By Victoria Chibuogu Nneji
It is the final day of the 2018 INFORMS Annual Meeting, Wednesday, November 7. By 8:30am, early risers arrived to set up their booths in the exhibit hall one more time. By 9am the room begins to buzz with attendees filling their coffee cups and selecting their tea bag flavors. The 2018 INFORMS Annual Meeting in Phoenix has brought together nearly 6,000 people working across industries toward applying mathematics and management science to better understand and solve operational challenges.
I stopped by a few booths to learn more about the exhibitors and their business challenges. JD.com is one of China’s biggest e-commerce companies with more than 300 million users. In the coming years they plan to expand operations to include more than 1 million brick-and-mortar stores and groceries. JD sees operational challenges to solve in warehousing, transportation, and in the online marketplace.
Just across the aisle is an academic exhibitor, North Carolina State University’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (NCSU ISE). ISE recently hired three new faculty including Professor Hong Wan from Purdue University. Wan is a premier researcher in blockchain technology, and students at NCSU are eager for opportunities to work on the edge of innovation. A key value of NCSU is the opportunity for students to collaborate across fields to solve challenges.
A few booths down were two leading publishing companies: Springer and Wiley. The two are both navigating new opportunities in digital media. Many researchers are seeking ways to present their work to a broader audience and make greater impact on society. The publishing companies must find ways to keep up and plan ahead for disruptions to their core business.
I met several other companies including Modular Mining, based in Tucson, AZ; Amazon, based in Seattle, WA; Wayfair, based in Boston, MA; and JMP, based in Cary, NC. All of these companies have a common challenge: talent. Finding and sustaining human resources in the areas of data science and operations research is an ever growing concern. Because so many industries demand skills in these fields, it is really an employee’s market. The exhibitors gathered here this week in Phoenix have provided compelling opportunities for INFORMS members to learn and connect the dots to impact many industries around the world.