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.

On-Demand Warehouses

Check out the latest WERC Sheet for a nice write-up about on-demand warehouses.



My research team and I are rethinking supply chain design.  We are exploring creative solutions around on-demand warehousing and crowdsourced deliveries, in which marketplaces provide access to resources (when and where they are needed), rather than owning them.  This creates a dynamic supply network, able to respond to changing demand requirements.  But, such systems are inherently more complex than traditional systems.  To address these challenges, we are working on new network design models to capture on-demand business models (for a quick overview,  check out Flexe’s videos ) and will use these models to quantity the benefit in terms of access to scale, reduced commitment granularity, and reduced capacity granularity.  We are also conducting basic research on how best to provide a set of decentralized users choice to entice them to provide access to their resources.

Blockchain Technology – Guest Blog Post


Happy (almost) End of the Semester.  I am happy to share a guest blog post by two undergraduate researchers, Mara and Jake, about their adventures into blockchain technology.

I’m hoping to get more undergraduate students blogging about their research interests, and so added them under the people heading.  Click here for Mara and Jake’s blog post about blockchain technology for supply chain applications.

I’m super excited about this technology and think it has great potential in supply chains.  Specifically, I believe supply chains and logistics are becoming more democratized, which results in a need for decentralized and distributed decision making.  Another area of my research has been in improving supply chain visibility.  In theory, visibility should be solved by now, but I have a number of data points that show in practice it isn’t.  My hypothesis for this discrepancy is that a top-down approach to visibility is hard to achieve in practice.  This is because to have visibility into your supply chain requires decentralized entities to agree to connect data bases and systems, share data, etc., and this is a challenging management and technology problem.  One promising technology to improve visibility is blockchain technology, which uses decentralized protocols capturing and validating information transactions between multiple users via a distributed ledger system.  My hope is to report more on this research in future posts.

2016 Farewell

Goodbye 2016; farewell!  From a macro perspective, 2016 left a lot to be desired; on a day-to-day level, life wasn’t too bad.  Here’s my annual reflection of our research group’s happenings.


Fabiana’s farewell dinner. Front: Munira, Fabiana, Kaan, Burcu (Kaan’s wife); Back: Shahab, Jen; Missing: Uzma

I have a great research team, which in 2016 included 4 Ph.D. students, a flock of undergraduate students, and an excellent visiting research scholar.  I genuinely enjoyed thinking about and exploring research with them.

Uzma Mushtaque completed her candidacy proposal in Fall 2016 on Context-dependent discrete choice models and assortment optimization for online retail. Her research develops new mathematical models for personalized recommendations capturing different context-effects associated with individual user selection behavior found in the marketing and behavioral research. If you have ever tried to watch something on Netflix, but after searching through their many options, left without watching anything, you could benefit from her research.  A central research question in her dissertation is ‘how many items to recommend in an online environment?’

In 2016, the world discovered what I have known for a while: Shahab Mofidi is a rising star.  This is evident in the number of national and institute-wide awards he was awarded, including:

  • Awarded the Institute of Industrial and System Engineer (IISE) E. J. Sierleja Memorial Fellowship for the next academic year;
  • Awarded the Tompkins International Honor Scholarship for the 2016/2017 academic year from the Material Handling Education Foundation, Inc.
  • Awarded the New York Capital Region Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals scholarship
  • Awarded a 2016 Founders Award from RPI, which “honors students who embody qualities of creativity, discovery, leadership, and the values of pride and responsibility at Rensselaer.”
  • Participated in ComSciCon a communicating science workshop for graduate students at Cornell.

Shahab played a dedicated and instrumental role in preparations for an NSF grant proposal I submitted this summer.  His current research has applications in peer-to-peer resource sharing systems.  In such systems, a central mechanism is needed to facilitate the interactions between users.  Shahab’s research uses a bi-level modeling approach to capture discretion levels of users.  This spring he will complete his Ph.D. candidacy exam and will be on the job market in the fall.

