ACBA aims at developing, disseminating and exploiting business analytics knowledge by bringing together businesses and scientific research.

Master classes combine experiential learning and direct contact with the business world, challenging participants to make hard-and-fast decisions about actual business problems. Very often the information that you need for this decision making is already held in your corporate data. You just need the tools and the skills to find it. ACBA master classes will help you create real business advantage by revealing the hidden information buried in your organisation's data.

ACBA workshops focus on providing powerful structure for critical thinking. Our workshops provide hands on tools and a step by step guide to help you solve day to day challenges. By attending our workshop you will understand the fundamental principles and tools of business analytics, build analytical capability using management tools and techniques, develop an informed organizational strategy based on analytics. You will also better understand the link between business analytics and organizational success.

Organisations require people who are equipped with a particular set of analytical skills and who also understand business and technology. ACBA offers a post-graduate program "Data Science" that provides its students with these skills. Participants of this program will be able to carry out effective data analysis utlitizing analytics within a business context using the appropriate software. The program brings together competencies that are required for an end-to-end understanding of how analytics works to become an analytics professional.

An analytics lab aims at facilitating projects with a relative short time span (several weeks to months). In an analytic lab researchers and businesses work together on solving specified analytics business cases (problems). As the focal point for industry partnerships related to Big Data and Business Analytics, the analytics lab also provides infrastructure and support for student training and engagement in projects that involve the analysis of large datasets. Through this partnership, students will have ample opportunity to create, apply, and leverage lead-edge solutions from Business Analytics.

Business cases

  • Dynamic pricing van revenue management in the airline parking industry

    Company: Park ‘n Fly

    In this project, we have successfully used sales data to develop smart dynamic pricing strategies to boost revenue for a large airline parking company.

    Keywords: revenue management, dynamic pricing, strategies.

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    In this project, we have successfully used sales data to develop smart dynamic pricing strategies to boost revenue for a large airline parking company. The strategies have been implemented and have led to a structural increase of revenue of millions annually.

  • Optimizing Police Workforce Planning by Big Data

    Company: Politie Amsterdam/Amstelland

    In this project, we develop new methods for accurate forecasting of crime risks and planning methods for optimizing police workforce, in close collaboration with Politie Amsterdam/Amstelland.

    Keywords: police workforce, data-mining, forecasting, planning, efficiency.

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    The availability of police workforce ‘at the right time at the right place’ is crucial for the feeling of safety by citizens and for arresting criminals. Smart planning of police workforce based on accurate forecasts of crime incidents can make the difference. In this project, we develop new methods for accurate forecasting of crime risks and planning methods for optimizing police workforce, in close collaboration with Politie Amsterdam/Amstelland.

  • Saving Lives by Proactive Planning of Ambulance Services

    Company: several ambulance service providers in The Netherlands

    In this project, we develop new and efficient planning methods for proactive planning of ambulance services. Our results show that strong reduction of the response times can be obtained by smart, proactive planning.

    Keywords: ambulance services, logistic planning, efficiency, forecasting.

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    In life-threatening emergency situations, the ability of ambulance service providers to arrive at the emergency scene within a few minutes to provide medical aid may make the difference between survival or death. To realize such extremely short response times at affordable cost, efficient and proactive planning of ambulance vehicles is crucial. In this project, we develop new and efficient planning methods for proactive planning of ambulance services. Our results show that strong reduction of the response times can be obtained by smart, proactive planning.

  • Rapid Cancer Diagnostics at VU University Medical Center

    Company: VU University medical center, Amsterdam

    This particular project is concerned with cancer diagnostics in the VU University medical center. For all different cancer types (more than 20) the goal was to reduce time between first patient visit and treatment plan, if possible to less than 2 working days. Thanks to ACBA expertise a model for improvement was developed that could be used to implement rapid cancer diagnostics.

