Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wonderful Conversation with Robin Chase, Cofounder of Zipcar, Thanks to the Isenberg School

The Isenberg School of Management started this year a great speaker series, which takes place at the UMass Club in downtown Boston.

Last Fall, the inaugural lecture was given by Steve Wozniak, the cofounder of Apple, and I blogged after this event.

This evening, the speaker was Robin Chase, an entrepreneur and cofounder of Zipcar, who, as she said, has become a real transportation wonk. Given that I teach a course on Transportation and Logistics and have also done a lot of research in this field, it was a fantastic opportunity to hear from her.

She was introduced by our Associate Dean, Professor Tom Moliterno, and Asma Khalid from Boston's NPR station, WBUR,  was the interviewer.

Robin has a degree from Wellesley College and an MBA from Stanford.

She took us back to 2000, when she cofounded Zipcar, and knew very soon that it would be very successful, so her husband left his day job and became a full-time parent for their three children, ages 6, 9, and 12 then.

Zipcar, according to her, was the third consumer product with wireless.

She emphasized the importance of origins and destinations  for trips as well as the types of different trips that people take in cars. She believes that Uber and Lyft could not have raised a penny if we didn't have Zipcar. Although there may be some cannibalization, Zipcar users use this service for different trips than those who utilize Uber and Lyft. She called them taxis and finds them to be complementary to Zipcar.

She also talked about Buzzcar, which she founded and which has been successful in France. It is a peer to peer car sharing service. She tried to get insurance for it in the US without any success and after 5 years gave up but managed to secure insurance in France within a year. I appreciated very much that she advised that one should not break rules on health and safety as a company. Four years ago she co-founded Venium, which provides low cost, reliable connectivity in vehicles and uses radio technology. She believes that Venium will be bigger than Zipcar.

Some of the conversation focused on whether  there is a place for car ownership in the US in the future. She believes that private cars will be excluded in dense cities in the US by 2030 and that this will happen in Europe and parts of Asia much sooner. She envisions the increase in land as providing space for bicycles, more greenspace, more low income housing, and cleaner air as well. Why spend $9K per year for a car if transport can cost you only $3K.

I liked her statement that "people will follow the economics."

She was very honest and sincere and spoke of the failure of her startup Goloco, which received $2 million in funding in 2009 and then she had to give back half of the funding two years later. People in the US just did not like sharing rides. She also emphasized the importance of a critical mass and mentioned that BlaBlaCar has been successful.

She believes that we will have use of self-driving cars by 2020-2021 because of automation in the car sector. Of course, there will be impact on truck drivers and bus drivers as well as insurance companies. With 35,000 people dying in traffic accidents last year in the US autonomous vehicles can improve safety.

She also noted that the single biggest barrier to alleviating poverty is access to quality transportation Clearly, car ownership of the future will differ for those residing in dense urban areas and those living in suburbia.

We are now in a platform economy and there is a political opportunity to do better than we have done in the past.

The Q&A were excellent an I especially appreciate the question about cybersecurity and autonomous vehicles since we have published several papers on cybersecurity and cybersecurity investments and network vulnerability.

The Isenberg School livestreamed this event, which had not been done for the Wozniak evening.

Many thanks to Robin Chase for a fascinating conversation and to Asma Khalid for keeping the conversation flowing so well.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Keeping Our Universities Safe - Lessons in Emergency Management and Business Continuity

We have had 2 major snowstorms in the past 5 days in Massachusetts and UMass Amherst, along with most schools and colleges, was closed last Thursday. This morning, the commute was a bit dicey but there was not even a scheduled delay on our campus.

Below is a photo of the accumulation of the snow from the two storms, so you have an idea.

This spring I am again teaching my course on Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare and I regularly blog about the guest speakers in the course. This term there has been some disruption management necessary since not only have two of my classes been cancelled, due to snow, but also, because of the Presidential Executive Order on immigration, my first guest speaker, Mr. Jeff Hescock, had to reschedule, but, speak he did, last Tuesday. Luckily, all went smoothly after the Patriots superbowl win so he did not have to postpone again. Never a dull moment at a university, I must say.