Two Ph.D. students joined our research group this fall.  Kaan Unnu arrives with a wealth of knowledge having spent 7 years as a Production Planning & Quality Manager in the automotive industry.  Prior to that, he worked for 3 years as a Logistics manager of a plastic/paper packaging company.  Kaan’s years working hands-on applying industrial engineering techniques in practice and his maturity have allowed him to quickly jump into the research.  His dissertation research is on designing models to evaluate on-demand logistics services.  We plan to develop optimization models both from a lender of space and a user of space perspective.  The models will be used to capture trade-offs and simulate different scenarios to answer questions like: In what environments should a company build, lease with a 3PL, or go on demand?  Of particular interest is to quantify the benefits of on-demand systems in different environments.  For example, what is the value of access to scale, smaller commitment granularity, or smaller capacity granularity?

Munira Shahir arrives to our group after completing her BS in mathematics from University of Maryland Baltimore County.  Her proposed research is on disaster response logistics, especially focusing on the material convergence problem — in which too often resources donated in disasters are not useful.  “Helping is not always helping” because low priority or not needed donations utilize valuable resource capacities and actually delay processing of needed resources to effected areas. So, please think twice about donating that winter coat to survivors of a natural disaster from a tropical area!    Through modeling, we want to quantify the impact of a more represented mix of incoming donated resources.  Our models will be used to explore and identify strategies able to effectively serve the impacted areas, as well as utilize resources donated.  Some ideas include triage systems, and on-demand Uber-like systems for better coordination.

A flock of undergraduate students have been involved in our research group in 2016.  Outcomes included Joan Climes presenting her work on ship-from-store order fulfillment at the 2016 RPI Undergraduate Research Symposium; Ian Shin co-authoring a book chapter on “Logistics Models to Support Order-Fulfillment from the Sea” for the 2016 Progress in Material Handling Research, and Zach Shearin’s paper “The NHL Playoff Picture”, which analyzed the NHL’s point system through an operations research and statistical analysis lens accepted to the MIT Sloan’s Sports Analytics Conference.  Other students researched on-demand peer-to-peer resource sharing, disaster response coordination, and sea-based logistics models.


The Palleteers.  Andres Carrano has done a great job capturing our contributions to the design of sustainable pallet management here:

Palleteers: Noun, defined as a group of researchers who study all things pallets.  The palleteers had two papers accepted for publication in 2016 on the topic of “effective pallet management strategies” in TR-E and “Carbon footprint analysis of pallet remanufacturing” in JCP.  Andres has done a great job capturing our groups contributions, check out his page on Sustainable Pallet Management.   A highlight of the fall was hosting Fabiana Tornese in Troy.  She is finishing her Ph.D. in the Department of Innovation Engineering at University of Salento.  She spent last summer with Andres in Auburn; this year in upstate NY.  We were able to take a trip to visit Brian at RIT and watch how pallets are manufactured.  Honestly, who knew I would know so much about pallets!  I’m looking forward to continued pallet management projects with an eye towards the circular economy.

A perk of academics is getting to keep up with and working with members who have moved on to other adventures.  This included finishing up and submitting papers with former group members, Faraz Ramtin (now at Carian group in New Jersey); Mohamed Awwad (now at University of Missouri); and Patrick Reilly (now at Orange County Schools).  Kellie Schneider (University of Dayton) has been instrumental in extending Patrick’s work for journal publication, and she’s (of course) a lot of fun to work with.  Debjit Roy and I continued our research partnership; and he even visited us in Troy this summer.  A nice treat was receiving an IIE Transactions Honorable Mention Best Paper Award in 2016 for our joint work with Rene de Koster on “A Novel Approach for Designing Rental Vehicle Repositioning Strategies.”

