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Trip Report: Young Operations Research Conference

By Vicky Foreman  October 7, 2015

A couple of weeks ago some of the LLamasoft team headed to the Young Operational Research (YOR) Conference at Aston University in Birmingham in the UK. The conference, held every two years, is a meeting for young professionals who are just starting their careers either in corporate operations, academia or consulting.

As has been established, the demand for young talent to who hold the expertise that pertain to these career paths is at a fever-pitch. For that reason, this conference has become particularly popular to bring together young experts in this field to share stories, insights, successes and best practices.

The three-day conference offers a variety of sessions and engagement opportunities for young operations research professionals that span a number of disciplines including supply chain, optimization, simulation, consultancy, stochastic modeling, system dynamics, defense and security, energy and climate change, and healthcare. This year more than 125 delegates attended, presenting nearly 100 sessions. Several members of the LLamasoft team presented sessions on supply chain modeling, including the use of optimization and simulation. In addition to the break-out sessions, attendees were able to take in 5 interactive workshops and three keynote sessions.

There was time for some fun and games as well.

There was time for some fun and games as well.


The keynote sessions addressed a couple of key areas to the operations research industry, including big data and expanding the reach of the impacts of operations research.

Stewart Robinson of Loughborough University discussed the rise is available data and how it has changed modeling. The influx of data has changed how we can think about modeling and whether the methods we used when there was not a lot of data are still valid now in the age of big data.
Graham Rand of Lancaster University discussed the military origins of operations research in the UK and the US. Rand provided a brief history of the utilization of operations research over the past 70 years, including how essential it has become to not only developed, but also developing, countries.

With nearly 100 sessions, it was impossible to attend all, but of those I was able to sit in on, I could extrapolate some great food for thought. A few key insights I noted were:

• Best practices on the best way to use visualizations with some Tableau examples. There were some interesting new ways of presenting data and some good tips on how to get the most impact from your visualizations. The ability to put data and analysis into a digestible visual representation is absolutely key to making it reach different tiers of the organization, particularly within the executive suite.
• Tips on how to use a facilitated simulation approach with a customer including how to structure the workshops. A lot of preparation is key to ensure the data is right before you begin to model.
• Not a use case of optimization we often think about, we heard from the airline industry on their use pricing optimization to price seats.
• One session focused on how Twitter is being used to predict when there will be a rise in the number of cases of an illness or virus, based on the content of tweets and hashtags. Organizations are tracking these and when there is a spike in these types of tweets they quickly send an advisory to notify the public.

Overall the conference was a great success and demonstrated the growing value of operations research for a variety of industries and organizations.