Mr. Hescock is the Director of Emergency Management and Business Continuity at UMass Amherst, and, coincidentally, he is part of the team that makes the decision of whether to close UMass Amherst due to weather. This, of course, was very interesting to the students and, also, rather timely.

Mr. Hescock shared with the class how the campus responds to emergencies and emphasized the importance of coordination with police and fire departments and the necessity of being more efficient.  He noted that the tragedy at Virginia Tech in 2007 was the game changer for emergency management at universities, signalling that an institution, such as a university, cannot have big delays  and "sign-offs" from multiple stakeholders before notification and action are taken.

Prior to Mr. Hescock's appointment at UMass Amherst in 2013, he had worked in the UMass President's office and also assisted in the evacuation of UMass Dartmouth post the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013, another date that is permanently cemented in my memory.

Mr. Hescock emphasized the importance of training and educating alternate persons who can take over in the event of a university emergency as happened last spring at UMass Amherst with an incident taking place during the public school vacation break, during which some of the emergency staff were away.

Hescock is a leader in securing grants for a variety of emergency preparedness initiatives and I have personally taken part in a big exercise for sheltering at the UMass Mullins Center. You can read my blogspot on this exercise, which also has a lot of photos, here.

The campus has a hazard mitigation plan and this past year the drought was a big issue. Luckily, UMass can notify students and staff to decrease their water usage and emphasize the importance of doing so.

I appreciated that he also brought up "enterprise risk management," since my research team does a lot of work on supply chains and viewing them holistically as systems and we also work on vulnerability analysis of networks.

In addition, the necessity of meeting with many different stakeholders in order to be prepared for emergencies is essential, and, in the case of a university, that would include the facilities group, the compliance group, among others, in order to assess risk. He also stated that the most dangerous spot on campus is a cross walk.

There exist templates already in the computer system to get a message out as soon as possible, which is reassuring, and I can speak to the fact that, with the incident last year, the notification system, in the form of loudspeakers, email, and text alerts was very effective. Now we can sign up for practice exercises in the case of a similar incident.

UMass Amherst has 13,000 students living on campus and has about the same number living off campus. It has one of the highest on campus number of student residents in the US. When need be, given the importance of communications, crisis communication experts are kept on a retainer.

UMass Amherst also has MOUs with the Five Colleges in our area, with the state police, Amherst police, and also MEMA (Massachusetts Emergency Management Association). I will be hosting a speaker from MEMA in the class next week.
Mr. Hescock has also worked for MEMA and has worked in the private sector, where he appreciated the funds. He brings a wealth of experience and practical know-how. He, for example, made sure that there were backup generators for the cold storage units for food at UMass Amherst. And told us that UMass generates 60% of its electric power. It was an oasis that my family and I benefited from when we had the freaky Halloween snowstown in October 2011 and lost power for about 5 days in our home in Amherst. Getting a hot cup of coffee was a challenge, not to mention a hot shower. We ate many delicious meals at the UMass dining halls (I felt guilty having lobster during the power outages but enjoyed it immensely).

It is a wonderful educational experience for students to hear from expert practitioners such as Mr. Jeff Hescock. He was a terrific Professor for a Day and we thank him!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Media Coverage of Our Blood Supply Chain Research

It has been a very busy time since my article, "Uncertainty in blood supply chains creating challenges for industry," was published in The Conversation last month, and not only since the new semester has begun at the University of Massachusetts Amherst!

The article was reprinted in several publications, including: Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, the LA-based magazine GoodHealth, and even ORMS Today, the magazine of my favorite professional society, INFORMS, made a note of it in the February issue.

Since my article's publication, I have also received numerous emails from around the world, including from researchers and practitioners in the United Kingdom and in Israel, as well as from the United States, and have had extended conversations as well.

In particular, I very much enjoyed speaking with  Dr. Brian White and Jarrian James of Bloodbuy. Dr. White wrote this interesting blogpost: "Bloods and circuits: The RAND Corporation report on the role of technology in maintaining a stable blood supply," which references my article in The Conversation.

