Welcome

Welcome to my blog that is intended to keep interested parties up to date on my latest research and teaching endeavors.  Specifically, I view this blog as a way to engage the online community by:

  1. Sharing — As we live in a society where the majority of us spend a great proportion of our days “staring at glowing rectangles” – I thought a digital presence to share my current research findings, projects, and insights would be valuable to the academic and industry community.
  2. Engaging — If anything you see on my blog is of interest to you, please contact me through email.  I am constantly looking for interesting research projects that are motivated by industry problems, as well as research collaborators throughout the world.
  3. Promoting —  Industrial engineering is a profession I am very lucky to have discovered and is a profession I find extremely valuable, practical, and rewarding.  Unfortunately, it is also a profession that tends to have a marketing problem.  When I give presentations to prospective students, I constantly get comments such as “I had no idea an industrial engineer did that.”  If this blog, in some small way, can get the word out about industrial engineering, there is an opportunity to match people with a career they find equally rewarding.
Video

Introduction to Industrial and Systems Engineering

The world needs more Industrial and Systems Engineers who can think analytically and systematically about decision making. I am a big fan of Industrial & Systems Engineering for its versatility and relevance in today’s data-driven world. To get the word out about Industrial and Systems Engineering, check out the following video I create about the major.

Here’s the script:

The role of an Industrial and Systems Engineer is to design, control, and improve systems and processes.

Design, control, and improve are verbs describing how engineers tackle problem solving.

Industrial & systems engineers solve problems related to systems and processes.

We do this by creating and applying analytical approaches to make better decisions.

Systems and processes, and thus Industrial and Systems Engineers, are everywhere.

Our lab is the world, and Rensselaer’s Industrial and Systems Engineering graduates acquire core skills applicable to all sectors of society and enjoy a diverse range of career trajectories.

They are found in supply chains, healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, entertainment, defense, consulting, finance, transportation, and even sports analytics and political analysis.

We are considered “big picture” engineers.  We take a systems’ perspective focusing on the relationship and interaction between people, technologies, and resources.

Industrial and Systems Engineers possess the technical knowledge to understand how systems function, what constraints limit their performance, where uncertainties exist, and how to quantify  decision trade-offs.

We are modelers.  We optimize systems by integrating processes, data, and humans.   We use data science, statistics, operations research, simulation, and computational methods to solve complex problems.

We then use these models as our playground to plan, allocate, and utilize limited resources.

Industrial and Systems engineering is the most people-oriented field of engineering.

We consider humans and human interactions central to the successful design and operation of systems.

Industrial and Systems engineering has a greater business orientation than other engineering disciplines.

The list of CEO’s with industrial & Systems Engineering backgrounds is impressive.   All of these organizations have been led by an industrial and systems engineer, including companies like Apple, Wal-Mart, and Accenture.

These combinations of skills make Industrial & Systems Engineers in high demand.  Graduates of our department enjoy a strong, consistent job market with above average salaries.

Rensselaer’s Industrial and Systems Engineers are able to think about problems analytically; to change complex situations into numbers and equations, into statistics, and into data-driven solutions.  These transferable skills are demanded for our ever connected and analytically driven world.

Intrigued?  Check out these cool operations research applications,  or how students explain ISE using only the most 1000 common words, or resources geared towards getting the word out about ISE or send me an email: pazouj@rpi.edu

IIE Transactions Best Paper Honorable Mention

 

ISERC 2016 Repositioning Rental Vehicles Presentation

My co-authors and I received an honorable mention designation in the IIE Transactions Focused Issue on Design and Manufacturing Best Applications Paper Award Competition for 2016. (The award is selected by an examining committee from all papers published from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015, issues 46:7 through 47:6).

Roy, Debjit, Jennifer A. Pazour, and René De Koster. “A novel approach for designing rental vehicle repositioning strategies.” IIE Transactions 46.9 (2014): 948-967.

While the paper can be downloaded here  I also had the opportunity to present our research at the Industrial and Systems Engineering Research Conference.  If you weren’t able to attend my talk, here’s the cliff notes version.

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The rental car industry has experienced “the Amazon effect” where customers place requests with little or no warning.

