M. Eng. graduation ceremony features individual and team awards
"Compare what you were and thought when you came to the M. Eng. program with what you have and will become," Dr. Kathryn Caggiano, ORIE's Associate Director for the Master of Engineering (M. Eng.) program, urged current M. Eng. degree candidates at a ceremony in Rockefeller Hall's Schwartz Auditorium.
The program included an exchange of awards between graduate Julie Putzak and Dr. Caggiano. Putzak characterized Caggiano as her "director, mentor and friend," while Caggiano recognized Putzak for her work as chair of the Master of Engineering Student Leadership Committee.
Since the Financial Engineering Concentration of ORIE's M. Eng. program typically requires three academic semesters, most of those in that concentration will graduate at the end of the year following a summer internship and a semester at Cornell Financial Engineering Manhattan (CFEM) that is focused on the M. Eng. project and additional specialized course work there.
Dr. Caggiano introduced the May 2014 candidates to an audience of more than one hundred friends and family members. For some of the candidates, what they have become in the course of the program was especially evident in the prizes they were awarded for project work and overall accomplishment.
Andrew Schultz, Jr. Awards
After noting that the placement rate of the M. Eng. program was the highest in recent years, Dr. Caggiano singled out two students whose high academic achievement, exceptional teamwork, and demonstrated potential to become exemplary professional citizens earned them Andrew Schultz, Jr. Awards. The award honors the late head of ORIE's predecessor Department of Industrial Engineering and Administration, who served as Dean of the College of Engineering during years when Operations Research became established in the College.
Andrew Vincent Yap and Joseph Thomas Stagnitta (from left with Dr. Caggiano) were designated Schultz Award winners.
After graduation Yap returned to his home area of Manila, Philippines, to join Nexus Technologies, a systems integrator and IT reseller there, as a Business Analytics Applications Architect. He notes that "I was not entirely aware of the analytics revolution until I got to Cornell, and the program shaped me to become an advocate for analytics in the workplace." In ORIE, he said, "the exposure I got to ideas from professors, students and alumni provided me with a clearer picture of what I want to be doing for my career. I am passionate about helping people understand and use analytics to solve their problems."
Stagnitta is currently living in Seattle, working for Amazon.com as a software development engineer in the supply chain optimization group. His team is working on a classic optimization problem, "minimizing costs subject to constraints on delivery date, truck capacity, inventory, etc," he said.
Stagnitta said that "the M. Eng, program was an amazing opportunity to gain both leadership and real-world experience. By the end of it all I felt I became a more confident, well-rounded person. The members of my class were friendly, engaging, and taught me a lot."
Silent Hoist and Crane Awards
The Silent Hoist and Crane Materials Handling Prize was originally established, in 1950, for the purpose of "stimulating the thinking of engineering students with aptitude or special interest in the Art and Science of Materials Handling." Dr. Caggiano pointed out that the "handling of data and information are now recognized as important, if not vital, operational functions in almost all organizations," so that the scope of the Prize has been expanded to recognize exceptional project work promoting materials handling technology "in its broadest sense."
Dr. Caggiano noted that this year's projects constituted a very strong set of submissions to the competition. While the competition is open to all students and teams in the College of Engineering, the three projects receiving awards this year were all ORIE M.Eng. projects:
- The Hospital for Special Surgery: Central Sterile Processing Analysis. Team: Madeline Brumback, Yu-Hui Lin, Julie Putzak and Michael Zullo. Advised by Laibe/Acheson Professor Emeritus Jack Muckstadt.
Tied for Second Place:
Empire Merchants LLC - Warehouse Analysis and Wave Parameter Optimization. Team: Joseph Stagnitta, Jason Wang, Kévin Soulard and Yinan Ke. Advised by Professor David Williamson.
- Investigating Sources of Variability in Walmart.com's Inbound Transportation. Team: Tuo (Dana) Liu, Harsh Patel, Andrew Yap, and Tianwei Zhang. Advised by Professor Peter Frazier.
