New paper at the OR Forum: Little’s Law

There is a new paper at the OR Forum area of Operations Research.  It has been 50 years since the publication of “Little’s Law” (roughly, the length of a queue is the arrival rate rate into the queue times the average wait, so if 5 people per hour arrive into a queue, and the average wait is 20 minutes (1/3 hour), then the average number in the queue is 5/3).  This formula is amazing because it holds under very broad conditions.  There are lots of applications where you know two of arrival wait, queue length, and waiting time, and Little’s Law lets you determine the third.  I spent a half hour today waiting in line at the Alhambra doing Little’s Law in my head (“300 people to be admitted in one half hour slot, one server, 95 degrees, no clouds, looks like 2 people fainting per minute, makes my wait time…”)

John Little has written an article reflecting on 50 years of Little’s Law and Ed Kaplan, Tim Lowe, Sridhar Tayur and Ron Wolff have provided commentaries on the article.  Check it all out at the OR Forum.

New Article at the OR Forum

There is a new article at the the OR Forum (part of the journal Operations Research) on High Leverage Interventions: how can operations research have more impact? David Lane of the London School of Economics describes three historical cases and draws some conclusions from them for today’s issues. You can read the paper and the commentaries on the site. Feel free to comment there if you have thoughts on the issues raised by the paper.

Homeland Security at the OR Forum

The OR Forum area of Operations Research has a new paper and commentaries published on the topic “Homeland Security: From Mathematical Models to Policy Implementation”.  The paper is by Larry Wein, with commentaries by Dick Larson, Eva Lee, Nathaniel Hupert (a doctor in public health) and Dave Alderson.  I think it is a very interesting article and very nice commentaries.  I particularly liked Dr. Hupert encouraging more of us in operations research to look at these problems:

What is needed is a new generation of engineers who can speak the language of health care (and vice versa), and who then step into the unknown in much the way Prof. Wein describes to discover the important unsolved (or avoided, as the case may be) problems.

I also enjoyed Dave Alderson’s querying of how to make this work. How do we get more people to have an effect on policy? He suspects it is not quite as easy as Larry makes it look.

Eva Lee talked about her work with the Centers for Disease Control on better systems for supplying emergency medical supplies, which I think is an extremely important and interesting issue. Dick Larson harkened back to World War II, and suggests we need a bit more social science to truly understand how people react in crisis.

I am the Area Editor for this, of course, and this is about the eighth OR Forum paper published. I like all of the papers, but I thought the commentaries on this one were particularly interesting.

If you have a thought on the paper or commentaries, may I encourage you to provide that at the Operations Research site? Hundreds (or thousands) of people download the paper and the commentaries, but we still don’t get much discussion there.

OR Forum Paper on Retailing

The OR Forum (part of the journal Operations Research) has just put out a new paper:  Marshall Fisher on “Rocket Science Retailing”:

In the May-June, 2009 issue of Operations Research, Marshall Fisher, UPS Transportation Professor for the Private Sector at the Wharton School, discusses his experiences with the Consortium for Operational Excellence in Retailing. This paper grew out of Fisher’s 2006 Philip McCord Morse Lecture. From the abstract:

Retailing is a huge industry. In the United States, retail business represents about 40% of the economy and is the largest employer. Retail supply chain management is still more art than science, but this is changing rapidly as retailers begin to apply analytic models to the huge volume of data they are collecting on consumer purchases and preferences. This industry-wide movement resembles the transformation of Wall Street that occurred in the 1970s when physicists and other “rocket scientists” applied their analytic skills to investment decisions.

The Consortium for Operational Excellence in Retailing (COER) (codirected by Ananth Raman, Harvard Business School, and myself) is a group of academics working with about 50 leading retailers to assess their progress towards rocket science retailing and to accelerate that progress through selected research projects.

After some brief comments on the current state of industry practice in retail supply chain management, this paper will describe examples of COER research in four areas: assortment planning, pricing, inventory optimization, and store execution.

There are a couple commentaries on the paper at the website.  Check it out (and feel free to add some comments)!

OR Forum paper on Personal Decisions

There is a new paper and discussion at the OR Forum.  Raph Keeney published  a neat paper entitled “Personal Decisions are the Leading Cause of Death” in Operations Research, where he argues that the choices people make (eating, drinking, etc.) cause more deaths than anything else.  There are some very insightful commentaries about this, and I hope the paper and commentaries lead to an interesting discussion.  Check it out!

This paper was the subject of a Newsweek article, and I suspect it will show up more in the media than most OR papers.

New OR Forum Paper on Network Science

Dave Alderson of the Naval Postgraduate School has written a very nice article on Network Science and why operations research people should be interested in it.  The paper forms the basis for an “OR Forum” discussion.  Be sure to check it out, and perhaps provide some comments on either the paper or the invited commentary.

OR Forum on SWOT for Operations Research

There is a new paper in the OR Forum area of the journal Operations Research. Written by ManMohan Sodhi and Chris Tang, it is entitled “The OR/MS Ecosystem: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats” and analyzes the state of the field, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between academia and practice. Check out the paper and commentaries, and provide your own thoughts on the issues! I am the Area Editor of the OR Forum: you can read more about what the area is about in this posting.

One bittersweet aspect: Mike Rothkopf provided a commentary one week before his death. I wish he could be here to add to the conversation (on this and many other things).

OR Forum Paper on Influenza released

As one of my hats, I am the Area Editor for Operations Research responsible for the OR Forum. This area tries to attract contentious or provocative papers on topics in OR of broad interest. We have just published our second paper in the Area: a work by Dick Larson of MIT on influenza modeling. You can read the paper and join the discussion at the OR Forum.

Launch of OR Forum

About a year ago, I became the Area Editor for the OR Forum for the journal Operations Research.  The purpose of the Forum is given in my editorial statement:

The OR Forum area invites work that challenges the reader to consider and evaluate the status of past, present, or future prospects and challenges within the field of operations research. Possible submissions include critical reviews of research in a specialized field, closely reasoned commentary on the practice within an area, analysis of prospects for operations research broadly, or any other area where a substantive, significant work will clarify and illuminate research and practice. Published work will often be accompanied by supplemental pieces that enhance or dispute the theses developed.

An online forum will provide opportunity to continue the discussion after publication. Papers that address prospects in areas not traditionally covered by Operations Research are strongly encouraged, as are provocative papers that take a strong stand on policy and practice issues. The arguments made in the paper should not be casual or speculative, but should be based on a firm foundation consistent with publication in a professional journal. Survey papers are appropriate providing such papers go beyond a listing of who wrote what to include a critical appraisal of the research and the prospects for the future. The work should be accessible and of interest to a significant portion of the readership of Operations Research. Authors are encouraged to contact he Area Editor early in the process of developing their work to determine suitability for consideration in this area.

The first paper of the Forum has now been published, an article by Mike Rothkopf on auctions.  Check out the Forum and feel free to add to the discussion!

Passing of Joan Wingo

The field of operations research is full of unsung heros: people who make the field better by doing their jobs with enthusiasm, creativity, and skill. If you have published in Operations Research over the last six years, or if you have read and admired papers in that journal, you will have seen the work of Joan Wingo, Managing Editor of Operations Research. Joan worked with Editor-in-Chief Larry Wein to make Operations Research run, and run well. I worked with Joan over the last few months on transition issues with the new editorial board.

Joan, sadly and untimely, passed away February 13. Her obituary notice contains some thoughts of her friends, coworkers and loved ones. We, as a field, owe her a great deal.