ResearchFocus

An important tactical decision for vehicle rental providers is the design of a repositioning strategy to balance vehicle utilization with customer wait times due to vehicle unavailabilities.

 

RentalOptions

To address this problem, this article analyzes alternative repositioning strategies: a no-repositioning strategy, a customer repositioning strategy, and a vehicle repositioning strategy, using queuing network models that are able to handle stochastic demand and vehicle unavailabilities.

ResearchGoal

Optimization models are formulated to determine the repositioning fractions for alternate strategies that minimize the rental provider’s cost by balancing repositioning costs with customer waiting penalty costs. The nonlinear optimization problems are challenging to solve because the objective functions are non-differentiable and the decision variables (such as effective arrival rates and customer repositioning fractions) are interrelated.

CostFunctions

Therefore, a two-phase sequential solution approach to estimate the repositioning fractions is developed. Phase 1 determines the effective arrival rates by developing an approximate network model, deriving structural results, determining a high-quality solution point, and refining the solution. Phase 2 determines the repositioning fractions by solving a transportation problem.

SolutionApproach

Numerical experiments are used to evaluate the efficacy of the proposed solution approach, to analyze alternate repositioning strategies, and to illustrate how the developed techniques can be adopted to create a better readiness at a depot.

CurrentState

OrlandoExample

Conclusions

Students Honored

It’s fun to work with talented and curious individuals.  A number of current and former lab members have been recently recognized and I wanted to share the good news.

First, please join me in congratulating Seyed Shahab Mofidi, who recently won two nationally-competitive scholarships.  He is this year’s recipient of:

  • The Institute of Industrial and System Engineer (IISE) E. J. Sierleja Memorial Fellowship for the next academic year; and
  • The Tompkins International Honor Scholarship for the 2016/2017 academic year from the Material Handling Education Foundation, Inc.
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Jen Pazour, Shahab Mofidi, and Debjit Roy after Shahab’s research presentation at INFORMS.  We are jointly working on research on two-stage decisions with multiple products – applications include omni-channel fulfillment and military logistics.

Seyed Shahab Mofidi is a second year Ph.D student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. Shahab’s research is on applying operations research modeling techniques in innovative ways to practical problems related to supply chain systems. Currently, he is conducting research under the supervision of Professor Jennifer A. Pazour on developing solution approaches that determine optimal multi-product inventory policies for systems with two-stage procurement decisions with cost fluctuations. His work advocates that a combination of proactive and reactive processes are warranted in omni-channel supply chains that need to respond to both in-store and online shoppers from a brick-and-mortar store. He was honored to win several awards during his PhD program including a 2015 University of Central Florida LEARN Graduate Research Mentor scholarship and a Lee Wood Scholarship for the 2015/2016 academic year from the Material Handling Education Foundation, Inc. Shahab holds two degrees in Industrial Engineering (a B.S. from Mazandaran University of Science and Technology, and a M.S. from Sharif University of Technology) and has four years of experience working as an industrial engineering in industry.

Next, Mohamed Awwad, who graduated in Fall 2015 and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at the College of Innovation and Technology, Florida Polytechnic University was awarded the 2016 Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching Award from UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.  He was nominated by the Industrial Engineering and Management Systems department.

Finally, Patrick Reilly, who finished his MS thesis in Spring 2015 was featured in the Orlando Sentinel for his work in the Engineering Science Technology magnet program at Edgewater High School.  Quotes and pictures from the article show that Patrick is doing a great job encouraging the next generation of diverse problem solvers.

“A car race in Patrick Reilly’s class at Edgewater High School doesn’t call for motors, gasoline or checkered flags. Mousetraps, rubber bands, and weight and pulley systems do the trick.”

Edgewater’s engineering program often includes hands-on activities that help students better grasp concepts they’ve learned in class, Reilly said. Junior Jocivan Cabrera, an aspiring structural engineer, said he likes that variety.  “You’re not stuck doing one thing,” he said. “There is so much you can do.”

Outlook 2016

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As one of five industry thought leaders, I share my observations and insights on potential critical issues likely to impact the warehouse/DC sector this year in the January/February 2016 issue of the WERC Sheet.

