Nickel, Stefan

Health Care Logistics

Institute of Operations Research, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany

Healthcare logistics addresses the efficient planning, realization and control of patient-, material- and information-flow within the healthcare sector. Therefore, the use of Operations Research (OR) methods plays a crucial role. It is important to not only put emphasis upon the economic efficiency but also to take the quality of care and patient satisfaction into account. On the other hand, healthcare logistics should not get involved in (core) medical decisions.

Healthcare logistics addresses healthcare facilities and service providers at all levels, for example general practitioners (GP) providing primary care or emergency departments (ED) treating patients with pressing health issues. Care pathways containing several different providers as well as the interaction of providers and services, e.g. when patients are transferred to a hospital by their GP, are also targeted. Usually, processes in healthcare grew historically (“We have always done it this way.”). Consequently, processes have not been analyzed critically until reforms of the health system have put increasing pressure on the providers. Nowadays, especially hospitals are looking for possibilities to improve their processes. The success of logistics concepts in healthcare lies in resource conservation for non-value-adding activities (not directly relevant for the healing process, e.g., administrative work) and high resource utilization for value-adding activities (e.g., surgery) while the personnel shall not be over-utilized (i.e., no overtime). Moreover, the interaction of appropriate logistics concepts with modern OR models allow a patient centered treatment, by respecting the needs of a patient and allowing a smoother process. The digitalization of the healthcare sector offers additional opportunities.

In this talk, we give an overview on how OR methods can be used in order to support process optimization in healthcare organizations. For a subset of healthcare logistics applications arising in different healthcare sectors OR models and numerical results mainly from real world projects will be presented. Examples include: location planning for ambulances and GPs, appointment planning, emergency department simulation, layout planning for hospitals and many more. We will also give some information on how healthcare logistics research is organized in Karlsruhe.


Stefan Nickel is a full professor at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology - KIT (Germany) and one of the directors of the Institute of Operations Research. He obtained his PhD in mathematics at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern (Germany) in 1995. From 1995 to 2003 he was assistant and associate professor in mathematics at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern. After a full professor position at the Saarland University (Chair of Operations Research and Logistics) from 2003 to 2009, he joined the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology as the Chair in Discrete Optimization and Logistics in April 2009. Since 2014 he is the dean of the Department of Economics and Management at KIT. Stefan Nickel was also member of the scientific advisory board as well as of the management board of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Mathematics (ITWM) in Kaiserslautern from 2004-2016. Since 2011 he additionally holds the positions of one of the directors of the Karlsruhe Service Research Institute (KSRI) and of the Research Center for Computer Science (FZI). From 2006-2015 he was editor-in-chief of Computers & Operations Research and is still consulting editor. Moreover, he is editor-in-chief of Operations Research for Health Care. He has coordinated the Health Care working group within the German OR society (GOR) and has been the president of GOR from 2013-2014.

Stefan has authored or co-authored 5 books as well as more than 100 scientific articles in his research areas Locational Analysis, Supply Chain Management, Health Care Logistics, and Online Optimization. He has been awarded the EURO prize for the best EJOR review paper (2012) and the Elsevier prize for the EJOR top cited article 2007-2011. In addition he conducted several industry projects with well-known companies such as BASF, Lufthansa, Miele, and SAP.

Session details

KeynoteAddress This plenary address will be delivered in AH1 on Thursday 29 November at 9:00.