    Keywords: Health care operations management, logistics

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    Health care processes, much like regular industrial processes, are characterized by long waiting times compared to the processing times. For reasons of competition and patient safety health care institutions try to reduce the time that processes take to finish. This particular project is concerned with cancer diagnostics in the VU University medical center. For all different cancer types (more than 20) the goal was to reduce time between first patient visit and treatment plan, if possible to less than 2 working days. Thanks to ACBA expertise a model for improvement was developed that could be used to implement rapid cancer diagnostics. This model focused on those departments that are central to cancer diagnostics (radiology, pathology) and on redesigning the "medical pathways" around these departments. This lead to an considerable reduction in time to diagnosis for most cancer types.

     

  • Optimal Dynamic Pricing in the Retail Industry

    Company: Bijenkorf

    In this project, we focus on dynamic pricing policies that determine when to apply a markdown (based on the observed inventory levels) and how much to markdown (based on price elasticity which is estimated from sales data).

    Keywords: Revenue management, optimal markdown policies, Markov decision processes, inventory management, dynamic pricing, censored data.

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    The fashion industry is largely confronted with products having seasonal demand. This brings forth a risk that the supply is not totally cleared at the end of the season. Hence, near the end of the season, the retailer is forced to markdown the overstocked supply. Since there is always a gap between the demand that is expected and the demand that is actually realized, it is necessary to find the optimal markdown path during the season. The central question is when and how much to markdown in order to optimize the expected total profit given the available supply.

    In this project, we focus on dynamic pricing policies that determine when to apply a markdown (based on the observed inventory levels) and how much to markdown (based on price elasticity which is estimated from sales data).

    The model for deriving optimal dynamic pricing policies builds upon models from econometrics, statistics, operations research, and revenue management. The sales data provides input to price elasticity models from econometrics. By using Cox regression from statistics, one can obtain a model for the lead time of products. The two previous models are combined into a revenue management model with demand unconstraining. This is then used in a Markov decision model from operations research to determine optimal policies. The model has proven its success in a real retail environment.

  • Optimal Design of Survey Strategy Allocations

    Company: Statistics Netherlands - CBS

    In this project, we focus on optimal allocation of survey resources when non-response can be expected. The main objective is to efficiently assign different data collection strategies to population units given a certain budget or given certain constraints on the accuracy of estimators. As such the focus is not on reducing non-response but on enhancing response given the available means.

    Keywords: Survey design, demographic data, resource allocation, data collection.

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    Surveys are an important tool to collect and analyze quantitative information about members in a population. When individuals that are included in the sample do not disclose full information, there is non-response in the survey. The non-response affects the sample inclusion probabilities, which in its turn can lead to biased estimators. This means that the obtained responses of the sample can no longer be representative of the larger population defying the purpose of the survey.

    Classical research has focused on the reduction of non-response through better survey design, studying contact strategies and the modes of collection, and by providing response incentives. The development of techniques to deal with missing data also helps to deal with non-response. In spite of all the methods, non-response is ever increasing and warrants new techniques to deal with non-response in surveys.

    In this project, we focus on optimal allocation of survey resources when non-response can be expected. The main objective is to efficiently assign different data collection strategies to population units given a certain budget or given certain constraints on the accuracy of estimators. As such the focus is not on reducing non-response but on enhancing response given the available means. The use of external information sources (e.g., demographic data) is helpful in the development of new survey strategies. These strategies are based on predictive models in which intermediary results of surveys are used for adaptation of the model.

  • Location of Slaughterhouses under Economies of Scale

    Company: Norwegian Meat Co-operative

    Facility location problems is a general class of problems modeling the location of facilities to serve customers a these facilities. Typically there are location dependent set-up costs for facilities and variable costs for serving the customer at the facilities. In this project we helped the Norwegian Meat Co-operative in strategically restructuring their business in which they encountered such a problem in reconsidering the location and capacity of their slaughterhouses.

    Keywords: Facility location, economies of scale, mixed integer linear programming, Lagrange relaxations, heuristics.

