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  • A transportation specialist needs to determine the best plan for shipping the customers’ orders on a daily basis. One important aspect of the decision is knowing the cost of each shipment, based on the their weight, origin-destination, transportation mode (TL, LTL, rail), etc. Now let’s assume you, the transportation specialist, have 100 orders to ship... Read More »
  • Storytelling in Analytics, Part 2

    Andy Fox Jul 11th, 2017
    In this 2-part blog series, we reflect on the Opex Analytics Academy Session, Best Practices in Storytelling and Visualization. Part 1 of the series recapped our first 2 themes in effective analytics storytelling–Keep It Simple and Make It Personal–through frameworks like SCQA. This post dives into tips for the final theme, Deliberate on Visualization. Great... Read More »
  • I recently read Ten Simple Rules for Effective Statistical Practice by Kass et al and was inspired to share the article as it elegantly captures a practical philosophy for how best to analyze data. I’ll summarize their rules here and highly recommend reading the the journal article itself. The following 10 rules are directly from... Read More »
  • Kristen Daihes and Mohsen Moarefdoost Ph.D.May 23rd 2017 Welcome Back In our first series of this blog, we talked about the wave of M&A activity and shared 7 examples of how strategic optimization should be explored to support this activity. We also talked about the elusive “size of the prize” as companies go after big... Read More »
  • (Click here for a pdf white paper on service level measures in the supply chain.  The following article is the full text.  This also appeared as a two-part series in Supply Chain Digest.) Purpose of Document This document is meant to help explain different service level measures in the supply chain.  Specifically, we are going... Read More »
  • Blog Series: Demystifying Data Science

    Austin Haygood Mar 7th, 2017
    Blog Series: Demystifying Data Science If you are like me, you hear terms like machine learning, data mining, algorithms, etc. talked about as needed solutions all the time. For years I would hear these terms and think to myself, “Yeah, I think I know what that means” or “Am I the only person in the... Read More »
  • As we reflect back on 2016, a few interesting themes emerge on the importance of operations in business: Some of the biggest brands in the world are promoting talent into key leadership positions with a foundation in operations.  David Taylor is just over a year into his role as President & CEO of Procter &... Read More »
  • In a previous blog Dr. Mike Watson offered up a statement that seemed to goes against what people have been taking for granted within inventory solutions for years: You Don’t Need the Optimization in Multi-Echelon Optimization.  Opex Anlaytics Data Scientist, Bradford Winkleman recently followed this up with very insightful Guest Blog for Supply Chain Digest digging into... Read More »
  • The Truth is That Multi-Echelon Inventory Optimization is Widely Misunderstood and Chances are, you Don’t Need Optimization (This article first appeared in Supply Chain Digest) Multi-Echelon Inventory Optimization (MEIO) has been a hot topic for the last 15 years—software vendors push it, industry analysts tout it, and customers demand it. The surprising truth behind all... Read More »
  • 6 Modeling Tips from LLamasoft and JLL

    Michael Watson Ph.D Nov 16th, 2015
    Man interacting with virtual world map
      (This article first appeared in SC Digest.) At the same CSCMP talk as Benjamin Moore (covered here), Jason Brewer of LLamasoft (a provider of supply chain design software) and Kelly Gray of JLL (or also known as Jones Lang LaSalle, a full services commercial real estate firm) opened up the discussion with some of... Read More »
  • Last Sunday we followed March Madness on Twitter to see what fans and rivals were discussing during the final day of the Elite Eight competitions. Looking at the trends you can almost feel the emotions of the various fan bases. For example, check out the spike for #louisville and compare it to the subsequent spike... Read More »
  • We are collecting Twitter data for the NCAA Tournament. We’ll have more to come, but you will like this dashboard. It shows which team has the most tweets (over the last 48 hours- before the round of 64, but during the play-in games)– you might be surprised. You can see whether teams are getting negative... Read More »
  • So what can companies expect to derive from social media, in this case Twitter? To give a little background, Twitter is an online social networking service with more than 100 million users. Users can post and read “tweets” which are short 140 character messages. These tweets are little messages that companies can hone in on... Read More »
  • What is the status of the truckload transportation market?  Does demand outstrip supply?  Does supply outstrip demand?  Is the market relatively balanced?  These are hard questions to answer because, unlike commodities such as corn or beef, there is no centralized exchange for truckload transportation. So if a shipper wonders why their contracted carriers are rejecting... Read More »
  • After receiving a lot of feedback on our video interview on data cleaning, we just published an article on Supply Chain Digest on the top five rules for cleaning data in a strategic project: #1:  Be patient. Usually by the time the project starts, the management team wants (or has been promised) fast results. It... Read More »
  • Customer Behavior from Web and Text Data

