Ep. 01: It's All Networks

Sep 6, 2023

School is in session

Optym University provides an educational overview of optimization, network planning, and artificial intelligence with a focus on how these concepts can improve transportation and logistics.

About this episode:

In 1978, Ravi Ahuja ignited a journey that would transform transportation. Optym, his brainchild, bridges the academic-business gap, serving giants like CSX Transportation, BNSF Railway, and more.

SkySuite, born with Southwest Airlines, shook up Network Planning. Optym's algorithms revolutionized the LTL industry, with half of the top US carriers onboard.

Now, Optym's unified approach targets the full Truckload sector, optimizing data for smarter decisions. Optimization meets AI, bringing integrated and efficient transportation. Join us on this transformative journey.

Video transcript:

The year is 1978. Ravi Ahuja, a young student at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, did a course on Network Optimization.

This wasn't just any course, this was the one that sparked a passion within him to learn more on this subject, a passion that would later change the world of transportation and logistics.

He fell in love with this subject. So much so that he ended up doing his Masters and Ph.D. theses in network optimization, and continued the same research for the next 20+ years during his academic career at IIT, Kanpur; MIT, Cambridge; and the University of Florida, Gainesville.

This research resulted in a classic book “Network Flows: Theory, Algorithms and Applications,” published in 1993 - widely regarded as the bible of Network Optimization, and over 100 research papers, garnering numerous accolades along the way. 

However, Ravi had a revelation. His deep knowledge of network optimization was confined only to academic halls. The real world, the business realm was yet untouched. Determined to bridge this gap, Ravi founded Optym, laying its first seeds in the fertile grounds of North American railroads. Giants like CSX Transportation, BNSF Railway, Norfolk Southern, and Canadian Pacific, all reaped the benefits of Optym’s transformative solutions.

But the journey of Optym was not always easy ride. They faced lots of challenges and learnt valuable lessons on the way. They discovered that academic research could only provide the ingredients but cooking up a successful business solution required much more - a unique recipe that combined data insights and human-machine collaboration to enable users to make better-informed decisions through intuitive user interfaces that are easy to navigate.

In 2013, Southwest Airlines, one of the largest airlines in US, selected Optym to revamp their Network Planning operations. What unfolded next was the creation of SkySuite, an innovative product line that catered perfectly to the needs of Network Planners. Recognizing its pioneering approach, Amadeus took under its wing, the Sky suite of products in 2020, spreading its wings across the globe.

Meanwhile, Optym had another eureka moment. They realized the potential of their network optimization algorithms in revolutionizing the LTL industry. Adapting and fine-tuning its algorithms, Optym swiftly emerged as the frontrunner in this field, creating a suite of products for the LTL industry. Today, half of the top ten LTL carriers in the US are proud clients of Optym, and the family is growing!

The LTL industry, while very complex, is only a fraction of the overall trucking market in US. Eager to make a big impact in transportation, Optym turned its eyes to the much larger full Truckload sector. Here was a gold mine of opportunities, as it was highly fragmented and untouched by optimization solutions.

They set to work, developing a data layer to bring all the decision-making essentials under one roof, and an optimization layer to aid dispatchers in making smarter decisions. 

Optym's secret recipe? A unique, unified approach, reflecting the harmony in diversity.

We create a digital twin of the real-world business problem, a time-space network that captures every movement, every decision, and every goal as mathematical equations on this network. Then comes the magic - algorithms evaluating millions of potential decisions and recommending the optimal ones, all in seconds or minutes.

You may wonder, What's the relationship between optimization and AI?' Well, if we borrow IBM's words, AI mimics the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. And that’s exactly what Optym's optimization models do, it mimics the capability of the human mind and then exceeds it. Thus, optimization a form of AI!

So here we are, Optym - where optimization meets AI, poised to revolutionize the transportation and logistics industry with a focus on trucking, an industry that needs to be more integrated, more automated, and more efficient. 

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