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    Facility location problems is a general class of problems modeling the location of facilities to serve customers a these facilities. Typically there are location dependent set-up costs for facilities and variable costs for serving the customer at the facilities. At strategically restructuring their business the Norwegian Meat Co-operative encountered such a problem in reconsidering the location and capacity of their slaughterhouses.

    As this was part of a long term strategic analysis the study had to consider all municipalities in Norway as possible locations of slaughterhouses without giving preference to existing slaughterhouses: the meat co-operative wished to know the saving potential between today's solution and the ideal solution if they were free to build up their structure from scratch.

    The problem is a rather standard facility location problem. However, non-standard in classical facility location literature is that the objective function is non-linear in order to represent the economies of scale of the slaughter house capacities. The trick to approximate it by a piecewise linear function blows up the complexity and the standard optimization software packages were not able to solve it. At first the problem was studied using expected demand data. Later, stochasticity of the demand was taken into account.

    After modelling the problem mathematically, techniques from mathematical programming were engineered to be able to arrive at a very good solution relatively quickly. A solution was obtained that is provable within 1% from the optimal solution value and was computed in 95 minutes on a PC. The methods we developed yield an important extension of the tools available for solving complex facility location problems.

    Further analysis showed that there were many solutions with more or less the same cost, but with different locations of slaughterhouses. The number of slaughterhouses appeared to be the dominating factor for good solutions. This remained true after substantial changes in transportation costs were analysed in the model.

    The results have been used in a strategic restructuring of the network of slaughterhouses for cattle in Norway.

  • Decision Support Tool for ProRail

    Company: ProRail

    The objective of this project was to develop a decision support tool for quick evaluation of the performance of a timetable that takes into account the intrinsic randomness (caused, e.g., by weather conditions and fluctuations in passenger volume) of railway operations.

    Keywords: Performance evaluation, randomness, decision support, operations research.

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    The infrastructure of the Dutch railway network is operated and administrated by ProRail. Part of this responsibility is that ProRail has to assess the potential use of the railway infrastructure in order to develop feasible benchmarks for the companies bidding for a service contract, such as the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) or the High-Speed Alliance.

    The objective of this project was to develop a decision support tool for quick evaluation of the performance of a timetable that takes into account the intrinsic randomness (caused e.g. by weather conditions and fluctuations in passenger volume) of railway operations.

    A combination of computer simulation with advanced mathematical modeling techniques was used for developing a software tool that allows the planner to evaluate the performance of various scenarios in a blink of the eye. Specifically, the method developed in the project is capable of assessing the performance of a timetable together with a particular allocation of trains for the entire Dutch railway network on a standard laptop computer within less than one minute.

  • Benchmarking the Efficiency of Express Depots and Hubs

    Company: Leading express delivery company

    The objective of this project was to evaluate and benchmark performance of the depots and hubs in a large-scale delivery network.

    Keywords: Performance benchmarking, distribution network, facility performance, efficiency, decision making units, data envelopment analysis, operations research, operations management.

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    A well-organized network of depots and hubs is the basis for services provided by express delivery companies. The efficiency and effectiveness in any distribution network is largely determined by the operation of the nodes in such a network. Therefore, depots' performance strongly influences services delivered by TNT Express to its customers.

    The objective of this project was to evaluate and benchmark performance of the depots and hubs in a large-scale delivery network.

    Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) was found to be the most suitable approach for the evaluation of depots' performance. A DEA model was developed and used for the benchmarking. As a result, out of 44 depots, 31 depots were identified as efficient and 13 depots as inefficient. Furthermore, the statistical analyses indicated four factors that have a significant influence on the efficiency score. Moreover, the analyses showed that the efficiency level does not depend on the depots' size neither on the geographical region. The application of DEA to the distribution network of the express delivery company gave new insight into the evaluation of express services and filled an existing knowledge gap in the academic literature on this topic.

