2017 Recap

Welcome to our 2017 Recap!  These Year-in-Review posts, an annual tradition, catalog our team’s progress while encouraging reflection and preparation for the voyage into the new year.

Quote: Rainer Maria Rilke #riflepaperco

Quote by Rainer Maria Rilke, Artwork by Rifle Paper Co. 

2017 culminated in two success stories. Dr. Uzma Mushtaque defended her PhD Dissertation entitled Context Dependent Discrete Choice Models and Assortment Optimization for Online Retail. Joan Climes defended her MS Thesis on Analytical Models for Retrieving Items in Dense Storage Systems and Optimizing the Location of an Open Square.

Uzma developed descriptive mathematical models to capture context-effects associated with individual user selection behavior.  Her models are novel as they capture the influence of assortment properties (specifically the assortment size), in addition to user and item attributes (as are commonly captured in existing research).   Using her new class of random utility models as inputs to optimization problems, she proves insights and creates new algorithms to determine “what to recommend” and “how many to recommend” in online settings.  She validated her approaches using data from online movie recommender systems and online retail. More details are available in this paper under review.  This research, partially supported by the National Science Foundation, earned Uzma an honorable mention at the 2017 IISE Doctoral Colloquium and a trip to Amazon’s Graduate Research Symposium. Uzma is currently serving as a Post-Doctoral Researcher in my lab and an instructor for the Core-Engineering course Modeling and Analysis of Uncertainty.

Joan’s research focused on dense storage systems, which allow for highly effective use of space, at the expense of requiring the repositioning of stored items to retrieve other more densely desired items. These dense storage systems are found in warehouses and distribution centers, and aboard US Navy ships used for sea-based logistics (this work was partially supported by the Office of Naval Research).  Her research creates mathematical models to determine the value of an empty space in a specific dense storage environment, the double-inverted T configuration (discovered by the always innovative Kevin Gue). Retrieval and repositioning distance equations are derived for each item in a layout.  An optimization problem is presented to select which location should be left open. Best locations for an open square are along the aisle and close to the vertical walls if h > k, or close to the horizontal wall if h = k. Due to the symmetry in repositioning distances, multiple optimal solutions exist.  Joan has accepted a position with Deloitte starting in February. In the meantime, we hope to work together to submit this work for peer-review.  Joan conducted this independent research as an undergraduate student, leading the modeling and coding development, all while taking challenging PhD-level optimization and statistics classes. She happens to be a runner on the RPI track team too. She has a standing offer to rejoin our team and pursue a Ph.D., as do a number of talented undergraduate researchers I’ve been honored to work with in the past.

Due to Uzma and Joan’s graduations, my research group has openings. I am looking for curious, talented people to join my research team.  If this year doesn’t work, keep us in mind in the future.

Kaan Unnu made great research progress in 2017 for his dissertation “Optimization Models for On-Demand Supply Chain Collaboration.”  On-demand systems provide resource elasticity: enabling finer granularity capacity and commitment decisions, and access to scale.  Kaan has chosen on-demand warehousing as a focus. Novel mixed integer linear programming models and efficient solution algorithms decide location-allocation in a dynamic network, capturing build, lease, and on-demand distribution simultaneously.  Computational experiments, utilizing the mathematical models, identify significant factors impacting performance and codify policy recommendations.  We’ve also partnered with IBM Research to start exploring the potential for blockchain technology to improve trust and facilitate physical movement/storage of goods’ data into a distributed ledger system.