    Diego Klabjan Mar 3rd, 2015
    Many sites and portals offer text content on web pages. For example, news aggregators such as The Huffington Post or Google News allow users to browse news stories; membership-based portals focusing on a specific industry, e.g., for construction, offer members a one-stop page for the latest and greatest updates in a particular domain; in... Read More »
  • Big Data: A Misnomer

    Diego Klabjan Feb 20th, 2015
    Google Trends shows no organic searches for term “big data” until 2011 and an approximately 7-fold increase in the next two years, and then searches doubled from 2013 to 2015. Google projects further increase in the following years albeit at a lower rate. Google searches for Hadoop, the most popular software for handling big data,... Read More »
  • Do You Have Clean Data for a Strategic Project?

    Michael Watson Ph.D Feb 18th, 2015
    When doing a strategic analysis, most firms either assume they have exactly the right data.  That is, these firms have ERP systems full of data, data warehouses full of data, and seem to have the data they need to run their business. However, the data collection and cleaning process for this type of study always... Read More »
  • We recently worked on a client engagement that included web data and other customer specific information. It was a propensity analysis type project where recommendations were required for each individual client based on his or her past actions on the web. Each item recommended has many features and clients belong to organizations, which creates interactions... Read More »
  • Since many of the most publicized examples of advanced analytics consider companies in the private sector, we don’t often think about how these techniques apply in humanitarian and nonprofit organizations. Yet, the public sector provides exciting applications of analytics that have a positive impact on the community. For instance, the American Red Cross, Greater Chicago... Read More »
  • Recently Hortonworks published the attached white paper on how the advent of big data technologies have given rise to a “new ultra-competitive breed of business that consumes the full spectrum of its data transforming immense volumes and varieties of data into currency.” This paper addresses how these “Data First” enterprises are investing in advanced analytics to garner... Read More »
  • I’ve recently read the book Scaling Up Excellence by Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao. ( Click here is you want a 14-minute HBR podcast interview or click here for a 60 minute presentation at Standford by Sutton) The book has some great lessons for how to take a good idea within an organization and scale it throughout an... Read More »
  • Three Ways the Supply Chain Wastes Big Data

    Michael Watson Ph.D Nov 4th, 2014
    One of the important lessons from the analytics movement is that you should take advantage of the data you are already collecting.   There could be a lot of value and insight in this data. In a recent article on Supply Chain Digest, we talk about 3 ways the supply chain is wasting this data.... Read More »
  • Modeling the Competition

    Michael Watson Ph.D Nov 3rd, 2014
    When making strategic decisions, it is often important to understand what your competition is doing. I recently wrote a short article Supply Chain Digest and did an interview (about the 3:30 mark) on Supply Chain TV sponsored by CSCMP highlighting how companies with high transportation spend can model their competitors.  These models help you understand your competitor’s... Read More »
  • Fortune 500 companies are big enough, and have enough resources, to assemble and run their own internal analytics teams. In today’s environment, it is impossible for a large corporation to succeed without employing analytics. The situation is completely different if we make a step down to small and medium business (SMBs), which are typically corporations... Read More »
  • Needless to say, there can be no analytics project without data. A project starts by identifying data, cleansing it, performing analytics, and then conveying the results or solutions. The rule of thumb is that 70 to 80 percent of the total timeframe for an analytics project is spent on data preparation and a much smaller... Read More »
  • The biggest grunts about Hadoop is its batch processing focus and the fact that iterative algorithms cannot be written efficiently. For this reason it is mostly used in data lakes for storing huge datasets together with its ETL/ELT capabilities and for running ad-hoc queries with map reduce. In-memory database on the other hand offer great... Read More »
  • Just-In-Time and Lean Concepts in New Areas

