From Seasonal Fashion to Seasonal Malaria
I just came from a talk that I believe was OR at its best. Ngai-Hang Leung of MIT presented his work with Jeremie Gallien and a host of others on their work in Zambia to improve the distribution of essential medicines, such as anti-malarial drugs. They have already achieved impressive results with a redesign of the distribution system, e.g, by using cross-docking.
Now they are working to improve the inventory policies used by hundreds of remote clinics. Perhaps surprisingly, the problem has many similarities with the problem faced by fashion retailers, including extreme seasonality of demand (malaria hits during the rainy season when the mosquitoes are active). The team formulated a dynamic min/max reorder point model that is similar to previous models developed by Jeremie and others and implemented by the retailer Zara. In simulation experiments, the model achieves impressive results in avoiding stockouts and saving lives. Here’s hoping that it achieves a similar performance as it is implemented by a consortium of aid organizations.
This is my last blog post. I’m heading down to New York for the INFORMS Revenue Management and Pricing Conference at the end of the week. I hope to see some of you there. Thanks to the other blog posters, and thanks again to the organizers of this excellent conference.