Contributors to WERCSheet’s Outlook 2016 panel include: Steve Johnson, managing principal, Johnson Stephens Consulting; Jennifer Pazour, Ph.D., assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Norman Saenz, managing director, St. Onge Company; Geoff Milsom, director, enVista; and Lawrence Dean Shemesh, president-CEO, OPSdesign Consulting.

My Outlook for 2016 is provided below:

The millennial generation
Jennifer Pazour, Ph.D.

The millennial generation has a major stake in defining both what the warehouse industry needs to do, as well as who will help get it done.  Specifically, the millennial generation is the warehouse industry’s current and future customers, as well as its workforce.

From a customer perspective, millennials are eager to do everything on their smart phones, and have very little patience for non-valued added activities, such as waiting.  This has implications for the warehousing industry as it changes order profile structures and lead time expectations.  Thus, distribution and logistics operations will need to be designed to be agile and responsive.

The millennial workforce, who are interested in making an impact, skilled in technology, and natural at identifying non-valued added processes, seem like a great solution to meet such dynamic customer demands.

For a warehouse to be responsive to dynamic customer demands, as well as profitable, utilization of both physical and human resources is a high priority.  An emerging way to achieve effective resource utilization in a dynamic environment is through the use of on-demand peer-to-peer logistics systems.

These systems use a business model for the movement and storage of goods that matches resources owned by a group of independent users to demand requests.  These systems are part of the “sharing economy” and utilize technology platforms that are able to provide wide reach visibility into untapped resource capacity (such as warehouse space, transport space, and delivery services).

A variety of such companies have sprung up in all aspects of the supply chain.  These include companies like FLEXE that connects companies with underutilized warehousing capacity to companies that need space, as well as companies that facilitate crowdsourced transport and delivery, like Deliv, Instacart, Amazon Flex, and Cargomatic.

On-demand peer-to-peer logistics systems have the ability to improve resource efficiency by increasing visibility and accessibility of existing, idle resource capacities.  They can reduce the costs associated with changing resource capacity, which allows companies to be more flexible.

In addition, these system, which require supply chain visibility and security, will also influence traditional warehousing and logistics operations.   Initiatives that improve supply chain visibility, create increased transparency and security, and embrace technology, will create new capabilities and business opportunities for traditional warehousing and logistics operations as well.

As an industry, we should position ourselves as proactively leading the charge to provide increased customer service capabilities by embracing new business models, technologies, and the changing workforce.

I’m excited to continue this discussion while I moderate a panel on “Crowdsourcing and Collaborative Warehousing and Logistics” at the 2016 Warehousing and Education Research Council Conference in Providence, RI in May.  To check out the conference preview and read the other through leaders’ thoughts on 2016, check out the WERC website.

2015 End-of-Year Update

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Art done on my whiteboard by my talented brother-in-law Blake Neubert.

The red ink from grading exams combined with the still-green grass on campus has me in the holiday spirit.  Here’s my blog tradition of an end-of-year update.

The biggest update from 2015 was a change in location.  I made the move to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this summer and it has proved to be a Pareto-optimal life solution.  The Industrial and Systems Engineering department at RPI is a nice place to be a junior faculty.  Already, interactions with my colleagues have led to new insights and directions for my research, and mentoring has led to a potential industry project and an award nomination.  We love our new community in Troy, and my husband found a super-charged job as a data analyst for Vicarious Visions.

In 2015, I have been lucky to lead a talented research team that has helped further research on the development of mathematical representations of complex systems and processes to better understand the implications of their design and operation.  My research has focused on three main stems of discovery: military logistics, distribution systems, and peer-to-peer sharing systems.  In 2015, I received my first NSF funding.  The project focuses on peer-to-peer sharing systems, which are systems where a resource owned by an individual is collectively shared with a group of users. The shared resource can be a physical resource (like a power drill) or a human resource (like the ability to perform a task). By focusing on access over ownership, these Systems allow physical assets to be consumed as services and tasks to be completed by independent individuals. Examples include sharing economy companies like Uber, Flexe, Cargomatic, and Instacart.

I’m thankful that I was able to convince Shahab Mofidi to transfer with me from UCF to RPI.  He is working on his Ph.D. research on two-stage multi-product procurement decisions with cost fluctuations.  He did an excellent job presenting his work at ISERC (to 3 generations of his academic family) and INFORMS.  It’s fun to jointly put our heads together during our weekly research meetings.