In addition, the New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Hospital Operating Time Prediction project was accorded honorable mention. The team, advised by Professor Dawn Woodard and Professor Emeritus Jack Muckstadt, consisted of Sarah Hornbostel, Sally Shi, Lydia Skrabonja and Eeshan Wagh.
Further information on the prize-winning projects follows.
Sterile Processing of Surgical Instruments
With nearly 30,000 orthopedic surgeries per year, nearly half of which are complex hip replacements, knee replacements and spinal surgeries performed in its 21 "main operating rooms," New York's Hospital for Special Surgery relies on many important processes, one of which is the preparation of sets of sterile instruments in the hospital's Central Sterile Processing unit.
The prize-winning M.Eng. team merged data from two separate systems to reconstruct detailed time and usage sequences for three months of surgical procedures to identify opportunities for savings in the acquisition and sterilization of surgical instruments. Using linear programming, they showed possible inventory savings of $14 million (a savings of nearly 40%) and through analysis of usage records they identified procedural changes that could save 45 full days of sterilization work annually. The team examined sources of lost time, identifying specific services and physicians responsible for delays, for example as shown at left.
Team member Julie Putzak (at right, flanked by Prof. Muckstadt, Madeline Brumbeck, Michael Zullo and Dr. Caggiano), notes that the project gave her "a greater appreciation for team leadership and dynamics. Experience truly is the best teacher when it comes to project teams." She said that "learning all the moving parts of a very complex environment, planning out the project amid a relatively full spring semester, and adjusting the tasks as necessary according to weekly check-ins with our clinet provided really valuable insight into how projects evolve over time."
Putzak has moved back to Buffalo NY where she works with Claraview, a Business Intelligence consulting group based in Reston, VA, "working virtually" when she is not travelling to a client site."
Another member of the team, Heather Lin, is working in DC at Sentrana, a marketing data analytics company. "My work here is very similar to the M.Eng. project with more emphasis on predictive analytics. In that sense the project primed me for the challenges I face at work."
Team member Michael Zullo is now in a supply chain role for one of Dupont's major chemical products. "The project experience was great preparation for my job because the scope and objectives weren't well-defined from the start, so we had to constantly reevaluate project goals." Moreover, the team was "working with real data which wasn't always complete and often needed to be cleaned up."
Team member Madeline Brumback has moved in a different direction following her M. Eng. degree. She has started a Masters in Audio Science at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
Scott DeNegre, the project team's primary contact at the hospital, reports that Executive Vice President Lisa Goldstein "would like to pursue several of the recommendations made by the team." DeNegre said that as a result of the project, "they are going to adjust schedules to reduce the impact on the sterilization process." According to project advisor Muckstadt, Goldstein is moving forward to expand the relationship between the hospital and ORIE, providing opportunities for Ph.D. and M.Eng. students to spend time working there as part of their graduate experience.
Picking Wine and Spirits for Delivery
Empire Merchants is the premier wine and spirits distributor in the metropolitan New York City area. With as many as 65,000 separate order items to be picked at their 500,000 square foot warehouse in Brooklyn on a given night, the sequence in which batches of orders, known as 'waves,' are assembled can make a significant difference in the amount of labor time. However once the batches are placed on conveyors and reach the waiting delivery trucks, the resulting sequence in which they are loaded into the trucks can significantly impact the time and risk of driver injury if the loaded order does not correspond to the sequence of stops and the driver has to move many heavy boxes to make a delivery, a situation known as 'jumble.'
The M. Eng. team examined the trade-off between minimizing pick time and minimizing jumble using both simulation and optimization techniques. Each night, Empire uses commercial software to construct the waves of batches. Various parameter settings in the software impact both the length of time it takes to pick (assemble) all of the cases and the amount of jumble that night. Through observation of the picking process and analysis of data, the team was able to design a computer simulation that assists in analyzing the tradeoff. An optimization algorithm minimized the team-constructed measure of jumble for each level of pick time, creating an 'efficient frontier' that characterized the trade-off for various parameter choices (as seen at right).