Shahab Mofidi defended his PhD candidacy this summer, which focuses on “agile resource allocation decisions in modern supply chains with on-demand suppliers”.  Most recently, he has been developing new models and algorithms for online platforms.  To understand the trade-offs of providing choices to drivers through simultaneous personalized recommendations, we propose a hierarchical decision-making framework where the platform decides a recommendation set for each driver. Drivers then have discretion to choose the riders that best fit with their preferences or planned travel from this set. We model this framework as a bilevel optimization problem with a profit maximizing objective for the platform in the upper level (leader) problem and a utilitarian social welfare objective for the lower level (follower) problem. This results in a computationally expensive mixed integer linear bilevel problem. Since the platform needs to make instant recommendation for a relatively large problem size, we transform the formulation into a single level problem through proposing logical expressions. This research provided preliminary results for a NSF research proposal I submitted this summer. Shahab is a crucial resource.  He’s an excellent collaborator, and he continues to win national awards and scholarships.


I was humbled to be awarded the 2017 IISE Dr. Hamed K. Eldin Outstanding Early Career IE In Academia Award.  This award is especially exciting to me because so many of the past recipients are human beings whose careers I admire and hope to emulate.


I was awarded the 2017 SDSM&T Outstanding Recent Graduate.  As a blast from the past, I dug out my undergraduate graduation speech, which included the lines below…with a few inside jokes.

You might be a Tech grad if…

You can name the flavor of the day at Armadillos for the whole next week.

When asked to take a picture, you count off 1, 3, 5

You’ve ever applied probability and statistics in Deadwood or fluid dynamics to a night on the town.

Your student ID is only important one day of the week and that’s Wednesday.

You actually know your professors and they know you.

In 2017, I enjoyed giving back to my graduate school Alma mater – the University of Arkansas – by serving on their IE Liaison Board.  The IE department is conducting innovative research, while keeping students the focus.

We wrapped up our work on Sea-Based Delivery systems, funded through the Young Investigator program by the Office of Naval Research.  2017 saw two papers accepted for publication out of this research, with a couple more in the pipeline.  I joined the editorial board of IISE Transactions.  Having handled my first paper as an associate editor of the Emerging Applications and Analytics Department, I was reminded of the flip-side of the peer-review process.

2017 provided plenty of evidence the future is bright.  This included undergraduate ISE majors from across the Northeast giving up their weekend to attend the 2017 IISE Regional Conference, hosted at RPI.  Zach Shearin did a great job presenting his research on Analytics for the NHL Point System, earning him 2nd place in the undergraduate technical paper competition.  The winning Rutgers team did a fantastic job, and earned 2nd place at the National Competition. I was inspired by research conducted by undergraduates across the globe as I served on INFORMS Undergraduate Operations Research Prize committee.  I am the chair for the prize committee in 2018, and look forward to receiving inspiring applications.   Serving as RPI’s IME Class of 2020 adviser, our students’ focus, self-awareness, and vision, which are much beyond what I was thinking about as a freshman/sophomore in college, are encouraging.

Teaching brings me great joy.  I enjoyed polishing my course materials for two courses in 2017: Design and Analysis of Supply Chains and Operations Research Methods.  I am a big fan of clicker questions to keep students engaged and participating in the materials.  I’ve found these can work for quantitative materials too.  Please click in:

D3 Inventory Management Uncertain Demand.jpg

I spent a lot of time in the Fall preparing to give a RED (Research, Education, and Discovery) Talks – A Transformative Rensselaer Confronts the Global Challenges.  My presentation with Professor Jim Hendler was about “The Data Challenge.”  I presented my vision of the future of supply chains and how researchers across RPI are addressing the need for tomorrow’s supply chains to be resilient and agile.

Our research was featured in a 2017 Supply Chain Dive article “How retail supply chains are adapting to the Amazon effect.”  In particular, we were quoted, “A wide variety of our [order] requests are made with very little warning and are expected to be fulfilled quickly, in small units, to a number of different locations,” Jennifer Pazour, Assistant Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute said at a WERC conference panel. This is the Amazon effect. This is the idea that I want my stuff now and fast, and oh by the way I don’t want to pay much for it.”  This is fundamentally different than yesterday’s demand, which aggregated at fixed (store) locations.  Thus, today’s supply chains are optimized for yesterday’s customers. To close the gap between current supply chain operations and customer expectations, our team rethinks supply chain design.   Our research was well-received by industry groups, having presented in 2017 at three separate APICS events, at WERC’s annual meeting and through WERC’s webinar series.  Such interactions have led to connections and research projects with supply chain and logistics companies and start-ups.  I’ve also continued involvement with a number of programs to encourage youth to pursue a career in engineering and logistics.  A highlight was the presentation given by undergraduates Brook Rulewich and Fiona Flynn, created as part of RPI’s Engineering Ambassador’s program.  Their presentation, geared toward innovative ways to deal with traffic, motivates middle and high school students to think about careers in Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Civil Engineering.

