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DS 412 Operations Management

Operations Management Projects
The purpose of this project is to get you think through the messiness of real-world operations management problems. There is not going to be a single “correct” answer necessarily; you will need to consider the context and some of your answers will be more in the form of a “it depends-on-the-situation” type. The process to gather and present your ideas is going to be uncomfortable but the key is to reach out to me and ask lots of questions. I promise that the questions you ask are not silly! This type of exercise is very similar to problems you may face on the job in the future and will look great on a resume. As long as you give it an honest try, you will not fail. If you feel comfortable, you may consider publishing your report online to gain recognition. Some employers ask for writing samples as part of the recruitment process anyway.
Work is to be completed individually. Submit your work on iLearn by the due date. The purpose of this project is to explore a variety of operational challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19 and applying concepts from DS 412.
You are required to select only 3 out of 6 topics to get full credit for the project. So you can think of this as 3-mini projects.

For each question (mini project), points are awarded for:
  • 30% The quality of the research youconduct
  • Do you cite credible sources?
  • Are you backing up factual claims you make?
  • 40% How well you apply what we learned in class
  • You might not be able to apply the specific models we discussed (for example, c- chart), but you should still be able to apply the general concepts (for example, sample size, type 1 error, type 2 error, etc.).
  • We often talk about variability/uncertainty in class. How does that affect the decisions that are being made during this pandemic?
  • One of the things I hope you take away from this class is how to break problems down and structure them. How well are you able to do that in this context?
  • 30% How well you write about each topic
  • Do you clearly show where you got what information, and show how you came to the conclusions you did? Is it obvious what is fact and what is your analysis/conclusion?
  • Do you lay out the assumptions you made?
  • Is your writing well-edited and largely free of spelling and grammar mistakes?
  • Does the document lookprofessional?
  • Feel free to make use of writing tools from your other classes, e.g. BUS300
(Select only 3 from the following list of A through F):
A. (Forecasting) Initially, one of the great challenges in determining government (and industry) response to the outbreak was forecasting how quickly the virus will spread and determining its mortality rate. Scientists have become much more adept at this process, predicting, for example, the peaks after the holidays. One of the challenges now is accounting for vaccination rates and the public’s decreasing desire to continue masking and social distancing. For this question, think about how researchers might go about creating their forecasts. Some things to consider:
  • What past data can they use? Are there other, similar outbreaks that could be used? Why or why not?
  • How available are the data? Have last year’s challenges with lack of available tests been resolved? If not, how would one adjust for this? If yes, are there new challenges that have come up?
  • If infections/hospitalizations are forecast to increase, what sorts of steps might policy- makers undertake to encourage the public to try to avoid the increase? Have these efforts been successful to date?
In answering this question, go back and revisit the different types of forecasting methods you have learned about in this class and see which ones may be appropriate.
Also consider the features of generating forecasts, forecast errors, etc.; for all these, see the typed-up forecasting notes.
Check the archives from the library or online resources for articles that describe how forecasts for such situations have been developed by scientists.
B. (Capacity Planning) The availability of vaccines has given many hope that we may be able to return to more normal lives. One of the operational challenges is how to roll out the available vaccines – who is allowed to produce vaccines, how much vaccine can be manufactured, what population groups are in each tier, how much time should be devoted to each tier, etc., who should administer the vaccines. Should booster shots be made available in US before vaccines are accessible by the world population? Focus on the capacity planning aspects of these challenges. Some things to consider:
  • What are the possible capacity units and configurations?
  • Types and volume of demand
  • What criteria to be used? Is money the most appropriate? Lives Lost? Hospitalizations?
In answering this question, go back and revisit the different costs considered in capacity planning; see the typed up notes for a refresher. Are they directly applicable in this case? Or should they be modified?
Check the archives from the library or online resources for articles that talk about capacity planning and distribution approaches to vaccines.
C. (Linear Programming) Supply chain challenges have created numerous problems throughout the pandemic. For example, availability of supplies for vaccines (e.g., syringes) or ingredients have become a problem, but there are many other examples. Pick a product for which there are problems and develop a Linear Program that could help get the product from the manufacturer (or importer) to the final recipient. (Specifically, I imagine that the LP will be along the lines of our transportation problem, though perhaps a bit more complex.) Things to consider:
  • To what extent does forecasting play a role in the planning and distribution?
  • How many stages are there in the supply chain?
  • What should be the objective of the LP? Is it to minimize cost? Maximize availability?
  • What are the specific constraints that a company is subject to?
Review the transportation problem and its formulation, see iLearn for the notes and the Excel file.
Check the archives from the library or online resources for articles that talk about supply chain shortages.
D. (Inventory Management) Storage and distribution of vaccines bring additional challenges due to strict temperature control challenges. How should the government decide on how much vaccine to ship and store at pre-determined vaccine administration site? Things to consider:
  • To what extent does forecasting play a role in the distribution and storage decisions?
  • What are the various stages in the supply chain where vaccines are being stored?
  • What are the pros and cons of having more storage sites at various stages?
  • What are the pros and cons of having more vaccine administration sites?
In answering this question, go back and revisit the different types of inventory models you have learned about in this class and see which ones may be appropriate for vaccine distribution.
Check the archives from the library or online resources for articles that talk about inventory management for vaccines.
E. (Quality Control) Quality Management plays a number of roles as our leaders struggle to deal with the pandemic. For example, the reliability of tests could be analyzed in the context of control charts. There have been innovative approaches to trying to detect new outbreaks by using national data collected by home use of smart thermometers like Kinsa. Determine how control charts might be used to detect new virus hotspots. Things to consider:
  • Samples are not taken in the way we are used to, at regular intervals. Rather, there may be sparse data until an outbreak begins. What is the effect of this? How can we establish a baseline?
  • How reliable are the data? Can we aggregate data from different companies?
  • What other ways are used to detect new hotspots? How does the “home temperature” method compare to these other approaches?
  • Check online or library resources on quality issues related to medical tests, etc.
F. (Project Management) The US Army Corps of Engineers has been able to assist local governments in converting existing structures to hospitals. How are they able to so quickly and effectively develop the plans for the large number of projects they have undertaken? Analyze their work through the lens of Project Management to identify the ways in which they are able to be successful.

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