IFORS 2011 Country Presentations
B1. OR Practice in the USA (Karla Hoffman)
1.1. Survey Results
The survey results for the US and Canada were presented and in general confirmed the global results – not surprising since they provided one third of the returns. Problem Structuring Methods are not regarded as OR in the USA. The detailed results are contained in the PowerPoint file “IFORS2011 NORAM Results”.
1.2 Local Knowledge (USA)
Even with 73 returns from the USA, this is a very small sample from the 10k or so members of INFORMS. An additional trawl of the membership of technical sections of INFORMS revealed that some 22% overall are practitioners. However, this in turn is a small proportion of practitioners carrying out OR-type work in the USA. To address this, INFORMS are carrying out major initiatives to reach out to the wider analytics community. Why now? Because it has caught the attention of many business leaders and because ‘analytics’ means something to the non-OR specialist. In addition INFORMS are beginning to promote OR via social networks such as LinkedIn.
1.3 The INFORMS Analytics Initiative
According to Matthew J. Liberatore, “Many firms are awash in data. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems provide voluminous business data; the internet offers customer and market data and the opportunity to experiment with different product, promotion, and pricing plans; and RFID devices will be placed on virtually every pallet or carton generating vast amounts of new data. These trends are leading firms to use and analyze data to improve business performance and make better decisions” Business leaders are turning to analytics for competitive advantage, with comments such as: “In God we trust, all others bring data”; “Do you think that, or do you know that?”; “We are basing our strategy on analytics, especially customer analytics” “We cannot find enough new graduates with the right quantitative skills”; “We compete on the basis of better knowledge of their customers, using analytics”; “The riskier our business problems the more we rely on analytics”; “After implementing our ERP system we are mining that data, and using data better in different ways” (Examples of a focus on analytics in several major US companies were described).
INFORMS sees OR as doing “advanced analytics” in addition to other activities… medical diagnosis, algorithmic advances, economic theory, etc. INFORMS has started a magazine for executives that was recently renamed “Analytics”; an analytics section was recently formed and has over 300 members; the annual “Practice” meeting has been relabelled “Analytics”.
1.4 Social Networks.
The use of Social Networks is another initiative of INFORMS. Already Over 5500 members have joined the INFORMS group on LinkedIn. “OR Exchange” is now hosted and sponsored by INFORMS. The site allows users to post and answer question about O.R. topics, including technology questions; advice about jobs and schooling; announcements about events; references to articles, papers and blogs on OR subjects; and arguments about what is important/new/best.
(In the Q/A session, one delegate queried how ‘Soft OR (Problem Structuring Methodologies) fitted with analytics?
Karla felt that in the US, “OR” is distinctly about using data. She acknowledged problems with the word “analytics” but more comfort seemed to have been reached with “advanced analytics”. An aside to this was that the government and the military are big users of OR and will want to retain the term “operations research”).
B2. OR Practice in the UK (John Ranyard)
Eighty one responses were received: Government 48 (59%); Other Public Sector 5 (4%); Private Sector 16 (20%); Large OR Consultancies 9 (11%); Small OR Consultancies 4 (5%). Thus the public sector provided nearly two thirds of the returns, so any interpretation of the results must be treated with caution. A study of the Success and Survival of OR Groups was carried out 15 years ago, covering some similar ground, and this enables some trends to be observed. The detailed results are given in the Powerpoint file “IFORS2011 EURO-UK Results”.
2.1 Summary of Results
Compared to 1995, there has been an increase in strategic planning applications and in the usage of the three main problem structuring methods (soft OR). Limited use of OR software is reported, except for Excel and statistical packages. Whilst the amount of consultancy skills training has increased, little leadership training is evident. Lack of awareness of the benefits of OR by clients is still perceived as a barrier.
2.2 Local Knowledge
A Heads of OR Forum (HORF) was set up over 20 years and has a membership of around 40 OR Managers. It aims to represents practitioners’ interests and holds regular meetings. The UK practice community is healthy and surviving the economic downturn well. OR is strong in government and external consultancy but less strong in the private sector and the non-government public sector (though more information is needed from these two sectors). It is recognised that there is much OR-type work being done outside the OR community.
2.3 ORS Analytics Initiative
For similar reasons to INFORMS, ORS is considering reaching out to the wider analytics community. A working group has been set up to provide advice and an external consultancy was commissioned to carry out a survey. This confirmed that much OR-type work is indeed outside the OR community and that there is much potential for ORS to recruit extra members. HORF has endorsed these findings but stressed that ORS services to existing practitioner members need to be improved, so as to retain existing members as well as attracting new ones. Whilst there is no generally accepted definition of analytics, OR has much in common with ‘advanced analytics’.
B3. OR Practice in the Philippines (Elise del Rosario)
3.1 Survey Results
The OR community in the Philippines is small but active. Thirty six per cent of the membership of the ORSP are practitioners. Nine responses to the survey were received, which generally follow the overall pattern except that applications in IT are low because of competition from IT staff. The growth of OR work is hampered by data limitations and lack of awareness by clients. The detailed results are given in the Powerpoint file “IFORS2011 APORS-Philippines Results”.
