The Optimization Edge

A Blog for Business Executives and Advanced Analytics Practitioners

Technologies: Data Science, Big Data, Optimization, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Predictive Analytics, Forecasting

Applications: Operations, Supply Chain, Finance, Health Care, Workforce, Sales and Marketing
May 27, 2020

Soon there will be sports and entertainment returning to arenas and stadiums, hopefully with fans in attendance. As regulations are established and subsequently altered and as social distancing standards at large public events evolve, the managers of these venues will face understandably difficult challenges.

The main short-term problem is to determine where people can be seated in the venue while observing safe social distancing practices. One size can’t fit all: each venue has its own seating chart, season ticket holder population, and other important considerations.

April 24, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve under great levels of uncertainty, manufacturing executives are urgently formulating policies to keep their facilities operating while protecting workers from infection. These policies include macro issues, such as which workers are essential, down to micro policies such as how to best manage shared areas like hallways, break rooms and bathrooms. Without rigorous, quantitative tools and support of the new policies they are creating, executives are effectively flying blind. As evidence, in one European survey, about 70 percent of executives from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland said the pandemic is likely to accelerate the pace of their digital transformation.

April 22, 2020

Princeton Consultants recently conducted its annual survey, begun in 2016, of transportation executives about their views of disruptive technologies and the impact on business areas. CEO Steve Sashihara summarized the results on a conference call with Stifel Managing Director of Research David Ross. Following is a lightly edited excerpt.

April 1, 2020

On a March 27 conference call with Stifel Capital Markets and transportation executives nationwide, Steve summarized the results of the annual Princeton Consultants survey about tech disruption in freight transportation and logistics. This Freightwaves article summarized the survey and the findings. In the second half of the call (lightly edited excerpts below), Steve explained that in the Coronavirus environment, executives may benefit from optimization techniques to mitigate supply chain failures such as the “bullwhip effect.”

March 18, 2020

In a critical back-office operation, a broker-dealer firm must segregate a federally regulated amount of cash and securities in specially protected accounts on behalf of its clients to ensure that clients can withdraw the bulk of their holdings on demand, even if the firm becomes insolvent.

February 25, 2020

Institutional investors in sustainable land-based assets around the world rely on a management firm for superior stewardship and financial yields. Over decades, one independent firm has established an innovative, disciplined approach to become a global leader in conservation, real estate management, and acquisitions and sales. Its continually changing portfolio—comprised of millions of acres worth millions of dollars—benefits a diverse clientele of public and private investors with evolving risk and return needs. In generating alpha—a return above the sector’s benchmark—the management firm balances many factors, such as short-term gains and long-term appreciation, and the environmental and financial values of its assets.

January 30, 2020

As subscription e-commerce continues to expand, Birchbox, the trailblazing subscription box service, has stood out with a strong value proposition that engages underserved, overlooked, “casual” beauty and grooming consumers, and meaningfully increases their spend in the category. Birchbox, which launched in 2010, delivers five to six samples a month, tailored to each subscriber’s needs and preferences.

A subscription box service’s operational success is powered mainly by its “black box”—the custom software solution that groups subscribers into clusters and then creates configurations of available products to send to each group of subscribers. The solution must be formulated to deliver product groupings and box creations deemed “ideal” by the company’s proprietary criteria. Additionally, the solution must accommodate meaningful business changes and scale as the service grows.

January 3, 2020

A former colleague recently offered “some controversial and unpopular advice on ultimately succeeding in academia” in University Business, which covers college and university management of enrollment, IT, facilities and academic affairs.

November 13, 2019

For years, relay trucking, in which drivers exchange trailers and/or tractors, has been a popular topic but elusive practice. On Sirius XM’s Road Dog Trucking Radio, Princeton Consultants CEO Steve Sashihara discussed the appeal of and obstacles to relays, and the confluence of technology and business factors that may lead to their increase and how that would transform long-haul trucking. Following are lightly edited excerpts from the July 16 program.

October 22, 2019

We employ a framework of 20 scorable risk factors, the “Princeton 20,” to manage our optimization projects for deployment into production. There are 10 environmental and 10 technical factors. In the previous post, I addressed the environmental risks. Following are the technical risks.