    Michael Watson Ph.D Oct 20th, 2014
    JIT (or “Just-in-time” and later morphed into being called Lean) started out as part of Toyota’s manufacturing strategy where parts were delivered to the assembly line just when needed.  This not only helped reduce the cost of the items, it also forced Toyota to be more disciplined and that led to even bigger savings.  ... Read More »
  • Want to process real-time data? Web anyone? Or IoT or the industrial internet! You can fire spouts and bolts in Storm and get “whoops, one of our assembly machines is about to experience problems!” For decades companies were able to use RDMS and data cubes to find out what revenue would be lost if an... Read More »
  • Last week, the Wall Street Journal’s Review section ran a long article from Walter Isaacson on artificial intelligence.   The overall article was very interesting, but two key points are worth mentioning.  One, the arrival of true artificial intelligence (a machine’s ability to think like a person and innovate– or even become super smart and... Read More »
  • Today, I was watching the PSU-NU game on the Big Ten Network when an ad came on for Case New Holland’s AFS Connect system (a farm management system).  At first blush, there is nothing new about farm equipment manufacturers advertising on the Big Ten network.  A lot of farmers watch Big Ten games. But, what... Read More »
  • Big Data does not mean you have Clean Data

    Michael Watson Ph.D Aug 27th, 2014
    In all the hype around Big Data, it is often forgotten that you still need to spend time cleaning data so you can use it efficiently. We just published an article in Supply Chain Digest highlighting this fact.  Our article points to two interesting references that back this up:  a blurb from a Freakanomics podcast... Read More »
  • A recent Economist article (Little things that mean a lot) on Big Data discussed that the use of data can actually help find many small changes that add up to large impacts over time.  This is in contrast to the idea that Big Data will help you uncover a single insight which will change your... Read More »
  • Another Benefit of Analytics: Recruiting Talent

    Michael Watson Ph.D Jun 11th, 2014
    One of the overlooked side benefits of building internal analytics capability is recruiting talent. Universities are rapidly creating new analytics courses and programs because top students and future business leaders are demanding it.  And, these students are eager to take their skills to companies that are doing interesting work in analytics. If your organization is... Read More »
  • Distance matrices of different varieties have applications throughout the field of analytics; though the computation varies depending on the application, they always serve the same purpose: providing a pairwise measure of difference between all data points.  Some applications require geographical distance matrices; these can prove computationally intensive if the distances between geographies is on the... Read More »
  • Big Data Applied to the Supply Chain

    Michael Watson Ph.D Apr 14th, 2014
    This week, Dan Gilmore of Supply Chain Digest wrote about Big Data in the Supply Chain.   It was a well-balanced article, covering both the hype and some nice solutions.  Here is one quote: …For example, Ron Volpe of Kraft said his company (as are others) is working on tying together mountains of data from POS sales,... Read More »
  • In manufacturing environment, companies use an automated setup of tanks and hoist for chemical cleaning and coating processes. In this setup, various chemicals kept in tanks situated on a straight line and a hoist moves jobs between tanks according to job operation time and sequence. This setup is costly and can be a bottleneck process... Read More »
  • Earlier this week, I wrote an article for Supply Chain Digest about enhancing your network design capabilities with a map portal: Since the mapping in a network design projects leads to so much value, you should considering providing this type of visualization on an on-going basis.  You can get a lot more value if your... Read More »
  • Top Five Skills Needed For Supply Chain Modeler

    Michael Watson Ph.D Mar 24th, 2014
    I recently wrote an article for Supply Chain Digest on the Top Five skills you need in a supply chain modeler.  They are: Ability to manipulate large data sets Ability to understand trade-offs in the supply chain Ability to separate the important from the trivial Ability to troubleshoot Ability to communicate the results Be sure... Read More »
  • Predictions that Save Big Money

