Case Studies in Optimization 2020

The Case Studies modules

The modules Case Studies Discrete Optimization (MA4512) and Case Studies Nonlinear Optimization (MA4513) are a combination of lectures, project work, presentation and soft skills courses: Experience real world optimization problems and apply the skills you have acquired during your degree program to design and implement an optimal solution. 

In the Case Studies a small team of students is presented a challenging problem by one of our cooperation partners. Your task is to understand the problem, work out the details together, find a viable way to attack the problem and implement a solution. To do this, you will also have to organize your work as a team, discuss possible solutions and obstacles with your partner and present your challenges and results to a broad audience. Of course, your advisors will be ready to help and guide you through that learning experience. They provide mathematical and methodological input in the form of lecture units and individual consulting sessions and also help you with your presentations and provide constant feedback. 

Preliminary meeting and application dates

There was a preliminary meeting for both case studies courses on Thursday, February 6th, at 16:00 in room MI 02.08.011. 

At this meeting, we gave you some information about the case studies courses in general, what to expect during the courses, this year's projects, important dates and the application process. It was a joint meeting for both the "Case Studies Discrete Optimization" and the "Case Studies Nonlinear Optimization". You can find the slides below.

Please note that application by March 1st, 2020 is mandatory! If you have any questions that are not answered here or at the preliminary meeting, please contact Ulf Friedrich at or Florian Lindemann at, respectively. 


Ulf Friedrich

Dr. Ulf Friedrich

Raum: MI 02.04.039
Tel: +49 (0)89 289 26891 
ulf.friedrich (at)

Florian Lindemann

Dr. Florian Lindemann

Raum: MI 03.08.039
Tel: +49 (0)89 289 17940 
lindemann (at)


Case Studies in Nonlinear Optimization

Due to the corona situation, the "Case Studies in Nonlinear Optimization" will not take place in the summer term 2020. The "Case Studies in Discrete Optimization" will take place.

Case Studies in Discrete Optimization

Algorithm-driven modular production (Audi)

Today, car engines are mainly assembled on assembly lines. A more flexible, modular manufacturing concept is being developed to deal with the wide range of variants of future (electric) engines. In this alternative production system, autonomous transport vehicles carry out the material transports between the island assembly stations. Thus, the fixed sequence along the traditional assembly line is resolved. The flexible manufacturing concept is referred to as modular production. Most importantly, it offers more flexibility since a product can follow several routes through the system. Modular production also allows to react to malfunctions at some island stations by using alternative stations. In order to use this new flexibility efficiently, the production control must use appropriate algorithms with the aim of a throughput-optimized production.

Optimizing bus routes and driver schedules at Flixbus (Flixmobility)

Planning routes and schedules for passengers, buses, and drivers on Europe's largest long-distance bus network is very complex if done by hand. Yet, the optimization potential is immense. Any automation and cost savings would have a huge impact. The goal of this project is to develop an optimization approach that, given a timetable and some constraints, minimizes the number of buses needed. The scope could be extended to assume some flexibility in the timetable. To ensure agility and speed, standard mathematical programming approaches (i.e., MIPs) by themselves may not suffice to solve this problem, so some programming skills to design clever heuristics are recommended.

PRELIMINARY: Logistics of humanitarian OR (World Food Programme)

At the United Nations World Food Programme, several logistic challenges have to be solved. In this project, the warehousing, replenishment, and distribution of staple food is analyzed. The aim is to develop an easy-to-use, lightweight software tool to support the WFP employees and volunteers on site with the logistics. The primary objective is to minimize warehousing and distribution costs while the regular supply of food has to be guaranteed at all times. Additionally, the robustness of the solution and the customization of the model in changed scenarios are considered.

Discrete optimization and machine learning for truck routing (Smartlane)

Efficient logistical operations ensures that the supermarket have fresh produce every day, that pharmacies can order and receive medication fast and that industrial supply chains operate smoothly. It also means less pollution, less traffic and less waste. However, it still largely runs on paper today. Smartlane offers the highest degree of automation and transparency as well as industry-specific configuration capabilities. We develop a transport optimization software based on mathematical programming techniques and machine learning to automate and optimize transport planning as well as data mining of transport-specific processes. At the core of the software is the vehicle routing problem (VRP): a generalization of the well-known traveling salesperson problem (TSP), both of which are NP-hard in general. Modeling real-world constraints that arise from different business models, laws and regulations often lead to models where it can be hard to find feasible solutions. Finding a balance between model complexity and being able to find solutions fast enough, which can mean anything from within 10 minutes to a whole day, depending on the business model, is a challenging task requiring both good modeling, insight into the algorithms used, smart pre-processing and a healthy dose of pragmatism.

The car sequencing problem (Dassault Systèmes)

In the automotive industry, customer orders are transmitted daily to the factories and have to be included in the production plan real-time. For a feasible production plan, a production date hast to be assigned to each ordered vehicle such that it can be delivered before the date promised in the contract, while respecting production line capacities. For all cars assigned to a given production day, the order of cars to be put on the line has to be determined in such a way that the order is feasible for the several production steps in the factory, e.g., at the paint shop and at the assembly lines.  The combinatorial challenge of this process results from the fact that in some production steps similar cars should be grouped (e.g., cars of the same color should be painted in a row), whereas in other steps similarities have to be split (e.g., only a small number of sunroofs per hour).


Application is possible until March 1st, 2020. It is mandatory and binding. To register for the Case Studies in Discrete Optimization or the Case Studies in Nonlinear Optimization, please write a short mail to casestudies.or (at) providing the following information:

  • last name, first name
  • your master's program (Mathematics, Mathematics in Bioscience, Mathematics in Science and Engineering, Mathematical Finance and Actuarial Science, Mathematics in Operations Research, Mathematics in Data Science, others) and your current semester (counting from the beginning of your master's program).
  • transcript of records (including all optimization related lectures that you have attended and passed the exam - for lectures from other faculties or universities, please give a short description of the topics covered so that we know about your expertise in the field)
  • programming skills (programming languages and other programming related skills, experience in using optimization software)
  • language skills, especially whether you speak (some) German (as some cooperation partners might only speak German; still, this will not exclude you from any project per default!)
  • ranking of the projects (which do you find most interesting, which would be a good alternative etc.); please rank at least three. You can rank 2 projects at the same place, e.g. [1. project A, 2. project B, 2. project C]. You can also submit an application with a "mixed" ranking including projects from discrete and nonlinear optimization. If you are also interested in the Case Studies Life Science Mathematics (see also, you can include projects from Life Science, too (in this case: please submit your application also to We will then assign you to one of these courses while trying to respect your individual ranking.
  • persons you would like to work with as a team (please ask all these persons to give your name in their application, too)
  • any additional information that might be relevant for the choice of your project or your partners 

You may also submit a joint application by ranking all projects for both Case Studies courses. We will then try to fit you into one of the courses according to your project preferences.

We will send you a short message when we have received your email. If you do not receive an acknowledgement within a week, please resubmit your application.

After March 1st, we still have a limited number of places available for incomings from abroad and for master students coming from other universities and starting at TUM this summer. If this applies to you, please mention that in your email. If not claimed, these places will be freed for applicants a few weeks before summer term starts. If this applies to you, we will inform you about that by email.