Operations, Planning, Accounting and Control

Research area
The majority of the research within the Operations, Planning, Accounting and Control (OPAC) group deals with the control of operational processes. In these processes, scarce resources (machines, people, transportation means) are used to transform incoming materials into outgoing materials or to move materials from one place to another. With a smart control of operational processes, these activities can be done faster or one can do more work with the same or even fewer resources. To obtain such smart control, one has to address decisions at strategic, tactical, and operational level.

We distinguish the following research lines:

  1. Supply chain management (leaders: De Kok and Atan): Most of the products we use in our daily lives are brought to the markets by supply chains. Customer and end users of products are dependent on a large number of – often distant and hard to control – manufacturers and service providers. Within this line of research, we develop efficient and effective methodologies for optimizing supply chains’ financial and operational flow decisions, subject to demand and supply uncertainties. More specifically, we provide methods to support (i) purchasing (product portfolio decisions, pricing, vendor management), (ii) operations (demand planning, forecasting, inventory management), (iii) distribution (supply chain configuration planning), (iv) sales (order acceptance and revenue management, and (v) integration (connecting the flow of work and operations) functions of supply chains. These methods apply to supply chains in high-tech companies, fast moving consumer goods companies and retailers.

  2. Design and Control of Manufacturing Networks (leader: Adan): The current fourth industrial revolution is being driven by giant leaps in digital, automation and robotic technologies, which can be linked to create manufacturing networks referred to as the Internet of Things. The big challenge is to identify which technologies should be combined and how, to achieve optimal network performance. The aim of this research line is to develop new methods and computational tools to support and improve the design and control of manufacturing systems and networks. This research is firmly grounded on formal models and rigorous methods in mathematics, with a particular focus on stochastic models, performance analysis, optimization, control and integrated system design. These methods provide the scientific basis for the development of decision support tools which are validated in industrial applications.

  3. Transportation management (leader: Van Woensel): Transportation Management deals with all relevant decision areas relating to Freight and People Transport. Various research domains are covered relating to the Transportation Chain. These domains cover network design, transit chains and the first and last mile. Both forward and reverse last mile logistics within an urban context are studied. Research on improving public transport systems and the related schedules, makes public transport a more attractive and sustainable alternative for car transportation. Important research areas have emerged in terms of being able to adequately represent real-life, highly dynamic, and uncertain environments. Efficiently coping with these complex and rich models is an important and challenging problem for the current and future research projects.

  4. Maintenance Optimization and Reliability Engineering (leader: Van Houtum): This research focusses on advanced capital goods such as medical equipment, baggage systems, largescale computers, wafer scanners, and trucks. As these goods are used in primary processes, their users therefore require high system availabilities. At the same time, they want a low Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), consisting of the price of a new system, its installation, and all costs during the exploitation phase. In several industries you see that Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) or large maintenance organizations take care of all the maintenance activities. Within this research line, we study: (i) the design and control of the service supply chains which provide the spare parts and service engineers; (ii) predictive maintenance concepts, which make use of real-time data on the degradation processes of critical components; (iii) the effect of product design decisions on system availability and TCO.

  5. Sustainable Operations Management (leaders: Tan and Fransoo): A more sustainable supply chain is one that is better at identifying current and future environmental and social impacts, and finding ways to mitigate those. For a firm to thrive, it is increasingly imperative that it is aware of the economic, environmental and social dimensions of the entire supply chain to which it belongs, and that it proactively manages them. Sustainable operations management research addresses the operational aspects of supply chain management, integrating the economic, environmental, and social dimensions. The key topics we address are: (i) production and inventory optimization of manufacturers, taking environmental effects into consideration, (ii) carbon-efficient transportation (transport mode choice, including intermodal and synchromodal transport, load factor increase, carbon-efficient vehicle routing), (iii) remanufacturing, reuse, and its optimization, (iv) supply chain collaboration for sustainability, and (v) food waste reduction.

Contribution to the School
School IE focusses on operational and innovation processes. OPAC’s focus is the control of operational processes. The control can be seen as the core aspect and it directly relates to information, organizational, human, and financial aspects. OPAC is strongly involved in Top Sector Logistics. OPAC plays an important role in the MSc program Operations Management and Logistics, in the PDEng program, and the European Supply Chain Forum (ESCF). OPAC leads the growth area “Logistics and Its Interfaces” and is strongly involved in the strategic area Smart Mobility and the TU/e research centers on Data Science and Hightech Systems.

More information about the Operations, Planning, Accounting and Control Group can be found at their website.