Western OR Discussion Society past meetings

Next committee meeting and AGM

Venue: University of the West of England, Frenchay Campus, Bristol
Date: Monday, 01 October 2018 at 17:15

The next WORDS meeting coincides with an AGM on Monday 1 October. This will be held at the University of the West of England’s Frenchay campus in Bristol (room to be announced – see the WORDS webpage for confirmation).

The AGM will be preceded by a talk beginning at 17.45 (details to be announced) with refreshments available from 17.15.

For more information, please contact Ken McNaught: k.r.mcnaught [at] cranfield.ac.uk

Upcoming Talk; Western OR Discussion Group

Venue: UWE Frenchay campus
Speaker: Ian Mitchell
Date: Monday, 01 October 2018 at 17:15 - 18:00

Join The OR Society's Western OR Discussion Group, on October 1st for an interesting talk delivered by Ian Mitchell. Mr Mitchell, is the Operational Research Manager at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and will be discussing 'A Principled Basis for Decision: Enduring Operational Research (OR) subjects and principles for Quality Assured Analytics'.

Refreshments will be provided, beginning at 17:15, with the talk commencing at 17:45.

Venue: Room 4D05, D Building, UWE Frenchay campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1QY

Further Information:

Speaker: Ian Mitchell, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Talk Title: A Principled Basis for Decision: Enduring Operational Research (OR) subjects and principles for Quality Assured Analytics.

Abstract: In a world of change, some things don't. This presentation proposes that efficiency, effectiveness, human interactions and behaviour remain perennial foci for much OR analytics and that quality analytics depend on perennial principles of assurance. Professor Pat Rivett's three subjects for his 1964 BBC documentary about Operational Research: Cutting the Queue, Playing It Through and The Human Factor, are examples of analysis of efficiency, effectiveness and behavioural OR. These remain major subjects for OR although the means to analyse them have evolved. Confidence in analysis is the other perennial aspect. The presentation describes the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) approach to model assurance. Analytical tools for Big Data and Artificial Intelligence provide wider domains for OR. In that wider domain clarity of purpose and assurance of quality will remain essential enablers for a principled basis for decision.

Newest Installation of the Data Science Masterclass

Venue: UCAS, Rosehill, Chelthenham
Speaker: Dr Gilbert Owusu
Date: Wednesday, 05 September 2018 at 18:00

Join The OR Society, UCAS and the IMA on September 5th 2018 for an exciting data science masterclass delivered by Dr Gilbert Owusu. Dr Owusu, is the Head of Practice, Business Modelling & Operational Transformation at BT Technology, Service & Operations and will be discussing 'Leveraging AI Technologies for Delivering Better Service Outcomes'.

Refreshments will be provided at this event which starts at 18:00. This event will be held at at the UCAS head offices in Chelthenham. For directions to the venue and travel advice, please consult this map (pdf).

If you would like more information, please contact Andy Harrison, Head of Analytical Development for UCAS, at iam.andyharrison [at] gmail.com

Big Data Analytics and It’s Applications

Venue: UCAS, Rosehill, New Barn Lane, Cheltenham, GL52 3LZ
Speaker: Steve King
Date: Wednesday, 16 May 2018 at 18:00 - 20:00

Our Midlands and Western Regional Societies invite you to this joint event hosted by UCAS. We are delighted to introduce our guest speaker for the evening, Steve King, R2 Data Labs at Rolls Royce.


Phrases such as Big Data and Cloud computing are now in everyday use and many people are now accessing cloud environments offered by their broad-band service providers to store music and photographs. This talk will offer a personal view of how this technology has evolved over the past 15 years and will offer an overview of some of the analytic capability that’s in use within the aerospace industry.

This is the first of a series of talks to be hosted by UCAS.

Head to reception upon arrival and you will be greeted by a member of the organising team. Parking is available on request.


Cheltenham Spa Station
Located on the outskirts of the town centre,
approximately 15 minutes by taxi.

