Our Expert Group gathers again (part 1)

Posted by Dr. An De Wispelaere on 28/10/2016


It’s not exactly a secret that we are huge fans of Tesla. In particular we are convinced Elon Musk is spot-on in emphasising the importance of the feedback loop. It is because of this feedback loop Tesla is able to develop innovative products that really suit the needs of Tesla clients at a relatively high pace.
Which is exactly what Conundra wants to achieve, namely to improve OptiFlow – in a way that benefits our clients.


Solving logistic challenges, together

A while ago we started organising ‘Expert Groups’, to enable this feedback loop for our customers. Getting together is a great opportunity to meet and talk to other people from your own and other industries. But we especially want to ensure there is an opportunity to listen to our clients’ needs and let them have a say in what is next for OptiFlow. It’s also an excellent event for us to showcase our wildest ideas and possible features for OptiFlow, and gather direct feedback from our users.

Without appearing presumptuous, we think the Expert Group is a real success. We recently organised a third edition and saw attendance grow to more than forty clients and prospects. 

This time, before presenting possible new features for OptiFlow, we wanted to showcase a new project we are very about proud of - Scholengroep Dender. Especially as it was totally new terrain for us here at Conundra. A lot of our projects concern the logistics of transporting goods, but in this case OptiFlow would be utilized to help organise the transport of pupils for one of the largest school associations in Belgium.


Case Scholengroep Dender:
handling school busses more efficiently

logo dender.jpgChildren attending primary school are something totally different from packages and goods, which made the project for the Dender school association very much a new type of logistical challenge.

xpert dender.pngFor Joke Heerman, head of finance for the educational group, it was quite clear that a solution such as OptiFlow was required. The association is comprised of thirty schools in the region around Aalst, Belgium. That means every day many pupils have to be transported to and from schools, which are spread out over quite a large area. To do that required a fleet of 18 vehicles.

Another logistical factor to take into account is that these busses are also used for outings and day trips, such as taking pupils to sport facilities and museums. The cost in terms of the employment of drivers amounted to 10,5 FTE’s, with additional personnel – mainly teachers – travelling along for assisting the pupils.

Planning al these trips was done completely manually and decentralised, which was very time intensive. On top of that, the manual planning had some serious downsides for certain pupils.

Some pupils were forced to travel for a very long time on a bus, even though the distance from home to school was not that large. Traffic congestion also created extra problems.

The routes took longer than they should, which meant the drivers (who have a dual role on the schools) were not able to spend sufficient time on their other role (e.g. maintenance of school equipment and buildings, …) This meant that the suboptimal organisation of the bus routes was also affecting the quality of the school infrastructure.

Another reason to consider OptiFlow was that the school association was looking for a way to centralise bus route planning and save costs. The transport of pupils was a cost leader.

Which is why Dender started using OptiFlow from this academic year onward. Straight from the start it has had a huge impact.

“Because we are more efficient now, we are able to utilise two busses less. If you consider at some point we need to replace old vehicles and that a bus costs a princely sum, then we are talking about a lot of money”, says Joke.

OptiFlow is still being fine tuned for Dender, but it is clear the positive results are already very noticeable.


Are you triggered by this case? Or would you also like to participate in our feedback loop? Join us at the next Expert Group or contact us.

Dr. An De Wispelaere

Written by Dr. An De Wispelaere

An is co-founder and managing director of Conundra. She has over 10 years of experience in mathematical optimization and is the experienced and creative spirit on many of Conundra’s breakthrough systems. An has a PhD in mathematics and has numerous publications within this field.