3.2 Local Knowledge
OR practice is limited to a handful of companies but most practitioners are members of ORSP, thus providing strong links with academia. This enables academics to provide support and training to local practitioner groups. OR is established in varied industries, including 53% in distribution, 25% in manufacturing, 11% in energy and 11% in government. OR is becoming established in the outsourcing industry. Applications vary according to sector. The label OR is frequently used and the activity is located in industrial engineering, technical services, management services or corporate planning departments. Much OR-type work is known to take place outside the OR community.
B4. OR Practice in Australia (Simon Dunstall)
4.1 Survey Results
Just 8 responses were received from Australia but these are qualitatively similar to the APORS responses and hence the overall responses. There are practitioners who identify with OR but with whom the research community is not engaging well. Many software tools are in use, both general-purpose and domain-specific. The detailed results are given in the Powerpoint file “IFORS2011 APORS-Australia Results”.
Specific comments included:
• “Most Operational Researchers work in very specific fields and don't professionally categorize themselves as such - there are very few that are generalist OR people... I would imagine those working in other areas would equally have a long list of software developed specifically for their analyses. ”
• “Biggest issue ... is a lack of awareness of OR, and how it can be used to improve business performance ... my skills are under-utilised in my organisation because there are few other people that have an awareness of OR.”
4.2 Local Knowledge
Several diversified research organisations have significant OR teams, particularly defence. Likewise, there are diversified management and technical services organisations with teams using OR and/or developing OR products/services.
Australian SMEs (or local branches of international firms) use OR in the planning and scheduling space, operating in multiple domains. Specialist domain-specific businesses provide product and/or service offerings to industry and government. Individual OR practitioners and those carrying out OR-type work are embedded within organisations large and small. Finally there are the “traditional” academic research groups in several universities. (Several case studies from organisations using OR methods were described including: energy futures modelling; wind energy storage; an optimal harvesting strategy for scallop resources; mining and mineral supply chains; vehicle routing systems based on constraint programming; recreational vehicle rentals; and wine grape harvesting, fermenting and bottling. Global optimisation of transportation is currently common.)
In summary, OR practitioners tend to be niche-oriented and do not network. The OR Society of Australia has 180 members but surprisingly around 250 attend the annual conference, including many from defence. Generally there is a lack of academic-practitioner engagement. Lack of awareness of the value of OR by potential clients is a recurring problem.
B5. OR Practice in New Zealand (Andrew Mason)
5.1 Survey Results
Seven completed questionnaires were returned, which in general support the overall results. The detailed results are given in the Powerpoint file “IFORS2011 APORS-New Zealand Results”.
5.2 Local Knowledge
Although a small country, OR is used in several organisations, sometimes supported by academic departments. The OR Society of New Zealand (ORSNZ, http://orsnz.org.nz) has around 120 members coming from a variety of backgrounds. The ORSNZ runs an annual conference which is attended by students, academics and practitioners. To meet the changing expectations of its members, the ORSNZ is exploring the possible benefits of a low-cost membership model in which more services would be provided via the internet. Organisations carrying out OR in NZ include:
• Niche Software Products
– The Optima Corporation (a University of Auckland spin-off company, http://www.theoptimacorporation) has developed ambulance simulation and optimisation software which is being used in cities around the world.
– Derceto (http://www.derceto.com) has developed the world’s first commercially available real-time pump scheduling optimizer. Users of this Derceto Aquadapt software include water companies in NZ, the US and the UK.
• Operational Research within Companies
Air New Zealand, Norske Skog (an international pulp and paper company), electricity generators, Fonterra (a major producer of milk products) and the defence sector all employ OR staff.
B6. OR Practice in South Africa (Hans Ittmann)
6.1 Survey Results
Ten completed questionnaires were returned, generally conforming to the overall results. Specific points relating to South Africa include: People are aware of many techniques but limited use is made of most of them, with frequent use of a few and very specific techniques. OR is successful where it is established – elsewhere it is often difficult to convey the benefits of OR to the decision makers. The detailed results are contained in the Powerpoint file “IFORS2011 EURO-South Africa Results”.
6.2 Local Knowledge
The South African OR Society (ORSA) was established in 1969 and currently has close to 300 members - over 100 attended the IFORS 2008 conference in Johannesburg. SASOL, a large petro-chemical company, has a large in-house OR team – and was a finalist in the INFORMS Franz Edelman competition in 2010. Many larger companies have in-house limited OR related staff. OPSI Systems, a private company, provides dedicated OR consultancy and software for optimisation and modeling of vehicle routing and scheduling problems. There are a number of small consultancies in niche areas of OR and university professors also provide expert consultancy. There is little OR in government as OR is not appreciated and there is a high turnover of government officials. (Hans is trying to stimulate OR in government currently with help from GORS in the UK.) However there is quite a lot of OR in state owned enterprises and some in the private sector, including consultancies (commercial and academic) and particularly in defence. CSIR has a large OR group which is combined with statisticians and logistics experts. Other large organizations use OR but not always under an OR label. In general OR in South Africa is practically oriented with little real research being done.