I’m glad teaching is part of my job description.  I truly enjoyed my students in Operations Research Methods in the Spring and in Design and Analysis of Supply Chains in the Fall.  My parents attended one of my classes this spring (my Mom said it was good, except I talked too fast).

I was fortunate to be awarded a 2016 Gulf Research Program Early-Career Research Fellowship.  It’s a program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  RPI published a nice write-up about the award here.  I highly recommend applying to the early-career fellowships and science policy fellowships to others.  The orientation event in September was a highlight: meeting the other fellows, getting to geek out with Einstein and Darwin at the NAS building, and hearing about the diversity of career choices available with a Ph.D. in STEM . During fellowship orientation, I was struck by how an Industrial and Systems Engineering perspective is both valued in policy roles and embodies the Gulf Research Program’s mission of considering multiple perspectives, synthesizing results from multiple data sources and fields of study, and using research to guide decision making.   The program has and will continue to have calls for research proposals, so check it out!


My Last Slide from my research seminar at UofA.  Graduate school was a lot of fun, exposing me to knowledge both in and outside the classroom.  There are 10 Razorback students who became faculty members captured in these pictures, can you find them all?

Another highlight of 2016 was visiting my Alma Mater, the University of Arkansas, to give a research presentation in their seminar series.  Going to graduate school was one of the best professional and personal decisions I have made in my life.

On-demand peer-to-peer resource sharing systems is a continued theme of my research.  I kicked off 2016 with a presentation at a TRB workshop.  This Transport Topics article captures the conversation well:

At TRB, Jennifer Pazour, an industrial and systems engineering professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, agreed that these types of on-demand logistics services can improve asset utilization and flexibility. “What this on-demand economy allows us to do is tap into those unused resources and use them very efficiently,” she said.

Traditional supply chain networks tend to be somewhat static, which can limit their efficiency and resiliency, Pazour said. In contrast, the on-demand model represents a more dynamic supply chain that potentially can incorporate infinite participants, transfer points and pickup and delivery locations, which makes it more adaptable and resilient. However, this “boundless supply chain” also is much more complex, Pazour said. Authenticating personnel and facilities, for example, can become more complicated under the on-demand model.

Read more at: http://www.ttnews.com/articles/basetemplate.aspx?storyid=41949&page=3  © Transport Topics

Fast Forward interviewed me to highlight a career in Logistics.  My interview, which provides an overview of my interest in on-demand logistics, geared towards high school students is available here.


Crowdsourcing and Collaborative Warehousing and Logistics, WERC Annual Meeting; Brett Parker (President and Co-Founder Cargomatic); Jen Pazour (RPI); Karl Siebrecht (CEO Flexe), and Brett Spector (Director of Noth America Channel Sales, Iron Mountain)

In May, I presented with the executives from FLEXE (Karl Siebrecht), Cargomatic (Brett Parker), and IronMountain (Brett Spector) at WERC’s annual meeting.  Karl provides a nice overview of our presentation in his blog post here.  This summer I submitted a grant proposal on the topic.  This fall I presented in RPI’s Lally School of Management, Center for Supply Networks and Analytics Seminar Series.  Next week I am headed to New Jersey to give a presentation about on-demand logistics at an APICS/WERC event.

It’s my 15th anniversary of discovering Industrial and Systems Engineering.  While our field has made some progress on informing the world about what we do, I believe we need to do more.  To get the word out, I led the development of an introduction to RPI ISE video, targeting high school students and undecided engineering students: https://youtu.be/f6Ps5SyimMg.

2016 has confirmed moving to Troy was the right move.  I love my job, but weekends are even better.  We’ve made a number of interesting and kind friends, Luke continues to work at the intersection of data analytics and video games, we eat too much pizza and I never drive my car.

In terms of 2017, I’ll rely on the great Bob Dylan for inspiration.

It’s hard to speculate what tomorrow may bring. I kinda live where I find myself.

Bob Dylan, 1984 Rolling Stones Interview


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.


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


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.




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.

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


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.