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Keynote Lectures

In at the Deep End! - Reflections on a Lifetime of OR Practice
Sue Merchant, Blue Link Consulting, United Kingdom

Combinatorial Design of Machines and Machining Lines - New Application Domain for OR
Alexandre Dolgui, IMT Atlantique, France

The Use of Optimization to Determine Policy Decisions and Auction Design for a U.S. Multi-billion Dollar Spectrum Auction
Karla Hoffman, George Mason University, United States


In at the Deep End! - Reflections on a Lifetime of OR Practice

Sue Merchant
Blue Link Consulting
United Kingdom

Brief Bio

Sue started her OR career in 1970 in the Naval Operational Studies department of the Ministry of Defence in London after acquiring a Physics degree at London University. After 4 years she moved on promotion to the Metropolitan Police where she stayed for 28 years, moving from Senior Scientific Officer to Director of Consultancy and Information Services. She studied part time for an MSc in OR & Statistics in the early 1970s giving her a good basic grounding in OR.

Projects for the Met included planning for the conversion of some 4.5m criminal records to microfiche; devising the Force’s first Information Strategy ; and numerous analytical studies from evaluating police schemes to using MCDA for equipment selection. Her department at one time employed some 40 consultancy staff including police officers, psychologists, OR analysts, O&M officers, and work study officers, and several hundred Crime Statistics clerks and analysts.

 In 2003 she became an independent OR consultant, and has carried out a range of interesting assignments from devising risk management plans to efficiency studies. She regularly supervises MSc students at the London School of Economics during their summer industrial projects, which helps her maintain links with academia, and she organises meetings for the UK OR Society’s Criminal Justice special interest group.

Sue was President of the UK ORS from 2008-9 and Vice President of IFORS from 2013-15, where she chaired the Developing Countries committee. She is keen to ensure the spread of practical OR methods across the world and to involve students in real projects for industry, government and commerce.

Sue will describe the challenges she has faced and the fun she has had over the last 45 years as an internal and, more recently, independent OR consultant to the public and charity sectors. She will illustrate her talk with a variety of case studies for different clients, including a forest based social enterprise, the Metropolitan Police, a charity which helps police solve crimes, and an association of train operators.

She will reflect on the factors necessary for success as a consultant and try to draw lessons for OR analysts who may be dipping a toe in the water of OR practice, so that they may avoid some of the potential pitfalls. She will also stress the importance of ‘people’ issues and encourage the use of problem structuring methods alongside more traditional OR techniques.



Combinatorial Design of Machines and Machining Lines - New Application Domain for OR

Alexandre Dolgui
IMT Atlantique

Brief Bio

Dr. Alexandre Dolgui is a Distinguished Professor (Full Professor of Exceptional Class in France) and the Head of Automation, Production and Computer Sciences Department at the Ecole des Mines de Nantes, France.

His research focuses on manufacturing line design, production planning and supply chain optimization. His main results are based on the exact mathematical programming methods and their intelligent coupling with heuristics and metaheuristics algorithms. He is the co-author of 5 books, the co-editor of 15 books or conference proceedings, the author of 220 refereed journal papers, editorials and book chapters as well as over 370 papers in conference proceedings.

He is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Production Research, an Area Editor of Computers & Industrial Engineering, and an Associate Editor of Journal Européen des Systèmes Automatisés, past Associate Editor of International Journal of Systems Science (2005-2008), IEEE Transactions on Industrial Informatics (2006-2009) and Omega-the International Journal of Management Science (2009-2012), consulting Editor of the International Journal of Systems Science (2009- ).