The Isenberg School of Management posted this piece by the Isenberg School's terrific Senior Editor, Lou Wigdor, entitled: ``Lessons learned from blood supply chains," which noted my wonderful collaborators on blood supply chain research, who were two of my former doctoral students: Dr. Amir H. Masoumi of Manhattan College and Dr. Min Yu of the University of Portland. Together, with the "other" Professor Nagurney, we co-authored the book, Networks Against Time: Supply Chain Analytics for Perishable Products, which was published by Springer in 2013.

I also was interviewed by Karen Brown, an award-winning health journalist. You can listen to her  report:   "America's blood economy: Vulnerable to economic trends, health advances"
on New England Public Radio.

The full transcript of the radio segment can be viewed here.

And our research on the topic of blood supply chains in the new economic climate continues. I will be presenting the paper, "Mergers and acquisitions in blood banking systems: A supply chain network approach,"  co-authored with Drs. Masoumi and Yu,  at the IFORS conference in Quebec City. 

Also, Pritha Dutta, a doctoral student in Management Science at the Isenberg School, will be presenting our paper, "Competition for blood donations: A Nash Equilibrium network framework, " 
at the New  England Decision Sciences Institute (NEDSI) Conference, which is being held not far from Amherst, in Springfield, Massachusetts, next month!

Monday, February 6, 2017

When A Speaker Cancels Practice Disruption Management

There is a lot to be gained and learned from guest speakers, whether in a class or in a more open setting -- no wonder the popularity of TED talks, for example.

Another aspect of hosting a guest speaker, who is an expert on a topic, is the networking opportunities and, frankly, the creation of memories and even friendships.

I have a lot of experience hosting speakers, starting back in 2004, when we began our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter (which just launched its new website), along with its Speaker Series. Through that series alone, we have hosted over 100 speakers and the list is a Who's Who in Operations Research and the Management Sciences with also speakers who are intellectuals and visionaries but not necessarily academics or practitioners taking part - I would put Tom Vanderbilt in that category - the author of Traffic.

The students do a tremendous job helping me with the speakers. This is essential since a lot of work goes into organizing a Speaker Series and carrying out not only the marketing for the talks but also the logistics behind them. One of my most popular blogposts continues to be: Tips on Organizing a Successful Speaker Series.

The same holds for hosting speakers within a class which I do in my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class, which I am now teaching at the Isenberg School of Management, and have taught in the spring term for the past several years.

However, despite the best laid out plans, things happen. Although in our public speaker series I just recall one cancellation, which is truly amazing and lucky, although there were times when I was waiting at the door for a speaker traveling from out of state with only 5 minutes to spare for the scheduled talk to begin and there was even a camera and news crew waiting -  anxiety-provoking, but so worth it when they deliver and the audience is so grateful and appreciative (and so am I).

Part of my Humanitarian Logistics class focuses on emergency preparedness and business continuity, which is rather fitting, since we get to practice disruption management.

Two years ago, in this course, we had some real life drama. I received the email message at 5:30AM that the speaker was cancelling for my 8:30AM class (always be prepared is my motto and I had a great lecture ready, in any case).  The week prior, the guest speaker, Mr. Brian Rust of Cooley Dickinson Hospital,  had to contend with multiple emergencies, beginning with a computer failure on Monday, which was fixed by a Cisco switch brought in from eastern MA, followed by  complete communication failure on Wednesday (supposedly not related to the Monday one)  with no Internet or phone lines available. Hence, medical records could not be accessed, and CAT scans and X-rays could not be read. Back to documentation on paper, which he said the older healthcare providers were comfortable with since they had used such basic approaches earlier in their careers, in contrast to the more recently trained healthcare workers, which are so dependent on computers. Appointments had to be cancelled. This major disruption was fixed on Wednesday but then Wednesday afternoon a sprinkler pipe burst and flooded the back of the Emergency Room with thousands of gallons of water pouting in. The water pouring in was dark and the texture of oil, he said.  There is a new cancer facility being constructed above the Emergency Room area and it seems that the pipe was not properly insulated and it was one of the coldest winters on record in Massachusetts. With facility experts on hand (luckily, he said, not everything had been outsourced), in a few hours the area was cleaned up and disinfected. During that period, however, ambulances had to be diverted to other hospitals, which can be "expensive" in terms of additional time needed for delivering the patient and in that Cooley Dickinson loses any financial compensation since it did not serve those patients. He noted that 4 ambulances were diverted.

