A busy couple of days: RPI graduation and IISE Annual Conference

Academically, it’s summer in Troy.  While classes ended in early May, the first official day of summer (to me anyways) starts after the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) Annual Conference.  This year RPI’s graduation and the IISE conference coincided, making for a very long (but also rewarding) Saturday, May 18th.

The day started off bright and early with the PhD hooding ceremony, which began promptly at 7am.  I had the privilege of hooding Dr. Shahab Mofidi.  He received the 2019 Del and Ruth Karger Dissertation Prize, given to the top dissertation out of RPI’s Industrial and Systems engineering department.  We miss him terribly – as he is a fantastic researcher, and just a fun person to work with.  Honeywell-Intelligrated in Atlanta is lucky to have him as an Operations Research Scientist.  Shahab’s dissertation focused on mathematical models for modern distribution.  We recently received fantastic news that his paper, When is it Beneficial to Provide Freelance Suppliers with Choice? A Hierarchical Approach for Peer-to-Peer Logistics Platforms, was accepted to the special issue on Innovative Shared Transportation in Transportation Research Part B: Methodological.  It’s always fun to see your hard work in print, and this one is especially special as it’s my favorite research paper I’ve written yet. (I plan to write up a blog post shortly explaining why, but in the meantime here’s the Preprint version).  A previous contribution of Shahab’s dissertation was on sea-based logistics, published in Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review.

Congrats 2019 Graduates!Then it was off to carry the Engineering banner at RPI’s 213th Commencement Ceremony.  Congrats to the class of 2019!  We are confidence you’ll set the world on fire in whatever endeavors you seek.  Thanks to the many dedicated volunteer faculty and staff who helped with the big day, and to the graduates’ family and friends, who provide important support and encouragement.

After a quick nap, I was boarded onto a flight to Orlando.  Four graduate students and one undergraduate student presented research at the IISE Annual Conference.  Everyone did a great job, covering the following topics:

  1. Kaan Unnu, Analyzing varying cost structures of alternative warehouse strategies (conference proceedings PDF).
  2. Hannah Horner, A stochastic bilevel approach to fulfill on-demand requests (Joint work with Professor John Mitchell)
  3. Safron Smith, On-demand volunteer platforms
  4. Rosemonde Ausseil, Multi-period recommendation model with non-compliant suppliers
  5. Ning Zhang, Expected Travel Models for Retail Store Order Fulfillment
  6. Kaan Unnu, Blockchain Enabled Supply Chains & Directions for Future Research  (joint work with Aly Megahed and Chandra Narayanaswami, IBM Research).
  7. Jen Pazour, On-Demand Distribution Platforms

A highlight of the IISE conference was Ning Zhang receiving first place in the Undergraduate Student Research Dissemination competition given by IISE’s Operations Research division.  The award recognizes undergraduate researchers for their contributions to the field of industrial engineering and operations research, as well as their ability to communicate results effectively.  The award evaluation was based on both a written conference paper and an oral research presentation. Ning graduated with his BS in Industrial and Management Engineering at RPI’s  graduation (so he also had a busy couple of days).  His conference paper and presentation were entitled “Expected Travel Distance Models for Retail Store Order Fulfillment. Here’s a link to his conference paper, which focuses on order-online-pickup-in-store policies, which are a new option for customers to order items online but pick them up at a brick-and-mortar store. This provides convenience to customers but requires store employees to conduct order fulfillment operations at retail stores. Although many retailers have implemented pick-up in stores policies, challenges exist in estimating labor requirements and evaluating where to place the pick-up and backroom locations. Reviewing previous literature on order fulfillment and layout designs in warehouses and distribution centers, quantitative models for order fulfillment processes in retail stores are lacking. To fill this research gap, we combine ideas from omni-channel retailing and warehouse expected travel models to derive new travel distance models for retail store order fulfillment. Capturing different placements of pick-up locations and backrooms, multiple models compute the expected efforts employees spend picking single-line orders. We quantify the influences on the sales clerks’ expected travel efforts due to different placements of items, the backroom, and the pick-up location, and varying item demand skewness.

The best part of the conference is seeing old friends, especially graduate student buddies – many who are now tenured-associate professors.  I caught up with research collaborators, mentors, and people I admire in the field.  It was a fun-filled and knowledge-packed couple of days; the introvert in me was glad for a three-day weekend and the unofficial official start of summer.

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