Cheltenham Bus Station
A park and ride service is available from town
to the racecourse.

PathSim – a versatile capacity model for simulating an admitted patient pathway; with application to the redesign of a stroke service

Venue: CCG Boardroom (Lower Ground Floor), NHS Bristol, Bristol BS1 3NX.
Speaker: Richard Wood - Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCGs
Date: Thursday, 01 February 2018 at 17:45

Tea and coffee will be available from 17.15 with the talk due to start at 17.45.


Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the UK and puts a great strain on health services, especially the relationship between hospital and social care. Recent studies suggest that some health systems may benefit from a centralised hyper-acute stroke unit, providing a specialist 24 hours a day service and a singular point of access to downstream localised secondary and tertiary care. However, assessing the suitability of such a transformation for a particular locality, alongside the optimal configuration of bed capacity along such a pathway, is not a straightforward task. At the heart of this is the lack of a versatile stochastic modelling approach within the literature that is appropriate to this kind of problem; that offers control over output measures that could be useful to clinicians; and that is available without cost, making it readily useable in the NHS. In addressing these requirements we have created PathSim, a discrete event simulation based on a continuous-time Markov chain which models arrivals, length of stay and discharge routings between facilities along an admitted patient pathway. This is essentially a queuing network problem where the customer (patient) is held at the current facility until a service channel (bed) is available at the required downstream destination. This “bed blocking” can represent significant system inefficiency, and thus understanding the dynamics of these bottlenecks through a model can help the development of pathways which are cost-effective and improve the quality of service to patients.

OR applied in decision support for strategic maintenance planning in the offshore wind industry

Venue: Room 4D05, D Building, UWE Frenchay campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1QY
Speaker: Xiaodong Li, University of the West of England
Date: Monday, 10 July 2017 at 17:00

Tea and coffee will be available from 17.00 with the talk due to start at 17.30.

The talk introduces a Decision Support System (DSS), which is developed for maintenance cost optimisation at an Offshore Wind Farm (OWF). The DSS is designed for use by multiple stakeholders in the OWF sector with the overall goal of informing maintenance strategy and reducing lifecycle maintenance costs at the OWF. Both deterministic and stochastic optimisation models underpin the DSS. The deterministic version is intended for use by stakeholders with access to accurate failure rate data; and the stochastic model is intended for use by stakeholders who have less certainty about failure rates. At present, the mathematical model of the DSS is extended by considering more uncertain parameters, such as wind speed and its correlation with failure frequency. A wind speed dependent failure rate is adapted into an extended model. Weibull distribution and Markov process are proposed to predict the weather parameters. The updated DSS will be able to provide more accurate outcome results and hence to give more efficient support for strategic maintenance planning in OWF. In basis of the same algorithm, a web-based DSS to estimate OWF maintenance cost is under construction.

Joint SWORDS/WORDS Event - Diversity and identity: challenges and opportunities for UK OR

Venue: Cardiff School of Mathematics
Speaker: Ruth Kaufman
Date: Tuesday, 07 February 2017 at 17:15 - 19:00

This joint meeting will take place on Tuesday the 7th of February 2017. The meeting will be held at the School of Mathematics, Cardiff University. There will be cheese and wine available from 5.15pm in room M/1.04 on the first floor in the School of Mathematics. The talk will commence at 6.00pm in room E/0.15 (ground floor). Please note that times and rooms are different to normal.


People engaged in an activity like OR, can be described on countless dimensions. For example, personal characteristics (the 'protected characteristics' of ethnicity, gender etc. that are part of formal diversity initiatives, but also values, preferences, personality), daily work activities, customer, owner, career path, whether they have ever heard of OR. Diversity can be a strength; but so can uniform identity. This talk reviews some significant dimensions of diversity and identity in UK OR, to consider what we might need to do to overcome the challenges of too much or too little diversity, and where we can exploit the enormous potential benefits of the glorious variety of ways of 'being an OR person'.