The students and I were disappointed, although quite understanding,  that he could not speak on that Thursday but when he did give his guest talk at the next class, it was gripping, to say the least.

And, last Thursday, the guest speaker in my class was to have been Mr. Jeff Hescock, who is the Director of Emergency Management and Business Continuity at UMass Amherst. He has done extraordinary things at UMass and is a fabulous speaker. He notified me late last Wednesday that he would have to postpone his talk because of issues surrounding the Executive Order (EO) that President Trump had signed regarding immigration and refugees. Yes, the EO had affected some UMass students and even faculty who could not return back to the US and an emergency meeting was called in Boston for Thursday!

I was disappointed that he cancelled last Thursday, as were the students, but we hope to host him tomorrow and are looking forward to it. The students have prepared some fascinating questions for him.

Plus, my very first Humanitarian Logistics class was cancelled this semester because of inclement weather (Mr. Hescock is part of the group that makes such decision), so I predict no snow tomorrow. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

My Co-Authors Are From 23 Different Countries

The past few days have been tumultuous with the new US President signing an Executive Order late on Friday proposing a 90-day suspension of visas and other immigration benefits to all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. This happened as I was working on completing a paper on blood supply chains with a former doctoral student of mine from Iran, who is now a Professor - Dr. Amir H. Masoumi, and another former doctoral student of mine from China, also now a Professor - Dr. Min Yu.

This Executive Order (EO) struck very close to home, especially since last year another doctoral student of mine at the Isenberg School of Management, Sara Saberi, had returned to Iran, for the first time in about five years, and would not have been able, most likely, to return to the US to defend her thesis and to begin her Assistant Professorship at WPI, had the EO happened last year!

A petition against the EO had been started, which was featured in The Washington Post, so I signed it, and, at this point, the petition has over 40 Nobel prize winners signing it, over 7000 faculty,  and over 12,000 other academic supporters.

Researchers live by the free exchange of ideas and disciplines, especially scientific ones, cannot move forward without the free exchange.

So, I started to wonder, how many different countries of origin were represented by my collaborators with whom I had published papers or written or co-edited  books?

I did some counting and determined that my co-authors were born in 23 different countries and the countries and the collaborators' names are below:

Austria: Tina Wakolbinger and Thomas Nowak

Canada: Francois Soumis

Cape Verde: Jose M. Cruz

China: June Dong, Dong Li, Zugang Liu, Jon Loo, Jie Pan, Patrick Qiang, Ke Ke, Jiahao Wu,  Hong Yan, Min Yu, Ding Zhang, Lan Zhao

Colombia: Luis Marentes, Yezid Donoso, Harold Castro

England: David Parkes, Alan G. Robinson

France: Christian Mullon

Germany: Dietrich Braess, Tilman Wolf

Greece: Stella Dafermos, Ilias S. Kotsireas, Panos M. Pardalos, George Rouskas, Stavros Siokos

India: Kathy Dhanda, Rudra Dutta, Padma Ramanujam, Shivani Shukla

Iran: Amir H. Masoumi, Sara Saberi

Italy: Patrizia Daniele, Antonino Maugeri

Japan: Takashi Takayama,  Fuminori Toyasaki

Korea: Dae-Shik Kim

Lebanon: Hani S. Mahmassani

Mexico: Emilio Alvarez Flores

Norway: Sten Thore

Romania: Monica-Gabriela Cojocaru

Russia: Ilia Baldine, Alexander Eydeland

Sweden: Jonas Floden

Turkey: Deniz Besik, Ceren Soylu

Ukraine: Dmytro Matsypura

United States: Trisha Wolley Anderson, J. Aronson, Phillip M. Bishop, David E. Boyce, Ken Calvert, Paul Dupuis, Jim Griffioen, Kitty Hancock, Merritt Hughes, Patricia L. Mokhtarian, Craig L. Moore, Ladimer S. Nagurney, Charles F. Nicholson, Frank Southworth, John K. Stranlund, Kai Wu.

Five different continents are represented above.

If I have missed someone, just let me know, and I will add or correct whatever needs correcting.

