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.
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.
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.
When Russia began its invasion of Ukraine it was soon clear that there would be widespread condemnation by other countries, but little military assistance. What has eventuated is the biggest declaration of economic warfare since World War II.
We have all been shocked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. To help us understand the situation, we are hosting a webinar on the economic implications of the invasion. It’s complicated, but we will be helping you understand what the invasion will do to world food production, what the sanctions will do to financial markets, why we will all suffer inflation, and what it means for the world’s geo-economics.
Join Dr Alan Bollard and panel members, to discuss the developing situation from a business and government perspective.
Olga Speranskaya, economist, business growth expert, community leader and startup mentor, also contributing to Wellington School of Business and Governments’ Executive MBA Professional Development programme
Dr Eldrede Kahiya, Senior Lecturer in International Business at Wellington School of Business in Government
Grant Spencer, Teaching Fellow in financial economics at Wellington School of Business and Government and Acting Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand
Veronika Karashvili, a programme and project management professional who has recently completed her Executive MBA at Wellington School of Business and Government
Proudly hosted by the Professional Programmes Office at the Wellington School of Business and Government.
Asia-Pacific Operational Research Society (APORS) is holding the inaugural APORS Youth Day in mid-April (the week starting April 18 or the week starting April 25). They are looking for a youth speaker from each of their member societies, i.e., one from ORSNZ. That speaker will give a virtual talk on the Youth Day and be representing ORSNZ.
APORS have not provided a definition of “youth” so ORSNZ will use the same criteria as is used for the Young Practitioner Prize, namely anyone who is within 5 years of graduation (or who have not yet graduated) on April 18.
If you are interested in being the ORSNZ youth speaker then please email Mike at presidentATTHEorsnz.org.nz. A decision on the speaker will be made at the beginning of April.
Please see links below for a call for applicants for a new permanent lectureship at Engineering Science (1.0 FTE in the Department).
Note that the call says “We encourage applications from people who identify with groups that are typically underrepresented in the Engineering sector”, i.e., women applicants would be particularly welcome.
Nga mihi o te tau hou Pakeha! (Happy – Western – New Year!)
It feels like the summer break is well and truly over now (it may have been over for some time for many of you). I wanted to wish everyone in ORSNZ the best for 2022 and start making more frequent posts here given there are now less opportunities to meet in person.
I was chatting with a friend of mine over the weekend who supplies equipment to manufacturers. He explained how their equipment offered a chance for good workflow improvement, but that this opened up a can of worms as the manufacturing company they were engaged with started wondering about what other improvements could be made and, consequently, paused on any commitment until they could think things through more fully. During our conversation I realised that the manufacturers needed a digital twin to help decision making. Many of us know digital twins as simulations although I think there is more emphasis on visualisation and integration of real-time data with digital twins. As the conversation evolved it seemed like many of his customers had similar needs, i.e., they were keen to make improvements but had no easy way to evaluate and decide on which improvements to make and how. This conversation demonstrated to me the continued and perhaps increasing relevance of operations research.
To me, the trend of the last 10 years or so has been: 1) “Get the data”; 2) “We’ve got the data, now what?”, “Look at the data!” – analytics and visualisation; 3) “We’re looking at the data, what is it telling us?”, “Let’s look for trends or try and see what will happen next!” – data science and machine learning.
In many cases steps 2 and 3 were enough to inform improved decision making, but for complex systems like integrated manufacturing lines, hospitals, even NZ public health, being able to experiment with and evaluate the effect of decisions is key for improved decision makers. Understanding a complex system and effects of changes to that system is one of the main goals of simulation. Combining simulation with good visualisation and near real-time data, i.e., making the simulation a digital twin, improves the interpretability and utility of the simulation for supporting good decision making.
I recognise that operations research can also automate decision making via, e.g., mathematical programming, but just understanding the effect of decisions throughout the entirety of a complex system via a digital twin can bring better decision making.
Ngā mihi if you have read this far. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to discuss digital twins or anything else OR-related.
I’ve decided to write some regular posts about what is going on with ORSNZ, and also give my thoughts on OR in NZ and around the world more generally. These will be “Inside ORSNZ” posts so you should be able to recognise and filter them appropriately 😊
The ORSNZ Council recently commissioned a strategic review of ORSNZ with an eye to redeveloping and revitalising the ORSNZ website as the hub of the society. This strategic review has been completed and the Council is now deciding on whether to proceed with the website refresh.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 and its latest (Delta) incarnation means that for the 2nd year in a row there will be no ORSNZ Annual Conference. This is a real shame as the Annual Conference is a great opportunity to catch up and see what everyone has been up to. I hope the website refresh, if it goes ahead, will be able to fill this gap a little in the future by creating a more vibrant online community for ORSNZ. ORSNZ can also provide some funding for smaller local or research area events particularly through the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) or RIGs (Regional Interest Groups).
A couple of other “hats” that I wear have given me some interesting insights recently.
Since July this year I have been Deputy Director of Te Pūnaha Matatini and observing the diversity of modelling and the focus on impact, both within the community and at a policy level, has been really exciting. The value of transdisciplinary research is being recognised within the research landscape and one of our Council members recently remarked (on transdisciplinary research) that “It all sounds like what OR has been doing for 70 years.” I wholeheartedly agree with this and over the last 5 years it seems to me that modelling in general and OR modelling in particular has had somewhat of a renaissance due to the wealth of data now available and the greater acceptance of models. One example of this is a research project simulating the critical care system in Aotearoa New Zealand that Ilze Ziedins, Cameron Walker and I worked on. Much of the recent modelling has been under the news “brands” of artificial intelligence (AI) and data science. I think there are also exciting new opportunities for combining machine learning and traditional OR models for real-world decision making.
With respect to AI, I am one of the Aotearoa New Zealand representatives in the Global Partnership on AI (GPAI), working in the AI and Pandemic Response Working Group. I am co-leading a project on Immediate Response to the Pandemic and have had a chance to review multiple AI initiatives being used to combat COVID-19. I was pleased to see a reasonably standard integer programming approach being used to balance patient numbers across hospitals within US states. The full living repository of AI initiatives for pandemic response can be found here.
OK, that is enough from me for now. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with comments/questions and let me know if there is anything you would like publicised next month.