Ph.D. students MAJ Blake Schwartz and MAJ Matt Fletcher had two clear objectives when they attended the U.S. Army Operations Research Symposium. The first, present their military logistics planning research. The second, share the benefits of NC State’s Operations Research (OR) program for active military looking to get an advanced degree. “We discussed the state-of-the-art in supply chain analysis and simulation and military sustainment planning,” said Schwartz. “We took the opportunity to tout NC State’s Operations Research Department, particularly the Military Operations Research Group.”
Both Schwartz and Fletcher are using a data-driven approach to streamline and improve the systems the military uses to get supplies from warehouses around the world to the troops on the frontline. Their focus is in the areas of
- Demand forecast generation
- Assessment of the sustainment plan
- Sustainment risk analysis
They are using a combination of simulation modeling and queuing theory to achieve their goals. “Given the operational characteristics and performance thresholds, the model will optimize for the ‘best’ sustainment course of action for the commander’s consideration,” explained Fletcher. “Using our model, a planner could quickly assess different courses of action, providing a military commander a much better understanding of the sustainment impacts of the scheme of maneuver. No other extant logistics planning model exploits enterprise resource planning data or runs in near-real time.” This makes their model unique and relevant for operational planners.
NC STATE’S OR PROGRAM
NC State has had many OR students work on real-world Army problems, which is especially attractive to Army officers. The faculty and other students understand the problems and constraints that Army-sponsored students face. “The Military Operations Research Group provides a supportive group of students at different points in their timelines who help each other with coursework and collaborate on research,” shared Schwartz. “I’ve always found that OR faculty are accessible and helpful as well. Under the mentorship of Dr. Brandon McConnell, OR has demonstrated its desire to establish a lasting relationship with military officers and Department of Defense Research initiatives.”
IMPRESSING THE BRASS
At the end of the symposium, Army Brigadier General Karl Gingrich spoke to representatives from the major Army analytic agencies. He stated that the Army should use universities that are leading in data and analysis techniques, such as NC State. “This looks like some validation that we are building our reputation,” exclaimed Fletcher.
The good news is that among the attendees were members of West Point, an academy that does not offer graduate programs and will pay for students to pursue degrees elsewhere. After the endorsements given at the event, the OR Department hopes that West Point will suggest NC State as an option to their students.