Entrance hall of the ICMSRisk, resilience and robustness of dynamic supply networks; bridging mathematical models and practice

In January 2017, ICMS hosted a workshop on Risk, resilience and robustness of dynamic supply networks; bridging mathematical models and practice.

The idea for this workshop arose out of the work of a £1 million UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council project    http://supply-net-dynamics.uk
of which the organizers are among Investigators. That project was funded out of the Mathematics for Manufacturing Initiative and is due to end in March 2017. The investigators come from a variety of different backgrounds, including network science, dynamical systems, applied statistics, operations research and decision science. During the course of that project it has emerged that the issue of mathematical modelling of supply chains goes well beyond the manufacturing sector, and also goes well beyond the traditional discipline boundary of Operations Research (OR), to encompass Bayesian Statistics, Network Science, Dynamical Systems and Control Theory.

The aim of this meeting was to bring together disparate communities to provide a networking and sharing of ideas and best practice between mathematical modellers and industrial practitioners. The meeting had a busy schedule with over 25 talks during the 3-day duration.  There was an industry session, where practitioner gave a real world perspective and highlighted particular challenges.  This session was opened, and the workshop was joined by delegates from the fields of finance, insurance and defence research.

Delegates at the Risk, resilience and robustness of dynamic supply networks  workshop 2017


 

Whilst the workshop was on, we took the opportunity to speak to the delegates in a bit more detail.


Alexandra Brintrup, University of Cambridge


Alexandra is a lecturer in Digital Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge.

Tell me about today's event and your role in it

I’ve given a presentation on our research in supply network data analytics and discussed the wider implications of our findings with the wider quantitative supply chain management community

What brought you to this area of research?

I have a background in manufacturing engineering and did my PhD in a subfield of AI. Ever since I’ve been fascinated by what AI can do for manufacturing and in particular for emergent systems in manufacturing such as supply chains. Right now we are seeing a convergence of several interdisciplinary domains within manufacturing - computer science & engineering, data science & AI, with traditional operations research and management streams. The convergence is creating many potentially disruptive innovations such as IoT based systems and big data applications. Hence there is more of a need for us to understand different domains - which was the motivation behind attending this workshop.

Other than exploring maths, what are the benefits of taking part?     

Networking, I’ve met several academics who have complimentary research interests; approaching the same questions from different angles.

What will you take back to your [day job/research/studies]?

I’m hoping to collaborate with some of the academics I’ve met during the workshop - also I’ve seen some preliminary research which our group should pay attention to. 

Do you have any advice for first-time ICMS attendees? 

Keep an open mind; and as Alan (Champneys) said, assume mutual ignorance and don’t be afraid to ask silly questions. It takes time to develop a common language. Edinburgh is a great city and the ICMS team are very helpful!

Have you been to many other conferences? How does ICMS differ?

Yes. The size of the workshop was optimal - it allowed everyone to join in the discussion whilst providing sufficient diversity of ideas at the same time.

If you could solve one maths problem, what would it be?

I could only answer this question by thinking about challenges we encounter in my own domain as I am not a mathematician. I would like to come up with solutions to create distributed control mechanisms in partially emergent networks of interacting, heterogeneous entities we see in manufacturing. But this is very generic and I guess the question maths can help is whether it is possible at all and under what circumstances. 

Do you have any thoughts regarding how we can raise the profile of maths?

Emphasise its usefulness in practice without assuming it alone can solve everything 

Do you have any thought on how diversity in mathematics can be improved?

We need early, stimulating education to eliminate maths-fear and make use of role models to break down stereotypes.

Who is your favourite mathematician and why?

Alan Turing - his work saved millions of lives during the war but continues to impact lives today through the seeds of AI; he achieved all this while he was going through personal struggle and tragedy.

 

 Nick Wildgoose, Zurich Insurance


Nick has a background in accountancy and works for Zurich Insurance.

Tell me about today's event and your role in it

It has been a fascinating workshop, with lots new potential insights/solutions which we might be able to apply and combine in some way.  I am one of the invited speakers, sharing my experience of commercial challenges associated with corporate Supply Chain Risk.

What brought you to this area of research?

I got in to supply chain via my background in accountancy.  In 2007, I was approached by one of CEOs in Zurich as customers had been expressing concern that lots of their key risk now lay in their supply chain rather than internally.  I was asked my view, and I replied that the Customer is right and from then began liaising with academics and customers to help manage their supplier risk networks.  I’m still learning.  I love it, because we are breaking new ground and there are lots of opportunities to improve.  It’s really important, supply chains can be a matter of live or death, as an example I spoke to a pharmaceutical customer and they stated that 12,000 people would die if they didn’t take the drug, supplied by their company, every day.  If that company’s supply chain breaks down their ability to supply that drug is at threat.

Other than exploring maths, what are the benefits of taking part?     

It is a great opportunity to exchange ideas and find out about the interface between different people/areas of research.  You achieve so much more when you can interact face to face.

What will you take back to your [day job/research/studies]?

 A number of ideas.  A potential collaboration looking at wider output.  There are maths techniques that we could look to apply within Zurich, some are close to being able to being applied now.  For others, there is an opportunity to work together to make them suitable for Zurich or Zurich’s customers.  

Have you met interesting people, and if so, what connections have you made?

I have renewed some relationships and made some new connections.  I’m delighted to have been able to introduce 2 researchers to each other thinking their work may be of interest to each other, and that has been the case.  They have completely different areas of research and we’ll all benefit from their collaboration.

Do you have any advice for first-time ICMS attendees? 

Network as much as possible.  Open our mind and you will get new insights.  Don’t be intimidated! 

Have you been to many other conferences? How does ICMS differ?

I attend lots of conferences for Insurance practitioners.  At ICMS, there is obviously much more maths involved, and it is smaller with a much more intimate environment.  There is not a ‘selling’ culture at the workshop, which is refreshing.

If you could solve one maths problem, what would it be?

To optimize the value within a value network (supply chain) in the context of including risk, in the broadest sense.

Do you have any thoughts regarding how we can make the workshop more accessible to non-academics?

I have found this workshop fairly accessible.  I was nervous beforehand, but the speakers were all very good, and although I didn’t understand all the maths, I could follow the talks.  It would have been nice if the workshop had included some Industrial Case Studies, examples where maths has been applied to an industrial problem. 

Do you have any thoughts regarding how we can raise the profile of maths?

Looking at and highlighting practical applications and communicating it in a way non-mathematicians can appreciate.

Do you have any thought on how diversity in mathematics can be improved?

Using Role Models in advertising material will help to break stereotypes associated with mathematics.

Who is your favourite mathematician and why?

Alan Turing - his work shortened the war and saved thousands of lives!

 

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