Collaborations created through the Gulf Research Program Fellowship program have led to new friends, new problems, and new data.  I am specifically excited about my collaboration with Diego Figueroa, from the School of Earth Environmental and Marine Sciences, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, to explore Optimal Marine Protected Area Design for Mesophotic Reef Conservation in the Gulf of Mexico.

To avoid the trap of social media only showing a curated life of success, I should discuss some disappointments in 2017 as well. I received the gut-wrenching email that my proposal has been rejected 4 times, along with several similar emails for paper submissions.  As I mentioned in a presentation to the IISE Doctoral Colloquium, a research career is not a monotonically increasing function: feedback and criticism lead to better end products and growth.

Pazour Doctoral Colloquium

But 2017 wasn’t all research and papers! In 2017, I marched for science, equality, and facts.  We become first-time homeowners, saw 90% of the solar eclipse, visited the Math Museum, celebrated the successful return of Crash Bandicoot (and his sister Coco), enjoyed the consistency of meeting up with friends at Troy’s Farmer Market and Wine Wednesdays, enjoyed get-aways to MASS MoCA, hosted family in Troy, read a few great books…and a few ok books.


Cheers to 2018!


Looking for new Ph.D. Students to Join My Research Lab

RED Talk Hendler and Pazour FINAL

Modern distribution systems need to fulfill a wide variety of requests quickly with little warning in small units to many dispersed locations at low costs.  This is fundamentally different than yesterday’s demand, which aggregated at fixed (store) locations.  Thus, today’s supply chains are optimized for yesterday’s customers.

To close the gap between current supply chain operations and customer expectations, our research team rethinks 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 researching 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 suppliers choice to entice them to provide access to their resources on-demand. By tapping into underutilized supply capacity, supplier choice can increase participation – and thus capacity –  and provides agility through more flexible use of suppliers.  This can improve e-commerce profitability and enable a new on-demand volunteer base.  Our research team has partnered with community nonprofits to test how on-demand grocery delivery systems for mobility-restricted clients can help address the needs of residents living in food deserts.

Sound interesting?  If so, I encourage you to apply to join my research lab.  I’m looking for talented, curious new Ph.D. students to join in Fall 2018.   Check out my website (https://jenpazour.wordpress.com/) to learn more about our research and team.  Feel free to contact me (pazouj@rpi.edu) if you have questions or to request a SKYPE appointment to learn more.

Earning a Ph.D. fundamentally changed — for the better — both my professional and personal paths in life.  I encourage you to think about a Ph.D. I also entered the Ph.D. program pretty naive.  So below I provide what I (now) believe is needed to be successful in a Ph.D. program, and a research career beyond, as well as reasons why I think RPI’s Industrial and Systems department is a good place to be a Ph.D. student.

First, a Ph.D. is a research degree.  This is in contrast to bachelor degrees and (today) most masters degrees, which are coursework degrees.  Getting good grades in school is not sufficient to succeeding in graduate school.

So what do I believe it takes to succeed in graduate school?  Well, first, you have to be ready to fail.  Research is about discovering something new or doing something that has never been done before.  There are no answers at the back of the book.  The discovery process is exciting, but also non-linear.  Many of the things we try, do not work.  You have to be OK with this.

