INFORMS, the leading international association for operations research and analytics professionals, has announced it has selected New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) and Rensselaer as finalists to the 2017 Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Operations Research and the Management Sciences for their cutting-edge implementation of operations research (OR) techniques in developing a new urban delivery system that has decreased delivery costs by more than a third, lowered vehicle emissions, and increased quality of life and safety. With its selection as a finalist to the Edelman Award, the Rensselaer and NYC DOT teams were recognized as Edelman Laureates, joining a selective group of leading companies and research universities renowned for their pioneering implementation of OR principles. Moreover Rensselaer and NYC DOT were made members of the Edelman Academy, the group of Edelman finalists and recipients.

As part of this important research effort, the Rensselaer team designed a novel system of incentives to induce receivers of supplies in urban areas to accept Off-Hour Deliveries (OHD), between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. This novel approach became the central pillar of the NYC OHD Program, created with the support of the Center of Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems at Rensselaer.

Program Results

By encouraging more than 400 NYC receivers of supplies in the food and retail sectors to accept OHD, the NYC OHD program has reduced operational costs, lowered CO2 emissions, and created a safer environment for pedestrians. Carriers who shift delivery routes to the off hours benefit from faster and more reliable travel times, as well as lower delivery costs and parking fines, reducing their operational costs by 35 to 45 percent. The program has been lauded by private sector companies and trade groups as a win-win-win effort that benefits the environment, the economy, and quality of life and safety.

For every regular-hour delivery route that is replaced with OHD in NYC, carriers save $30,000 to $50,000 per year. In addition, the combined effects of faster and smoother traffic, and more direct routes, led to emission reductions per mile traveled in the range of 60 to 70 percent. For every receiver that accepts OHD, this translates to the elimination of more than 6,300 metric tons of CO2—one of the most potent global warming gases in existence. By reducing delivery costs, congestion, and pollution, the NYC OHD program significantly benefits the economy, environment, and quality of life of metropolitan areas.

First awarded in 1972, the Franz Edelman Award recognizes and rewards outstanding contributions of analytics and OR in the for-profit and non-profit sectors around the globe. Each year, INFORMS honors finalist teams that have improved organizational efficiency, increased profits, brought better products to consumers, helped foster peace negotiations, and saved lives. Since its inception, the cumulative dollar benefits from Edelman finalist projects have surpassed $240 billion.

Rensselaer’s Research Role

“We are thrilled to be recognized as one of the finalists for the Franz Edelman Award, which recognizes the greatest achievement and most significant impact in operations research and analytics. This is an incredible accomplishment and honor,” said José Holguín-Veras, the William H. Hart Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Center for Excellence for Sustainable Urban Freight Systems at Rensselaer. “This recognition is the realization of the hard work and collaboration of many people in harnessing the power of operations research to transform our mining operations and business model.”

The Rensselaer team, led by Holguín-Veras, included Cara Wang, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Jeffrey Wojtowicz, senior research engineer at the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation and the Environment at Rensselaer. The NYC DOT worked under the leadership of Stacey Hodge. In addition, the team benefited from the contributions made by Rensselaer graduate students who have conducted OHD research since 2007, including: Miguel Jaller, Felipe Aros-Vera, Matthew Brom, Shama Campbell, Ivan Sanchez-Díaz, Carlos González-Calderón, Trilce Encarnación, Xia Yang, Diana Ramírez-Ríos, Lokesh Kalahashti, Johanna Amaya, Michael Silas, Brandon Allen, and Brenda Cruz. Important contributions were made by the teams led by Professor Jeff Ban who is now at the University of Washington, Professor Kaan Ozbay, who is now at New York University, and Professor Alain Kornhauser, who is at Princeton University.

Holguín-Veras is the recipient of a number of national awards, including the 2013 White House Transportation Champion of Change Award, the Milton Pikarsky Memorial Award in 1996, and the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award for his contributions to freight transportation modeling and economics. His research interests are in the areas of freight transportation modeling and economics, transportation planning, and humanitarian logistics.

This year, the recipient of the Edelman Award at Analytics 2017 (the 2017 INFORMS Conference on Business Analytics & Operations Research), which was held at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, was Holiday Retirement. The annual event drew over 1,000 attendees composed of the leading international professionals in analytics and operations research in the world. In addition to the New York City Department of Transportation and Rensselaer team, four other organizations were recognized as finalists for this year’s Franz Edelman Award:

  • American Red Cross for “Analytics-based Blood Collection Methods”
  • Barco for “Platform-based Product Development”
  • BHP Billiton for “Detailed Integrated Capacity Estimate (DICE) Model”
  • General Electric (GE) for “RailConnect 360”

Additional information about the INFORMS Franz Edelman Award and Competition can be found here.