    Sara Lewis Mar 19th, 2014
    Why is it that your car always seems to breakdown during your busiest week at work? Farmers fear the inevitable failure of their combine equipment during the peak of harvest season.  Plant managers struggle with knowing when and how their manufacturing equipment is causing the deterioration of the quality of their products. Situations such as... Read More »
  • Whether you are developing more complex optimization models or beginning to formulate solutions including technologies such as LogicNet Plus or R, one thing will remain the same.  The focal point of any supply chain analytics project starts with ‘the data’. As a consultant, I spend a lot of my time cleaning, rationalizing, and formatting data.... Read More »
  • Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Who Needs to Know How to Code” that suggested the many executives should learn about coding: Even people who don’t plan on becoming developers may hear at work that they ought to learn to code. American Express Co.,General Electric Co. , Staples Inc., Merck & Co., Inc. and PepsiCo Inc.  have worked with General Assembly... Read More »
  • Supply Chain Digest just released a very nice report on the current state of supply chain planning.  I wrote a follow-on article commenting on the section about the biggest supply chain technology barriers.   (This link will take you to my article where you can find a link to the report). Here is an excerpt:... Read More »
  • We recently had the privilege  to work with two Georgia Tech students (Chandreshekar Sundaresan and Seth Webster) on a white paper that explored the relationship between inventory and the number of warehouses in your supply chain. This paper goes much deeper than the much quoted “square root of N” rule.  You will find that the... Read More »
  • New Book to Help Managers Understand Analytics

    Michael Watson Ph.D Jan 13th, 2014
    We have recently published a new book to help managers understand the field of analytics.  This book will help you learn what the field of analytics is all about and how it can help you and your organization.  We based this book on the class we teach at Northwestern, the work we have done in... Read More »
  • The Wall Street Journal recently reported the continued rise of heat maps to track customers in stores (“Tracking Technology Sheds Light on Shopper Habits”).  This is not a new trend.  An article in the Economist last year pointed out the rise of in-store cameras to track customers. Both these articles point out that this trend... Read More »
  • A recent Wall Street Journal article, “A Bonanza in Smarter Flu Tracking,” discusses tracking the outbreak of flu to better predict demand. The article notes that companies selling flu related products can boost sales by timing the ads and arrival of product to a market at the start of the flu season in that area.... Read More »
  • New Release of IBM ILOG LogicNet Plus XE

    Michael Watson Ph.D Oct 17th, 2013
    On Oct 16th, IBM released a new version of LogicNet Plus XE.   This new version contains some nice enhancements to the tool.  These enhancements continue to make the tool easier for business users.  The upgrades include the following: New version of CPLEX– this will allow you to solve larger models and solve models faster... Read More »
  • Comment on “Is Big Data an Economic Big Dud?”

    Michael Watson Ph.D Oct 14th, 2013
    The New York Times recently wrote an article, “Is Big Data an Economic Big Dud?”  Here is part of the article questioning the value of Big Data: For now, though, he acknowledges that most of the raw data flowing across the Web has limited economic value: far more useful is specialized data in the hands... Read More »
  • Lora Cecere recently published an article in Data Informed, The Role of Analytics in the Race for the Supply Chain of the Future.  Here is a slice: For most companies, the word analytics is synonymous with reporting. But despite thirty years of supply chain technology evolution, the most commonly used system for supply chain planning is... Read More »
  • Determining the best delivery frequency for suppliers into your facilities involves trading-off three key factors: First, you need to to consider transportation costs.  If your vendors ship frequently, you end up paying more in transportation per unit.   What makes this analysis complex is that transportation rates are not linear.   As you move from... Read More »
  • Three Types of Buffers

    Michael Watson Ph.D Oct 7th, 2013
    I recently wrote an article for Supply Chain Digest (Three Types of Supply Chain Buffers) that discussed that every supply chain has variability and will buffer this variability with some form of inventory, capacity, or time. What is interesting about this concept is that is applies to every business, not just a supply chain.  The... Read More »
  • Welcome to the Opex Blog

    admin Jun 24th, 2013
    Welcome to the blog for Opex Analytics. We’ll be using this blog to post general educational articles on analytics and Big Data– especially as these relate to businesses.  One of our goals is to help you cut through the hype and keep up with the news surrounding the terms analytics and Big Data. We’ll also... Read More »