ISE grad Yang member of Edelman prize-winning team
Ohio State ISE graduate Ming (Arthur) Yang (PhD ’21) is a member of the winning Walmart team awarded the 2023 Franz Edelman Prize, considered to be the “Nobel Prize” of Operations Research and Analytics.
The prize was announced April 17 at the INFORMS Business Analytics Conference in Aurora, Colorado, where more than 700 leaders in the field gathered from around the world.
According to Yang, he joined Walmart immediately after completing his studies at Ohio State. A few months after he began his new job, he became involved in working on the winning project and believes that receiving the honor is a testament to the considerable time, effort and determination he has invested in his work.
“Personally, it means that my work has been recognized as among the best in the field,” he says.
The project, “Optimizing Walmart’s Supply Chain from Strategy to Execution,” focused on network design, network transformation, routing and load planning. Yang’s role was to lead the data science effort for end-to-end middle-mile strategy in the perishables network and “enable the evolution of today's network into the network of the future,” he says.
As part of a larger team effort, Yang collaborated with stakeholders from strategy, engineering, finance, and other departments to help Walmart identify the future perishable downstream network which supports about 4,600 Walmart stores and 600 Sam’s Clubs in the United States. The project represented a major step toward change for the company in adopting operations research as a key component of its supply chain strategy. Previously, operations research was only used for execution. A simulation platform was built to bring the optimization work on network strategy and execution together to make decision-making at Walmart holistic and agile.
Yang says, in fiscal year 2023, the project saved Walmart $91.5 million and 98.6 million in CO2 emissions by avoiding 33 million miles and 108,000 truck routes.
In the 20 months that he has worked on the project, Yang acknowledges the rapid rate at which the solution was determined. “There was an urgent need to make decisions,” he says. “It’s a wise investment for future financial savings and better service quality for customers. For a huge company like Walmart, even a small change can make a huge difference.”
The whole experience happened so quickly, he says. “I was working on the project ‘yesterday’ and the next day receiving this prestigious award,” according to Yang. “It’s a tremendous honor for our effort. What we achieved has been recognized, not just within Walmart, but also in the operations research field.”
He credits his ISE advisor Professor Guzin Bayraksan, his teammates, family, friends and fiancée as “quite essential to his success. “Dr. Bayraksan was an amazing advisor,” Yang says. “She is a respected researcher. Her expertise, diligent approach and dedication to the study of operations research served as a great example for me and had a positive influence.”
Dr. Bayraksan says Yang “always had a knack for applying theory to real-world problems, and I am happy to see that his talents have been put to good use. The fact that he achieved this honor in such a short time in his career is a testament to his work ethic.
“This award also speaks to the quality of the education given by our Department. It is a testament that the ISE Department at Ohio State trains the next generation of problem-solvers and leaders.”
According to the INFORMS website, “Edelman finalist teams have improved organizational efficiency, increased profits, brought better products to consumers, helped foster peace negotiations and saved lives. Since its inception, cumulative benefits from Edelman finalist projects have topped $336 billion.”
Six finalist teams were competing for this year’s Edelman Prize, including a collaboration between DHL Supply Chain and the Ohio State ISE Department. The DHL project was led by Yibo Dang (PhD ’20) and supported by his advisor ISE Associate Professor Ted Allen.
Story by Nancy Richison