He is Member of the Editorial Boards for 22 other journals, including the International Journal of Production Economics, International Journal of Manufacturing Technology & Management, International Journal of Simulation & Process Modelling, International Journal of Engineering Management & Economics, Journal of Decision Systems, Journal of Mathematical Modelling & Algorithms, Journal of Operations and Logistics, Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management & Production Engineering Review, etc. Fellow of the European Academy for Industrial Management, Member of the Board of the International Foundation for Production Research, Chair of IFAC TC 5.2 Manufacturing Modelling for Management and Control, Member of IFIP WG 5.7 Advances in Production Management Systems, IEEE System Council Analytics and Risk Technical Committee, Guest editor of special issues of Journal of Intelligent Manufacturing, International Journal of Production Research, International Journal of Production Economics, Journal of Mathematical Modeling and Algorithms, European Journal of Operational Research and Annual Reviews in Control; he was General Scientific Chair of the 12th IFAC symposium INCOM'06, Chairman of International Program Committee of SCM’02, MOSIM’04, INCOM'09, INCOM'12, IESM'13, MIM'13, and INCOM'15, Chairman of Organizing Committee of the International Conference MOSIM’01 and ROADEF'2011; last ten years, he was Member of Program Committees of over 170 International Conferences, etc. He has been responsible of the French national CNRS working group on Design of Production Systems (with about 336 individual members) and the regional project on Design and Management of Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems.

More information about me at

New and very interesting applications of Operational Research to the design of machining lines are presented. A complex machine or machining line consists of a sequence of work positions through which products move one way in order to be processed. Designing such a production system represents a long-term decision problem involving different crucial decision stages. Combinatorial design is one of them; it mostly deals with assigning the set of indivisible units of work (named tasks or operations) to work positions (or stations). In literature, the most attention was paid for combinatorial design of assembly lines (assembly line balancing problems). In our work, we develop approaches and formulations of combinatorial design for machining lines and complex machines. Novel algorithms in this domain and real life applications will be presented and discussed. Possible generalisations of our results to other problems in Production and Logistics will be suggested.



The Use of Optimization to Determine Policy Decisions and Auction Design for a U.S. Multi-billion Dollar Spectrum Auction

Karla Hoffman
George Mason University
United States

Brief Bio

Karla Hoffman is a Professor in the Systems Engineering and Operations Research Department of the School of Information Technology and Engineering of George Mason University where she served as Chair for five years ending in 2001. Previously, she worked as a mathematician in the Operations Research Department of the Center for Applied Mathematics of the National Institute of Standards and Technology where she served as a senior consultant to a variety of government agencies.  She received her BS in mathematics from Rutgers University in1969, and an M.B.A. and a D.Sc. in Operations Research from the George Washington University in 1971 and 1975, respectively.

National Institute of Standards and technology (NIST) Applied Research Award, Commerce Department Silver Medal, George Mason University's Distinguished Faculty Award, The Volgenau School of Engineering Distinguished Research Award, and the Institute of Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) Kimball Medal and Harvey Greenberg Service Award. She is an honorary member of Omega Rho, and is a Fellow of the Institute of Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

Professional Activities:
Dr. Hoffman served as President of INFORMS in 1999 and served for three years on the Administrative Council of the International Federation of Operations Research Societies (IFORS) as the Vice President of the North American Operations Research Societies. She has served on the Boards of INFORMS, The Operations Research Society of America (ORSA), and The Mathematical Programming Society. She has served as Treasurer and Secretary of the Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area.

Research Areas:
Dr. Hoffman's primary areas of research are combinatorial optimization and auction research. She consults to the Federal Communication Commission on auction design and testing. She has consulted to a variety of corporations on the routing and scheduling of ships, trucks and buses. She has consulted to U.S. Airways, Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines, and American Airlines on fleet assignment and crew-scheduling problems. She has worked with the Disney Corporation and Florida Rock Industries on real-time scheduling. She has served as a consultant on combinatorial optimization problems for telecommunications, transportation, postal services and military organizations and has consulted on auction design related to telecommunications. She has served on the editorial boards of: Annals of Operations Research, Computational Optimization and its Applications, Information Systems Frontiers, INFORMS Journal on Computing, Mathematical Programming, and the SIAM Journal on Optimization.

On September 28, 2012, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to conduct the world’s first-ever “Incentive Auction” which aims to repurpose broadcast television spectrum for mobile (wireless) broadband use. Because of the propagation properties of the 600MHz frequency band, the revenue produced by this auction is expected to be between 50-100 billion dollars. This lecture describes a brief history of the steps leading up to the auction. The talk will detail the ways in which optimization helped inform policy decisions during the entire process. The talk will also provide details of the multiple optimizations that are being used. Both the size and the complexity of the problem provided many challenges to state-of-the-art commercial optimization packages.