4Generations

Shahab Mofidi presents to three-generations of his academic tree at the 2015 ISERC conference (Mofidi, Pazour, Meller, [Bozer, not pictured], White)

I started working with Uzma Mushtaque this summer, and she has jumped right into her research on developing and using models that incorporate assortment properties into random utility models.  Specifically, she is interested in how to explicitly model no-choice probabilities associated when individual users are recommended an assortment of options to choose from.  Her work has wide application from recommendations in e-commerce and Netflix, as well as facilitating freelancer options in peer-to-peer resource sharing apps.  Shahab and she gained valuable experience attending the Purdue CIBER PhD Consortium on International Operations Management.  Uzma is excited to have her first research abstract accepted to present at ISERC in 2016.  Finally, I am excited to have Yuan (Eric) Meng join my group.  He will research bi-level optimization models for peer-to-peer sharing systems.

As new members joined, a number of students graduated in 2015.  Patrick Reilly defended his Master’s Thesis this spring on “Propagation of Unit Location Uncertainty in Dense Storage Environments”.  With help from Dr. Kellie Schneider, a journal out of his work has been submitted for review.  Mohamed Awwad defended his Ph.D. dissertation this Fall, which focuses on searching in dense storage environments.  We have received constructive reviews back on a submitted paper and are currently working on revisions.  Finally, Faraz Ramtin (who was the first student to jointly work with me) graduated this Spring with his Ph.D. His work on MIAPP AS/RS is ongoing and has led to interesting discussions with other facility logistics researchers who are modeling other aspects of the technology used for distribution.  He has two accepted publications in IIE Transactions and is preparing a third contribution for publication.

 

MohamedDefense

Mohamed Awwad defends his dissertation at UCF, while I attend proudly from NY.

Undergraduate researchers bring a rad perspective to our research.  This semester I had six undergraduates who worked on projects associated with supply chain modeling of ship-from-store fulfillment, sharing economy models for supply chains, and seabased logistics.

On my drive from Florida to New York, I got an awesome tour of Duke’s campus from Catherine Ninah, who was an undergraduate researcher at UCF and conducted research via an REU.  Catherine Ninah and Kristin Elias were involved with ICubed at UCF – their collaborations with art students created some cool art based on our seabased logistics research.

 

In 2015, I finally got to teach a logistics course in the spring, and enjoyed incorporating my research and the material handling and logistics US roadmap into the course.  I just wrapped up a rewarding class on the Design and Analysis of Supply Chains.  One of the introductory assignments was to have students create a “Supply Chain and You” slide to motivate the students to think about the importance and impact of the course topics on the students’ lives, and also allowed me to get to know the students better.   Here’s mine:

Supply Chains and Me

The course ended with a review of the topics helped by students’ memes.  Here is my favorite, which reminds students when calculating the amount of safety stock you need to use the square root of the lead time.

Final Exam Review - Fall 2015

My mission to create more Industrial Engineers has continued in 2015.  I enjoyed participating at CAMP Connect, presenting to the Eureka! Program of Girls Incorporated in the Capital Region, to the RPI student chapter of IIE about “What is Industrial Engineering and Why Does it Rock?” and attending the Women at Rensselaer Mentor Program.

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Attending the Women at Rensselaer Mentor Program.

My 2016 calendar already contains a number of projects that will allow me to learn a lot.  Some I am most excited about include an interdisciplinary academic-industry partnership proposal on smart, secure on-demand authorization systems for logistics and distribution  (with material scientists and computer science researchers from SDSMT), presenting at the Transportation Research-Board workshop on “On-Demand and Sharing Economy for Freight” and leading a panel discussion at the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC) on Crowdsourcing and Collaborative Warehousing and Logistics.

Cheers!

Jen

Move to Rensselaer

RPIlogo

I made the move this summer to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and am excited to be part of the Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) Department.

