Supply Chain and Logistics Student Adolfo Rocco Defends Thesis to Earn PhD in Operations Research

Adolfo Rocco, a graduate student assistant studying under SCL faculty members Alan Erera and Alejandro Toriello, recently earned his PhD after successfully defending his thesis "Service Network Design for Parcel Trucking". Adolfo's research focuses on applications and technologies that use optimization techniques to solve complex real-world problems. Its relevance to supply chain and logistics revolves around last-mile logistics, an essential part of the economy involving the transportation of goods from producers to end-consumers. As a result of the explosive growth of e-commerce in the past decade, e-commerce sales ratios have nearly tripled globally and demand for last-mile delivery is expected to grow 78% globally by 2030. One of the main objectives of last-mile delivery logistics is to deliver packages as affordably, quickly, and efficiently as possible.

Adolfo’s dissertation research involved a large-scale package express service network design in collaboration with one of the largest courier companies in China. The objective of the project was to support the growth and evolution of the intercity logistics network (expanding coverage, offering tighter service levels, and improving efficiency). The challenge was to build flat network models given large problem size, time requirements for package movement, and consideration for relevant operational constraints. The first phase of the project focused on a detailed intracity scheduling service network design problem for megacities and developing a simple rated-based model to design shuttle and commodity paths. The next project phase focused on linehaul consolidation planning, and specifically, determining the most cost-effective hubs for cross-docking activities through developing decomposition greedy approaches that employ smaller tractable integer programming problems. In the final project phase, the focus was on a freight flow plan that conforms generalized in-tree structure and which basically generalize the in-tree concept. A main goal of the project was to build a large-scale plan when hub selection is not a concern, time requirements are relevant, and conformity and enforcement of a generalized in-tree structure that enhances operational realism is accomplished. 

When asked why Rocco was interested in this specific research area, he commented, "I am passionate about employing operations research techniques to solve challenging real-world problems. I strongly believe that city logistics plays a major role in the economy because of the growth in world population and e-commerce in past years. City logistics directly impacts the lives of people and, if not addressed correctly, can have a negative impact on quality of life. Advances in scientific methodologies and computer capabilities permit us to employ enabling cutting-edge technology to tackle these challenges appropriately. This is an exciting field that I yearn more people get involved with."
Before being accepted into the PhD program, Adolfo worked for five years at an operations research consulting firm in Chile building optimization models for a Workforce Management technology system. In the summer of 2019 he interned at Delta, developing an approach to increase revenue through routing optimization. In the summer of 2020, Rocco interned with the worldwide capacity planning operations research group at Amazon, enhancing scheduling models for customer service agents. After earning his PhD, Adolfo will join Amazon as a Research Scientist working with the team he previously interned with.