn.

INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research
April 14-16, 2019; Austin, Texas

INFORMS International Conference
June 9-12, 2019; Cancun, Mexico

INFORMS Marketing Science Conference
June 20-22; Rome, Italy

INFORMS Applied Probability Conference
July 2-4, 2019; Brisbane, Australia

INFORMS Healthcare Conference
July 27-29, 2019; Boston, Mass.

2019 INFORMS Annual Meeting
Oct. 20-23, 2019; Seattle, Wash.

Winter Simulation Conference
Dec. 8-11, 2019: National Harbor, Md.


Advancing the Analytics-Driven Organization
Jan. 28–31, 2019, 1 p.m.– 5 p.m. (live online)


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