Disaster preparedness in humanitarian logistics: A collaborative approach for resource management in floods

Venue: Room 4D05, D Building, UWE Frenchay campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1QY
Speaker: Oscar Rodriguez Espindola
Date: Wednesday, 09 March 2016 at 17:45

Tea and coffee will be available from 17.00 with the talk due to start at 17.45. For planning purposes, please let Ken McNaught (K.R.McNaught [at] cranfield.ac.uk) or Alistair Clark (Alistair.Clark [at] uwe.ac.uk) know if you intend to come.


The logistical deployment of resources to provide relief to victims of disasters and the appropriate planning and management of these activities are critical to reduce the suffering caused. Humanitarian logistics represents one of the most important fields during preparedness and response in cases of disaster, seeking to provide relief, information and services to disaster victims. On top of the challenges posed by logistical activities, disaster management commonly attracts many actors working alongside each other and sharing resources to cope with the emergency. Handling the resources of these actors is a complex task due to the variety of actors and resources available. This is particularly important for developing countries, where disasters occur very often and resources are even scarcer. Despite this, there is little research considering multiple organisations, and none concerning the optimisation of the number of actors required to avoid shortages or convergence.

The aim of this research is to develop a system for disaster preparedness based on a combination of multi-objective optimisation and geographical information systems to aid multi-organisational decision-making. A cartographic model is used to avoid the selection of floodable facilities, and a bi-objective optimisation model is used to determine the location of emergency facilities, stock prepositioning, resource allocation and relief distribution, along with the number of actors required to perform these activities.

The system was applied to a case study in Mexico involving several relief organisations. The formulation proposed showed the capacity to optimise the decisions and the number of organisations required for logistical activities.

Intelligent Designs: Systems approaches to understand policy rationales and objectives at national and local levels

Venue: Room 4D05, D Building, UWE Frenchay campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1QY
Speaker: Ian Mitchell FORS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)
Date: Tuesday, 22 September 2015 at 17:00 - 19:00

Tea and coffee will be available from 17.00 with the talk due to start at 17.45. This will be followed by a brief AGM. For planning purposes, please let Ken Mcnaught (k.r.mcnaught [at] cranfield.ac.uk) or Alistair Clark (Alistair.Clark [at] uwe.ac.uk) know if you intend to come.

This talk will describe the use of techniques including Systems Thinking and Multi Criteria Decision Analysis to structure understanding of situations and potential interventions.

Use of a Model for Setting an Achievable Public Health Target: The Case of Childhood Obesity in the UK

Venue: Room 3Q43, Q Building, UWE Frenchay campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol BS16 1QY
Speaker: Brian Dangerfield, Department of Management, University of Bristol
Date: Wednesday, 25 February 2015 at 18:00

Tea and coffee will be available from 17.30 with the talk due to start at 18.00. For planning purposes, please let Ken Mcnaught (k.r.mcnaught [at] cranfield.ac.uk) or Alistair Clark (Alistair.Clark [at] uwe.ac.uk) know if you intend to come.


Amongst the global threats to health facing the advanced economies, obesity is rapidly becoming a prime focus. This is because, in large measure, it is a condition which is a precursor for a range of more serious diseases, including diabetes and hypertension. Interest in a particular condition often results in governments and public health bodies setting targets aimed at reducing the prevalence of that condition in the general population. However, it appears that public health targets are not set by any informed background analysis but rather by what seems reasonable and is tolerable in political terms. In the UK in 2008 the then government announced that it would be striving, by 2020, to bring the obesity metrics back to those prevailing in 2000. Based upon a population-level model addressing the development of overweight and obesity in children (2-15 years), we demonstrate that the achievement of this target (in children) is highly unlikely. The model, which combines knowledge from nutrition, physical activity and body metabolism, shows that a plausible target date would be 2026 at least. Acknowledgement of the delays involved in reversing obesity trends is vital in setting sensible targets in this domain of public health. In general, models have an important role to play in the formulation of achievable public health targets.