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July 19, 2007 / or4green

INFORMS Sustainability Roundtable

INFORMS held a “Roundtable” at the Fall 2006 annual meeting that included discussions about sustainability. It’s described in this article in the June 2007 issue of OR/MS Today. Participants included Cisco, P&G, Ford, and HP.

Detailed abstracts and participant bios are available here (word doc).

One item that was mentioned frequently was the closed-loop supply chain (CLSC). A couple of examples were:
– Jo van Nunen (Rotterdam School of Management) “identified a number of examples in which European companies are using O.R. models to optimize remanufacturing and recycling supply chain segments to increase profits.”
– Cisco Systems developed an allocation model to help with life-cycle management and re-use of products. “During FY2006, Cisco recovered and processed 4,516 tons of equipment, with only 0.9 percent sent to landfill.”

(Note: Other posts here mention that CLSC’s had a special issue of Interfaces and a session at EURO 2007.)

A few other interesting items included:

– Dwight Collins (Colbridge & Company LLC) described the new field of Industrial Ecology, new Life cycle assessment tools, “how O.R. achievements over the past decade in green product and process development, lean and green OM, and remanufacturing and closed-loop supply chains fit under the broader sustainability umbrella”, and how “making sustainability a priority tends to have unanticipated benefits.”

– Proctor & Gamble used OR techniques to “determine the optimal cost structure for distribution of P&G’s Pur water filtration sachets in Africa”.

– P&G’s participant, David Dittmann suggested thinking of sustainability as a variable rather than as a constraint. Cisco’s example of re-use above brings this home.

– Scott Ellis of Hewlett Packard talked about HP examples of opportunities for OR to help address sustainability challenges, along with guidelines for applying OR to sustainability (these are listed in the OR/MS article).

In all, from the OR/MS Today article it sounds as if many good topics and examples from the intersection of OR and Sustainability came up. It would be great to hear about it in more detail than the space the OR/MS today article could provide. For instance what were the examples van Nunen (Rotterdam), Collins (Colbridge), and Ellis (HP) discussed?

Interestingly, this roundtable was held in the Fall of 2006, but coverage of it did not appear until June 2007 issue of ORMS today. The piece was not mentioned on the cover, in the contents it was only listed as Roundtable with no mention of sustainability, and it was near the end of the magazine. It is a trendy topic, and many magazines have been all over it (e.g. Consumer’s Reports, Vogue). So is INFORMS trying to avoid getting caught up in the hype, is something else at work, or is it just not too central on the radar screen?

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