Nine Topics That You Can Teach With Network Design

While writing about supply chain network design, we realized that it touched many different subject areas.  We wrote the network design book so that you could use it in many different types of classes.

For example, here are nine different areas you could explore in more depth after an introduction to the topic through network design:

  1. Optimization.  When you solve a network design problem, the solver uses mixed integer programming (MIP).  The book provides the formulation to help the reader gain intuition from the math (click here for more on the value of understanding the math).  If you want to your class to focus on optimization, you can start with the formulations, and then have your students explore more about MIPs.  We have discussions on the knapsack problem and computational complexity you could cover in more depth.
  2. Transportation Markets.  Obviously, transportation costs are important to network design and facility location.  We introduce different modes of transportation like Full Truckload, Less-Than-Truckload (LTL), Parcel, Rail, and others.  You could use this as a staring point to discuss these markets in detail.
  3. Modeling.  We discuss how to map the real world into a mathematical model.  This is a skill that should be applied beyond network design.  Also relevant to other problems is a discussion about the level of precision and number of significant digits in a model.
  4. Activity Based Costing vs Standard Accounting.  When building a network design model, you need to carefully use cost information that will help answer the appropriate question.  Often, this cost information is not the same that gets reported by the accounting team.  The costs reported by the accounting team may have mixed fixed and variable costs together and may have assumptions about the throughput of a site.  It is important to understand these assumptions before using a cost figure in a model.
  5. Regression.  Regression can help you determine transportation costs for lanes you aren’t currently based on the lanes you are using.
  6. Vehicle Routing.  When you open new warehouses, your delivery routes will change.   You can use network design to introduce vehicle routing.
  7. Inventory Optimization.  Service level is an important concept in network design.  But, the location of facilities only covers some aspects of service level.  Inventory optimization covers other aspects.  Also, as you add or remove warehouses, you may have more or less system-wide safety stock.
  8. Debugging.  Network design models capture the entire supply chain.  This means you can build some complex model. Debugging is an important topic and it applies to much more than just network design.
  9. Multi-Objective Optimization.  Many other problems besides network design balance multiple objectives.  You can use network design to introduce the topic and then go into other problems.

Our course material can help you get started with each of these areas.