Call for Interest: APORS Special Interest Groups

Kia ora koutou, I hope the weather is not adversely affecting you and you are avoiding the seasonal colds and flu.

APORS has asked for nominations to 3 special interest groups:

  1. Public Heath Emergencies – this group will be meeting with the World Health Organisation’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) soon;
  2. Optimisation;
  3. Youth Activity.

These groups are envisaged to work like SIAM activity groups:

“SIAM Activity Groups provide an intellectual forum for SIAM members interested in exploring a particular area of applied mathematics, computational science, or cross-disciplinary application. The subject of the SIAM Activity Group should be of current importance, broad enough to generate significant participation, yet focused enough to assure that the Activity Group’s goals are achieved.” – from

This is a good opportunity for those looking to engage with global communities of researchers. If you would like to be nominated please email me by the end of day on August 12, 2022, at

michael DOT osullivan AT auckland DOT ac DOT nz

If I get a lot of nominations then I will run a selection process.

Noho ora mai, Mike (ORSNZ President)

In Memoriam: Dr Raymond Jonathan Lermit

Jonathan should be remembered as the original pioneer of OR applications in the New Zealand electricity sector, not just in demand forecasting, but optimisation and market issues, publishing in NZOR on using network flow models (first in 1977 then again in 1990), and optimal pricing (1983).

Subsequently he worked at Transpower and collaborated with colleagues at Massey, publishing extensively on topics related to biofuel developments. He was a friend, supervisor, and mentor to many who went on to establish national and international careers in the field of electricity sector optimisation and economics. He also served the Society long and well, as a Wellington Committee Member, National Council Member, Newsletter Editor, Vice-President, and President.

Noho ora mai, ORSNZ (posted on behalf of ORSNZ by Mike O’Sullivan with remembrance from Prof Grant Read)

In Memoriam: Dr Hugh Barr

We are sorry to report that Dr Hugh Barr died on 8 December 2021, aged 80 years. Hugh was a leading figure in the ORSNZ serving on Council for many years, as President between 1976-1980, and regularly wrote papers and presented at conferences. He studied at Auckland University and the University of Toronto.

He was OR section leader at the Applied Maths Division of the DSIR from 1968 to 1992 and then at Industrial Research Limited. The OR Section at AMD was one of the major OR groups in NZ during that time, attracting many top graduates from Canterbury and Auckland universities and further afield, who later became OR managers, consultants and academics.

Hugh led or contributed to many OR projects in diverse industries including energy, transport, meat, superannuation, and healthcare.  He had a high public profile, writing on many topics such as Comalco prices and NZED capacity in the early days, and after leaving IRL, continued as a private consultant dealing with many issues central to New Zealand’s prosperity and wellbeing. 

Outside work, Hugh’s real love was always tramping and skiing, which seemed to fill his every weekend. He was a life member of the Tararua Tramping Club and a leading conservation advocate within New Zealand.  He was President of the Federated Mountain Clubs from 1993 to 1995 and a member of the FMC Executive from 1976 to 1978, and again in 1991-1992, and often served as a spokesperson on outdoor adventure and conservation issues.  He also was politically active, as scientific advisor, lobbyist and as a local government and parliamentary candidate.

There is a memorial lunch being held for Hugh on September 6 in Wellington. Please email Prof Vicky Mabin at vicky DOT mabin AT vuw DOT ac DOT nz

Noho ora mai, ORSNZ (posted on behalf of ORSNZ by Mike O’Sullivan with remembrance from Prof Vicky Mabin and Bruce Benseman)

Extended Deadline: APORS 2022

Kia ora koutou,

There is an opportunity to submit abstracts for a dedicated session on operational research for public health emergencies. Selected abstracts will be supported by WHO/WHE/SEARO for oral presentations at the conference.


  1. Submission site: all abstracts must be sent to: Log in to EasyChair for APORS 2022. You will have to create an account and then follow the clear steps on the site.
  2. Deadline extended
    15 July 2022, 23.59 Manila time
  3. Abstracts format
    1. Abstracts should be in English, should not include mathematical notations, not exceed 500 words (the main text) and must contain the following:
      1. Paper/proposal title
      2. Author(s) name (s), affiliation, full mailing address, email address, with an indication of author(s) presenting the paper if accepted.
      3. One of the keywords must be “Public health emergencies”.
    2. Please see further details here:

Noho ora mai, Mike (ORSNZ President)

Call for Papers – APORS 2022

Kia ora koutou,

ORSNZ members have been invited to attend APORS 2022 in Cebu, Philippines. In particular the president of the Operations Research Society of the Philippines (ORSP) hopes that we might provide the following:

  1. At least 1 paper contribution from New Zealand;
  2. 1 paper for the APORS Youth Forum, this paper will be in the 2022 APORS Conference in Cebu, Manila;
  3. 1 optional paper for the special track on public health emergencies – this is a special track in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO)’s GOARN department. WHO agreed to provide special prizes for the PHE papers.

Please let me know if you’d like any more information at president AT

Noho ora mai, Mike

APORS SIG for Public Health Emergencies – Webinar Launch on May 17

Kia ora koutou,

APORS is launching a Special Interest Group (SIG) for Public Health Emergencies with a webinar on May 17.

Please see more information from APORS as follows.

“After many months of discussion with GOARN South East Asia RO, I am pleased to invite you to a webinar on May 17 on OR for Public Health Emergencies.