  • Automatic News Detection on Twitter

    Company: NU.nl

    The aim of this project is to develop an early detection system on Twitter that can identify events as upcoming news topics. The system is built for news reporters to monitor newsworthy events before it hits the mainstream media.

    Keywords: Social media analytics, Twitter, data mining, clustering, forecasting, early detection system, visualization.

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    News reporting has been strongly influenced by developments in technology. Technological innovations such as the Internet, smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices have had a big impact on the work of news reporters. The Internet allows for faster dissemination of information and has changed the media landscape completely. News reporters now can communicate with specialists, check information, search through databanks and archives, and follow news in ways that was not possible before. Due to the surge of real-time web applications, such as Twitter, a new, rich and timelier source of information has become available.

    The aim of this project is to develop an early detection system on Twitter that can identify events as upcoming news topics. The system is built for news reporters to monitor newsworthy events before it hits the mainstream media.

    The early detection system is a truly multi-disciplinary project. In cooperation with linguists, methods were developed to classify the language of Twitter messages. The messages were analyzed for synonyms and semantics and grouped using data mining and clustering techniques. Based on forecasting techniques repetitive trends that can be predicted were excluded. The resulting system is able to detect news topics that are twittered by users before mainstream news reporters learn of the event. The early detection system eases the burden on news reporters to monitor important sources of information which is rather time consuming and leads to higher quality news reporting.

  • Scenario Analysis of Portfolios of Health Care Insurance Companies

    Company: Eureko

    In this project we analyse how the composition of an insurer's portfolio affects the risk adjustment compensation; specifically we study the question whether an insurer with less healthy policies in the portfolio will get fully compensated for the unfavorable risk it is exposed to.

    Keywords: Simulation, Scenario analysis, Risk adjustment, Portfolio management.

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    The Dutch government introduced a new health care system in 2006. An important element of the regulated competition is a system of risk adjustment. Risk adjustment refers to the practice of paying insurers prospectively a subsidy per person that is related to the expected health care expenditures of that individual. The system of risk adjustment levels health care expenditure differentials between insurers that are due to differences in their population mix. This is important, since insurers are obliged to accept all enrolees for the same flat rate premium. In the absence of risk adjustment, insurers with a less healthy population will have a competitive disadvantage, as they must charge higher nominal, community-rated, premium.

    In this project the objective was to analyse how the composition of an insurer's portfolio affects the risk adjustment compensation; specifically the project studied the question whether an insurer with less healthy policies in the portfolio would get fully compensated for the unfavorable risk it is exposed to.

    The research issues were addressed by a simulation study. A simulation model was developed representing a portfolio of one million policies. This model was estimated and validated by insurance data. The development of the portfolio was simulated over a five year time horizon. Various scenarios were implemented that represent people's mobility behavior concerning changing insurance company based on the prices of the insurance premiums. We developed our own software in Matlab for executing these extensive micro-simulations.

    Based on the results of the project, the insurance company gained insight into the expected development of the composition of its portfolio at various scenarios of premium increase and decrease changes. Furthermore, the simulations resulted in estimated profits/losses associated with these scenarios.

  • Reliability Theory

    Company: insurance companies

    Reliability theory in engineering, duration analysis in economics or sociology or survival analysis in biology or medicine all deal with the same problems: what is the fraction of a population of individuals or products which will survive past a certain time? In this project we provide answers to questions that make the problem not standard. For instance, if several factors affect the survival time, there is dependency between the lifetimes of the individuals/products, if individuals/products are selected instead of randomly chosen from the population, or there is a lot of missing information.

    Keywords: Reliability theory, duration analysis, survival analysis, time-to-event.