The team recommended parameter settings for nights with high demand that could save about 10 hours of pick time without creating significant jumble, and recommended settings for other nights that will reduce jumble without significantly impacting pick time.
Kévin Soulard (seen at left beside Prof. Williamson, with teammates Yinan Ke and Joey Stagnitta, and Dr. Caggiano), has joined Price Waterhouse Coopers in New York City. He said “the M.Eng. project was not just an application of the data analysis techniques that we learned in class. It was a great opportunity to solve a real business problem, while working with professionals and reporting to managing executives. It was an excellent training for my current work.”
"The project taught us the meaning of diving deep," said Joey Stagnitta, a team member, since "we needed to thoroughly understand how and why the system worked in order to make sound recommendations." Moreover "the scope of the operations we were analyzing required constant synchronization amongst the team members in order to keep everybody on the same page. I feel that this greatly improved my communication and collaboration skills."
Team member Jason Wang, who as an 'early admit' to the M. Eng. program worked on the project during his senior year and whose project prize was announced at the undergraduate commencement, is pursuing a variety of courses as an M. Eng. in his final semester to prepare for a career in data analytics and data science. "The project allowed me to truly turn insights from data into business action," he said. "It was a fantastic way to apply everything I learned from Cornell. The program has helped me mature tremendously, both professionally and academically."
Empire Merchants' Anthony Rapacciuolo said of the team that "the level of professionalism and participation was unparalleled. We look forward to engaging in future projects and we are excited to utlize the results of the recently completed venture."
Understanding why goods may not be available to be shipped on schedule
Walmart.com, the online subsidiary of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., relies heavily on delivery logistics to ensure that they get products to customers in a timely fashion. This includes not only deliveries from Walmart.com distribution centers but deliveries to the distribution centers from a wide variety of vendors. Unfortunately the elapsed time from when a shipment leaves a vendor to when it is available to be shipped from Walmart.com varies substantially, making it hard to predict and potentially disrupting managers' ability to plan purchases, allocate workforce, and respond to product promotions.
As has been the case for several recent years, walmart.com appealed to an ORIE M. Eng. project team to help understand a business problem, in this case finding the sources of variation in both the transit time for deliveries to their distribution centers and the time it takes for the delivery to be sorted and made ready for outbound shipment once it arrives at the distribution center.
The team analyzed more than 400,000 purchase orders to arrive at insights into the causes of the variability in delivery and sorting times. They were able to determine the distributions (at left) of transit times varied by of carrier mode: truckload, less than truckload, rail, and combinations of these. They used a regression model to rank carrier performance while accounting for differences in shipping tasks. They found that sort times were different for different product categories, delivery months, and distribution centers, even though some centers with significantly different performance handled essentially the same product mix.
The team built on these insights and the historical data to provide Walmart.com with an Excel-based tool that predicts when items purchased from vendors will be available for delivery to their customers. The tool greatly improves the accuracy of these predictions. Walmart.com's David Win noted that "the tool will be implemented immediately in two of the [management] teams," and said "I see the tool being used in the business on a weekly basis to help identify root cause and enable the team[s] to take action.... [and] to make better informed decisions."
Dana Liu (seen at right with Prof. Frazier, teammate Andrew Yap, and Dr. Caggiano) is currently in New York City as an analyst with management consulting firm Polaris. Tianwei Zhang is a science analyst at Infor Dynamic Science Labs in Boston.
Team member Harsh Patel is still at Cornell, where he has embarked on his M. Eng. final semester in the Data Analytics Concentration. He credits the program as helping prepare him for his summer internship at “Life Sciences and High Technology” company Sigma-Aldrich in St. Louis. At the end of the year he will join the company full time, and will work on “advanced-analytical techniques in order to make smarter business decisions….utilizing the techniques I have learned from ORIE/CS/Stats.” Although he did not attend the graduation ceremony, Patel recently responded to Dr. Caggiano’s opening exhortation at the graduation ceremony, saying that “I believe I have come a long way from where I once was” when he entered the program.