As part of our interview series with AIMMS partners, we spoke with ORTEC's Frans van Helden. Frans is Managing Director of ORTEC’s Data Science and Consulting Division. With 39 years in the industry and a team of 1,000 people working from 13 countries, ORTEC leverages data and mathematics to create value for businesses and society at large. AIMMS’ partnership with ORTEC spans more than two decades. Read the interview with Frans to uncover how our shared passion for mathematics has generated value for some of the world’s largest organizations.
Frans, AIMMS and ORTEC have been partners for 20 years. How have you seen the partnership and the industry develop overtime?
Indeed, AIMMS and ORTEC have been partners for about 20 years now. I think the main reason our partnership has been successful is that both organizations have a similar core purpose. AIMMS brings the benefits of optimization to society and ORTEC uses a passion for mathematics to improve our world. AIMMS is quite an important platform for us to build optimization and mathematics-based solutions. Together, we have served very large customers, including companies like Shell and TNT/FedEx.
Personally, I’ve been working with AIMMS for the last 8 ½ years. At first, I was active in building solutions. Now, I’m commercially responsible for customers of our data science unit, which builds solutions using AIMMS.
I would say the biggest development I’ve experienced in the industry, which directly impacts our partnership, is that Operations Research has gone mainstream. Back in the day, the application of mathematics was known as OR. These days, it’s called data science and it’s gone from a niche practice to a must-have capability. Nowadays, CEOs know what data science is and they recognize that they can gain value from data. Ten years ago, this was not the case. This growing interest in data science presents a lot of opportunity for both ORTEC and AIMMS.
How many people are currently building AIMMS-based solutions at ORTEC?
Approximately 40 to 50 percent of our staff works directly or indirectly with AIMMS.
Is there a project that you’ve worked on with AIMMS that you feel most proud of?
Not just one, but many. For instance, we recently built a suite that helps our client evaluate the operational impact of strategic changes in their network very quickly. We also built an IBP suite in AIMMS for one of our customers which helps them evaluate scenarios promptly to understand the implications on their Profit and Loss and balance sheet. The outcome is presented in a way that their financial team can easily evaluate and understand, in line with book-keeping principles.
Then there’s a client like Shell, who we have been working with for 20 years. Our work for Shell has grown into an entire suite of applications. And of course, we won the Franz Edelman Award in 2012 for our joint work with TNT (now TNT/FedEx).
A key enabler for these projects has been the great working relationship we have with AIMMS. We have been able to build lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with customers using AIMMS technology.
What kind of benefits do customers enjoy?
The ability to generate multiple scenarios to compare with each other greatly improves decision-making for the customer. We hear this time and time again.
We also see data serving as a common language between divisions that typically use a different kind of language and tend to misunderstand each other. Data is objective, so it helps them communicate better and minimize silos. Using data, they can create win-win scenarios.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout the years?
I’ve learned that it’s always more powerful to show something than to just talk about stuff. AIMMS facilitates this very well. AIMMS technology allows us to turn concepts and ideas into a working application in a short amount of time. This fosters a connection between our data scientists and the customer.
But building applications is only part of the story. Trying to optimize everything without looking at roles, responsibilities and processes does not work. I’ve learned that it’s important to keep the context of the organization in mind when building optimization solutions. Change management and cultural intricacies need to be taken into account.
Connect with Frans on LinkedIn to learn more about ORTEC.