It is inspiring to see the diversity in countries of origin of the above collaborators and also to reflect on our joint work together. Some collaborators are operations researchers / management scientists / mathematicians; others are engineers, computer scientists, or  economists. Some have moved and are in different countries than their birthplaces and others have remained.

Working with collaborators is always enjoyable and synergistic plus motivating as well.

I was born in Canada and proud of it.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Must See New Videos of Operations Research Luminaries with Transcripts Thanks to INFORMS

One of my favorite committees to serve on for our professional society of INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) is the History and Traditions Committee chaired by Dr. Marc Eisner of Cornell University. 

Today we heard from Dr. Irv Lustig (whose TA I was back in our Brown University days before he left to get his PhD at Stanford), and who has served on this committee for many years, that the video interviews that were conducted at our conference in Nashville, Tennessee this past November, have now been edited and posted online, along with the transcripts.

The newly published interviews are a must see (and you may wish to also read the transcripts). I am listening to one as I type this blogpost (after having already read the transcript).

And now for the list of the newly published videos:

Egon Balas (2016) Interview by Irv Lustig, November 14, 2016  (link)

Dick Larson (2016) Interview by Ed Kaplan, November 14, 2016  (link)

Benjamin Lev (2016) Interview by Jeff Camm, November 13, 2016  (link)

Chuck McCallum (2016) Interview by Arjang Assad, November 14, 2016  (link)

Stephen Pollock (2016) Interview by Mark Daskin, November 14, 2016  (link)

Lawrence Stone Interview by Allen Butler, November 13, 2016.  (link)

Irv will be posting something soon to INFORMS Connect to advertise the availability of these videos.
In his message to the committee, Irv also acknowledged many INFORMS staff members who made this possible: Mary Magrogan, Cheryl Clark, Jessica Bennett, Tracy Cahall, and Marisa Van Der Eijk for helping with the coordination of the logistics in Nashville, including securing and setting up a location for the interviews. Mary Leszczynski uploaded the videos to YouTube. Also,  Jeff Cohen, according to Irv,  found the videographer in Nashville who clearly did a great job filming the videos and editing them.

I recommend starting from the top of the list above and working your way down. You will be inspired, educated, and energized.  Professor Balas is 94 years old and his life story covers almost a century. Professor Balas is still supervising doctoral students. Professor Larson we have hosted at the Isenberg School at UMass Amherst in our UMass Amherst INFORMS Speaker Series and his advice for doing high quality research is right on target. Professor Ed Kaplan, who is his interviewer,  was our most recent President of INFORMS, and we also hosted him at the Isenberg School. It so happens that Dr. Irv Lustig spoke in our series the same semester that Professor Kaplan did.
Both the interviewees and the interviewers deserve applause for these very valuable, informative videos and transcripts.

Also, the full list of oral history interviews of operations research luminaries can be found on the INFORMS website on this link.

Yes, I am sure that my fellow WORMS (Women in Operations Research and the Management Sciences) members have noted that there are no interviews with women posted (yet). I am working on this but age is coming before gender, at least, for now.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Supply Chain Performance Assessment

It has certainly been an exciting start to the new 2017 year!

My collaborators and I were delighted to start off the new year with two journal publications, including that of the paper, Supply Chain Performance Assessment and Supplier and Component Importance Identification in a General Competitive Multitiered Supply Chain Network Model, Dong Li and Anna Nagurney, Journal of Global Optimization 67(1): (2017), pp 223-250.

It is always exciting to get a reprint, as well.
 Our paper appears in a special issue of the Journal of Global Optimization edited by Professor Panos M. Pardalos.

What makes this paper unique is that, not only do we construct a multitiered supply chain network equilibrium model with suppliers, but we also provide measures for assessing an individual firm's performance in a supply chain network and also that of the entire supply chain consisting of competing firms and suppliers. In addition, we define importance indicators of suppliers as well as components in the production processes to individual firms as well as to the entire supply chain network.

For those of you who are interested (there are some very informative images therein), the link to a presentation that I prepared on this paper, with additional motivation and results, can be found here.
This paper is already getting cited, which is always gratifying to researchers.