Class Project


It is essential that you get busy immediately, because you cannot plan realistically until you understand the work required. You should organize your group’s resources quickly: database manipulation, CAD drawing, programming skills, report writing, presentation, etc. Make sure you can communicate with each other reliably and quickly.

Here is a calendar of milestones by which you can manage your work:

Date Milestone
By week 2 Appoint leaders, form groups. Determine resources, such as who can write, present, program, who knows databases, etc.
By week 3 Client visit, presentation
By week 4 Preliminary definition of project; data request to client. Prepare tools for data examination, manipulation.
By week 5 Receive data. Check for irregularities. Prepare summary.
By week 6 Refinement of project goals; schedule for remainder of project, assignment of tasks within group
By week 10 Finish tool-building, large-scale data analysis.
By week 12 Final runs of any large data analyses, simulations, etc.
By week 14 Draft of project report, presentation
By Week 15 Organize and package all tools, documentation for client.
On Week 16 Presentations, submission of final report

Do not contact the client directly.

Instead, send any questions to me. I will collate them, forward them to the client and distribute the replies.

It is okay for one group to use the results or work of another, so long as the source is properly cited. I recommend that you share information about the client, but keep your own analysis to yourself.


  1. Each group will make a 30-minute presentation, including questions, as scheduled in the class calendar. At the time of the presentation, you must submit four paper copies, in color, of your presentation slides. These should be printed 2 or 3 to a page, with space on which to take notes, and bound or stapled.
  2. Four copies of a bound or stapled executive summary, not to exceed 10 pages, written for the client.
  3. Four copies on a memory stick or CD containing all your work, including the presentation, executive summary, appendices, figures, graphs, spreadsheets, databases, computer programs and source code, etc. — in short, everything necessary for the client to follow every step of your work and to reconstruct your conclusions or extend your analysis. Your final report should include links to all supporting materials along with descriptions of what they are. The name of the main file should follow the convention main-YYYYMM-Team-N.html, where YYYYMM is the year and month of your presentation and N is your team number. If you use a CD, make sure it is in a protective case and that the case is labeled Course number-YYYYMM-Team-N.
  4. Each group leader should also send me email listing the relative contributions of his/her group members: Rate each one as Extraordinary, Satisfactory, or Seriously Deficient. If other than Satisfactory, please support your rating with a detailed justification of at least 200 words.

You may need to bring more than four copies of each of the above, depending on how many representatives the client brings. This will be determined close to the time of presentation.

All of the deliverables are due at the time of presentation.

Each group will be graded on technical excellence, professionalism, and ability to work together. Group leaders will help me in evaluating the contributions of the group members. If you experience problems, contact me immediately. It is too late to do anything if I do not hear about the problem until the end of the project.

Note that all material is testable on the final exam. Each group member is expected to know about all aspects of the groups tools, techniques, and conclusions. For example, if the group wrote SQL queries to manipulate data then everyone in the group is responsible for understanding what was done and why.

Everyone is expected to attend each presentation, including those of other groups. Because presentation time will be short, please arrive promptly, take a seat, and remain quiet. If you have to leave the classroom for some reason, please do so as quietly and unobtrusively as possible.

The material displayed in the final presentations are part of the course material and may appear on any final exam.

Advice on the presentation and final report

Your presentation is the single most important deliverable.

It is the only chance to engage your client directly and will determine a large part of your project grade. If you make a bad impression, it is almost impossible to recover.

Suggested first steps

What to do about errors in client data

You will encounter errors in the client data. Here is how to handle them: Answer the following questions as succinctly and clearly as you can.

  1. How big is the problem? If it affects only 10 skus out of 10,000, you can probably ignore it. If it affects 3,000, you cannot. If 1,000, then it depends.
  2. How will the problem affect your project? Does this problem completely stop the project? Does it threaten the time-line of the project? Can it be dealt with separately (for example, if the data problems were mostly with product in one zone of the warehouse)? Will this data invalidate your study or make it less accurate? How much less accurate?
  3. What do you propose to do about the problem? Avoid making work for your client. Your job is to figure out how to can get what you need with as little inconvenience as possible to the client.

In preparing the problem statement be clear and as brief as possible. Try to present the problem so that the client can understand it at a glance. Make it easy for him to choose one of the suggested options for how to proceed. For example:

Some skus have a dimension (length, width, or height) of 0.
1,438 out of 25,000 skus
The attached table shows the 50 most important skus of those with missing dimensions.
How this will affect the project
We cannot reliably slot these skus because we do not know how much space each occupies.
Proposed remedies
  • Alternative 1: We visit either the warehouse or a retail store and measure the 100 skus that matter most. We ignore the rest (as in Alternative 3).
  • Alternative 2: We estimate the sizes of the most important skus based on text descriptions.
  • Alternative 3: Based on current sku densities we estimate that 20 sections of shelving are required to hold the skus with missing dimensions. We suggest reserving this shelving so that these skus can be slotted after their dimensions are known.

How to use the data

Use part of the data to guide your design but reserve some of the more recent data for testing. (If you use the entire dataset for design and then use it again to test that design, you are in effect assuming perfect foreknowledge of the future and so your projected improvements will be unreasonably optimistic.)