Optimizing Humanitarian Aid

Hein Fleuren is part time full professor at the department of Econometrics and OR, as well as partner and founder of BlueRock Logistics in Den Bosch. Since September 1, 2016 he has a special chair on Data Science for Humanitarian Innovation together with Prof. Conny Rijken from the Law School.

As your new column writer for this academic year, I could not have wished for a better introduction than Prof. Goos Kant’s last column on “Optimizing Society”! Thanks, Goos. Let me introduce myself and share with you my new passion in helping the world with DS/OR.

Long, long ago I studied Mechanical Engineering in Twente. A mistake? No; I did not know what to choose out of a number of nice studies (would be worse in the current time frame) and then my older brother advised me to study Mechanical Engineering because “you could still go in all directions”. In retrospect, it was not really a good motivation, but it has proven to be true. I got more and more interested in the mathematics of production and distribution management and decided to also do a master in Informatics because most OR methods go hand in hand with good Information Science. This turned out to be one of my best career decisions ever.

After my Ph.D. on vehicle routing, I started at consultancy CQM in Eindhoven.  It was a very good time, laying the foundation for my combined interest in research/innovation and applications in the field of OR & Informatics. After 10 years at CQM I moved full time to CentER Applied Research of our University. After 6 years I decided to work as an independent consultant under the name of OR Coach, helping organizations to get the full benefit of OR. In the 11 years that followed, I worked a lot for TNT Express (now FedEX). In 2012, Tilburg University, ORTEC and TNT Express received the crowning glory of our work when it won the Franz Edelman Award.


From time to time, my creativity starts to burn again and three years ago I started, together with my copartner Wouter Lammerse from the software industry, a new firm: BlueRock Logistics. In another column I will tell you about our ideas (but not too much because ORTEC, CQM and Quintiq are also reading this column).

“My new passion is helping the world with OR”

During my years at TNT, I worked regularly for the Board and Peter Bakker was the CEO. Peter initiated the first big ‘commercial – humanitarian aid’: TNT supported the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Rome with knowledge and equipment from TNT where and whenever necessary. One of the actions that still touches me (partly because one of my sons is from Haiti) is that in 2010, when Haiti was hit by a very severe earthquake, only a few days later in the weekend one of TNT’s Boeing 747s wasaof our optimization knowledge to other humanitarian aid organizations. I am very grateful that recently, the faculty TiSEM decided to support me for one day per week in this endeavor in light of the new Data Science initiative. In the near future there are very interesting possibilities for you as well to work in this field! If you are interested, please follow my columns and blackboard.

Tekst by: Hein Fleuren