Some initial observations I have had:

  1. I’ve found a nice home in the Industrial and Systems Engineering department, which has research expertise in supply chains, cognitive and social networks, and infrastructure resiliency.  My research in modeling of supply chains and logistics systems is valued, and I am certain I will learn a lot from my colleagues.  It’s also a good sign that a large portion of the faculty’s favorite food is pizza.
  2. I appreciate Rensselaer’s joint emphasis on research and teaching, and connect with the ideas of The New Polytechnic, which “supports promising areas of interdisciplinary research and learning, and which uses the most advanced tools and technologies to unite a diversity of perspectives.”
  3. I just finished the first week of class and have been impressed with the students’ enthusiasm for the subject – Supply Chain Design.   Still left to figure out is how to write on a chalk board without the “squeaky” sound.
  4. Jennifer really is a popular name.  There are two new Jennifer faculty members on campus,  another Jennifer organized our orientation, yet another Jennifer handled my paperwork in HR, and yet another Jennifer helped me submit my first NSF funded proposal.
  5. We are proud to be Troybots.  Luke and I are living in downtown Troy near the Hudson River in a building from the late 1800’s that has been renovated into lofts.  We are loving our new place and community.  Troy is super walkable with lots of independent restaurants and shops and has really cool architecture.  I even get my dream of walking to work – it is just up 20 flights of stairs.Troybots

Please note my new contact information.  My new email: pazouj@rpi.edu is a little weird, not having the last letter in my last name.

Successful Defenses

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Congrats to Dr. Faraz Ramtin, who successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation thesis entitled, “Modeling and Analysis of Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems with Multiple in-the-aisle Pick Positions,” and to Patrick Reilly, who successfully defended his M.S. thesis entitle, “Propagation of Unit Location Uncertainty in Dense Storage Environments.”

I am super proud of both students, who are excellent researchers and human beings.

 

 

Faraz’s dissertation consists of three contributions all focusing on a special type of case-level order fulfillment technology – an “Automated Storage and Retrieval System with Multiple in-the-aisle pick positions.” These semi-automated systems are common in temperature-controlled warehouses.  Our first contribution includes the first study to analyze AS/RS with multiple in-the-aisle outputs. We develop expected travel time models for random storage policies and provide design insights into these systems.  In our second contribution, we considered the use of MIAPP-AS/RS to fulfill orders for non-identical items’ demand, which relaxed some of the assumptions we made in the first contribution. Specifically, we focused on an important practical design decision, the optimal SKU assignment problem. We studied the impact of different pick position assignments on system throughput, as well as system design trade-offs that occur when the system is running under different operating policies and different demand profiles. We developed optimization models to find the optimal assignment that minimizes the expected travel time.  Finally, we developed optimization models for the SKU-to-pick position assignment problem for dedicated and class-based storage policy for MIAPP-AS/RS.  By exploiting the structure of these optimization models, we decomposes the problem using Benders decomposition.

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The first two contributions of Faraz’s dissertation work has been accepted for publication:

  • Ramtin F., Pazour J. A. “Analytical Models for an Automated Storage and Retrieval System with Multiple in-the-Aisle Pick Positions”. IIE Transactions, 46(9), 968-986.
  • Ramtin F., Pazour J. A. “Product Allocation Problem for an AS/RS with Multiple in-the-Aisle Pick Positions”. IIE Transactions, Accepted Manuscript.

He is working on the manuscript of his third contribution, which explores a dedicated storage policy in these systems.

Patrick’s work focuses on dense storage environments and adds an additional dimension to the warehousing literature in that area, specifically item location uncertainty.  Effective space utilization is an important consideration in logistics systems and is especially important in dense storage environments. Dense storage systems provide high-space utilization; however, because not all items are immediately accessible, storage and retrieval operations often require shifting of other stored items in order to access the desired item, which results in item location uncertainty when asset tracking is insufficient. Given an initial certainty in item location, we use Markovian principles to quantify the growth of uncertainty as a function of retrieval requests and discover that the steady state probability distribution for any communicating class of storage locations approaches uniform. Using this result, an expected search time model is developed and applied to the systems analyzed. We also develop metrics that quantify and characterize uncertainty in item location to aid in understanding the nature of that uncertainty. By incorporating uncertainty into our logistics model and conducting numerical experiments, we gain valuable insights into the uncertainty problem such as the benefit of multiple item copies in reducing expected search time and the varied response to different retrieval policies in otherwise identical systems.IMG_1745