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    Reliability theory in engineering, duration analysis in economics or sociology or survival analysis in biology or medicine all deal with the same problems: what is the fraction of a population of individuals or products which will survive past a certain time? Of the survivors, which part will die or fail within a certain time? Here the definition of lifetime and death are ambiguous and can be interpreted in different ways, depending on the application. Many standard techniques can be applied to answer the questions just mentioned. The problem becomes interesting from a mathematical point of view if it is not a standard problem; for instance if several factors affect the survival time, there is dependency between the lifetimes of the individuals/products, if individuals/products are selected instead of randomly chosen from the population, or there is a lot of missing information.

    So far, we have applied survival analysis in medicine (for instance, what is the probability a woman will have breast cancer within 10 years?), psychology (do monozygotic twins ask for social help more often and at a younger age than dizygotic twins do?), biology (what is the expected time two particular cells interact?), and historical demography (what is the life expectancy of a woman from the seventeenth century or for a landholder in the thirteenth century?). The application can be simply changed to answer questions like: what is the probability an individual will have a serious car accident within 1 year? Are males more often involved in car accidents than women? What is the expected time an individual will drive a car without submitting claims?

  • Reducing Inventory Investments in Capital Intensive Industries

    Company: KLM

    The aim of this project was to develop an inventory optimisation model that can be used for planning target inventory levels for each item at each warehouse that deals with both SLA and costs constraints.

    Keywords: Inventory management, warehouse management, spare part management, service level agreements, inventory costs, optimisation.

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    Within capital intensive industries, companies are constantly balancing high availability of assets against minimising costs. For example, due to the high costs of airplanes, every minute a plane is on the ground money is lost. In order to reach high asset utilisation, stocking reliable spare parts (modular components) and fast replacement procedures are important prerequisites. Managing spare part inventories, often spread across multiple warehouses, is crucial in this process.

    Logistic Service Providers (LSP), who are responsible for spare part availability (e.g. KLM who provides parts to other airline companies), usually operate under criteria captured in complex and elaborate service level agreements. Time based service levels are such an example (e.g. "deliver 95% of the parts asked for within 72 hours"). Next to this, the fact that customers of these LSPs are usually geographically spread, each having multiple warehouses with their own specification of stock levels, also adds to complexity.

    The aim of this project was to develop an inventory optimisation model that can be used for planning target inventory levels for each item at each warehouse that deals with both SLA and costs constraints.

    Traditional inventory optimization techniques use the so called instantaneous fill rate as dominant performance measure. For organizations operating under strict time based service levels, instantaneous fill rate techniques are less adequate. In such a situation the focus must be on time based fill rates, explaining the fraction of demand that can be fulfilled on time.

    In a case study performed at KLM, we developed a simulation model that used time based measures. This model showed that, when operating under strict time constraints, the use of time based measures perform significantly better than models that use traditional performance measures. The use of the appropriate (time based) measures does not only save money, but also adds to supply flexibility.

    Summarizing, this study enhanced insights in the relation between time based service levels and inventory optimization. By implementing time windows in inventory optimization, companies can directly reduce inventory investments, whereas the inappropriate use of instantaneous fill rates as performance measure will lead to overinvestment in inventories.

Ecosystem

ACBA supports organizations to consider, design and undertake applied research studies concerning analytics. We have a staff of expert researchers, and also have the ability to bring in faculty and researchers from other universities. This capability allows ACBA to provide multi-disciplinary expertise and the highest academic research quality.

The benefits for organizations that join the ACBA ecosystem are:

  • Access to a scientific research infrastructure that can be used to setup joint research programs.
  • Access to state of the art knowledge concerning analytics (general, and more specific in the fields of expertise of ACBA).
  • Access to a network of analytical companies. (Shared experiences).
  • Access to best practices: analytics projects (vision, implementation, organizational change, models, etc.).
  • Dissemination of analytics knowledge: Education. Creating vision, awareness, and "action".
  • Mainly: access to insights....!

Contact

Amsterdam Center for 
Business Analytics (ACBA)

VU University Amsterdam
Attn: ACBA HG 3A-22

Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam

Tel: 0031 (0)20 – 598 6059
E-mail: info@acba.nl