But, you also need to succeed enough to outweigh all the failing.  Bob Dylan, the great Nobel prize-winning poet, summed up life in academia well, “She knows there’s no success like failure.  And that failure’s no success at all.”  You need to be excited about what you are doing and willing to put in the time and follow through the failures to get to success.  Because ultimately to graduate, you need to succeed.  Your research needs to make contributions.  Failure is not enough.  Follow through is critical.  You need to be able to make yourself do the mundane (whether that’s writing up results, responding to reviewers comments, writing up research funding reports, or responding to emails).  In fact, to be successful as a faculty member, I believe you need to be efficient at the mundane.  You need to be able to efficiently juggle many different projects, requests, and emails.

To succeed at a Ph.D. it is (in my opinion) necessary to be able to do both: to (1) excel at new idea generation and to bounce back after failure, and to (2) follow through (and even be efficient) with mundane tasks.  While you do not need to an expert at either of these as an incoming Ph.D. student,  you need to work at and keep improving on both types of tasks.  Therefore, skills I am particularly looking for in Ph.D. Students:

  1. Helpful Human Being
  2. Grit
  3. Kindness
  4. Curiosity
  5. Writing and Logic Skills
  6. Communication Skills
  7. Ability to think about and improve our understanding of complex problems
  8. Mathematical ability
  9. Coding background
  10. Ability to deal with uncertainty.
  11. Critical Thinking.

Reasons why I would like to be a graduate student at Rensselaer’s Industrial and Systems Engineering department:

  1. It’s a small co-hort. We have a small, but mighty faculty, and our Ph.D. admission process is deliberately geared towards recruiting a small, but mighty group of Ph.D. students. We limit the number of Ph.D. students admitted to ensure each Ph.D. student fits with the research interests of our department and is provided mentoring and funding.
  2. We are in this together. Research in my lab is a collaborative process.  This means my graduate and undergraduate students and I are putting our heads collectively together to generate new knowledge and create new models and methods.  We work on the research together.  I meet with Ph.D. students at least once a week and spend many additional hours reading, editing, and writing journal papers with my students.
  3. It’s a disruptive time to be in supply chain design. As the introduction to this post illustrates, its a disruptive time to be in supply chain design.  My hypothesis is that supply chains of today are optimized for yesterday’s customers.  This means the world needs more creative ideas and needs to utilize the massive amounts of data being generated today to drive decision making.  Thus, the research we are doing is important and has the potential to improve efficiency of commercial and nonprofit organizations.  To learn more, check out my RED (Research, Education and Discovery) Talkthe Data Promise” (where I describe research on data in supply chains starting at 7:50), a webinar where I describe on-demand warehousing and logistics, and this interview about on-demand logistics .
  4. Low boundaries to collaboration across campus. My students and my research have benefited greatly from the insights of RPI’s helpful faculty members, both in the ISE department and beyond. Ph.D. students are encouraged to take courses across disciplines (e.g., Ph.D. students take data analytics from IDEA, optimization theory from mathematics, machine learning, data mining, and algorithms classes from computer science, transportation and econometric modeling from Civil Engineering, queuing from Electrical Engineering, data analytics from ITWS, sourcing from Lally business school, and decision making from cognitive science departments).


Applicants are encouraged to apply to Rensselaer’s Decision Sciences and Engineering Systems Ph.D. program, housed in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department.  Please indicate in your statement of purpose, your interest to work with me.  If you currently reside in the US, we sponsor trips to have top accepted PhD students visit the campus, meet with faculty, and see the area.  Students in my research lab are funded, either via research assistantships, teaching assistantships, or fellowships.  Additional funding and scholarships are available for talented domestic applications.

If interested, please apply by January 2nd, 2018.   Note, applications are reviewed beyond the deadline, so apply even if you miss the January 2nd deadline.  Admission decisions are made by a committee and the final decision resides with the graduate school (outside of our department).

Please reach out to me via email (pazouj@rpi.edu) if you have any questions.  Tell your friends, co-workers, former students, current students, etc.  Thanks! Jen

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.