During this webinar, we also intend to formally launch the APORS Special Interest Group.

A partnership with GOARN will benefit APORS since this will open up a lot of opportunities for OR researchers in the region who want to focus on this topic.
Finally, this also builds on the foundation set by the Winter School on ORPHES kindly organized by our EURO friends (Roberto, Stefan and Honora).”

Zoom link:
Passcode: 280021
Date: 17th May 2022
Time: 15.00 IST, 17.30 in Manila, 11.30 CET.
Duration: 2 hours.

Noho ora mai, Mike (ORSNZ President)

Prof Vicky Mabin – Lifetime Achievement Award from TOC-ICO

Kia ora koutou,

Last year one of ORSNZ’ past presidents, Prof Vicky Mabin (also ORSNZ’ last recipient of the Hans Daellenbach Award in 2018), was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Theory of Constraints – International Certification Organization (TOC-ICO). She gave a keynote address to their conference in June on using ToC with other methods. Her talk to a ToC Down-Under Summit in October, on the same topic (Flipping the Frame) is now available on YouTube for those interested.

Ka pai Vicky! Noho ora mai, Mike (ORSNZ President)

Inside ORSNZ – OR for Impact

Kia ora koutou,

As stated on our website “The primary aim of the Society is to promote Operations Research and Management Science in New Zealand in both academic and industrial aspects.”

To me, one of the best ways to promote OR and MS is to embark on work in those areas that have impact. This impact may be within an organisation, community or even nationally. A few examples from my own experience are:

  • Finding the right layout for junior football pitches to maximise the usage of a local park;
  • Creating an Excel spreadsheet that used OpenSolver to find the correct angle for wire embedded within hoses for a hose manufacturer;
  • Creating rosters for General Medicine registrars at Auckland City Hospital and Waitakere Hospital;
  • Modelling of ward/ICU occupancy throughout New Zealand under different future scenarios including Covid-19 spread.

All of these opportunities to utilise OR techniques for impact came about either through my own communication of what OR is and what it can do or word of mouth from previous projects that provided real-world impact. As OR practitioners I would encourage all of you to communicate openly about OR (“math modelling for decision making” is a phrase I use often), listen well to people explaining what they need (their “pain points”) and reach out to others if the opportunity is not within your skill set (that encourages organisations to come back to you in the future).

And please let us know about your own OR/MS project that have provided real-world impact! We hope to start showcasing some of this work as we refresh the website.

Noho ora mai, Mike (ORSNZ President,

Efficient and fair surgical schedules with algorithms

Original story from Te Pūnaha Matatini

Dr Thomas Adams is working to improve surgical scheduling using algorithms and individualised surgical duration predictions.

Increased throughput, increased utilisation, decreased overtime, fewer overdue operations, and less staff time required for planning: all of these can be achieved with improved surgery scheduling. By using accurate predictions of operation durations, giving priority to patients that are urgent or have been waiting a long time, and balancing the trade-off between increasing utilisation and surgical sessions running overtime, computer algorithms can be used to inform surgical schedules that are efficient and fair.

I have been awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from Precision Driven Health and the Health Research Council to develop improved surgical scheduling algorithms using individualised surgical duration predictions. I am currently working on this project alongside Te Pūnaha Matatini Principal Investigators Associate Professor Cameron Walker and Dr Michael O’Sullivan.

We have combined a novel algorithm for predicting how long operations take with an advanced scheduling algorithm. The novel prediction algorithm uses the Systemized Nomenclature of Medicine (SNOMED) medical terminology database to find links between types of procedures, which enables us to make better predictions for less frequent procedures, as similarities can be found to more common procedures.

These improved predictions are fed into our scheduling algorithm alongside the operations that need to be performed and the sessions that they can be performed in. The scheduling algorithm finds the best way of allocating the operations to the sessions so that as many operations are performed as possible, while making sure that no patients have to wait too long for their operation and no sessions are scheduled that are too likely to run overtime.

Initial testing of our algorithm-supported approach shows improvement in all key metrics: a 7% increase in throughput, a 5% increase in utilisation, a 14% reduction in overtime and a 21% reduction in operations being overdue.

The two pictures below show an actual schedule on the left, and a schedule created with our algorithm on the right. Both schedules started at the same point at the beginning of the year, and the pictures show the results after five months. The optimised schedule has fitted in more operations, allowing more of the waiting list to be cleared, and resulting in fewer overdue operations remaining. The surgical sessions are also better utilised with no overruns or underutilised sessions.

The next step in our research is to better understand how operating rooms are managed and surgeries are currently scheduled in Aotearoa New Zealand, so that we can refine our algorithms to be as relevant and easy to use as possible. In particular we are interested in how operating room time is allocated to specialties or surgeons, how far in advance operations are scheduled, who decides which operations are performed on each day, and how emergency operations are accommodated.

We are also working alongside scOPe solutions to organise a pilot of the scheduling software, and have collaborated with Orion Health to make a simplified version of the scheduling algorithm available online via the New Zealand Algorithm Hub.

Job Opportunity – Data Scientist and Ruby Developer

oVRcome is a direct to consumer smartphone app based in Christchurch using virtual reality to provide VR exposure therapy via the smartphone. 80% of people with an anxiety disorder don’t get treatment, our goal is to make treatment more accessible using technology. We’re looking for a Ruby developer and a data scientist to help improve treatment outcomes. Email [email protected] for more info.

Posted by Mike O’Sullivan (ORSNZ President)