Laudatio auf Prof. Dr. Karl Inderfurth


Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to present the laudatio for Karl Inderfurth, this year’s winner of the Science Award of the German Operations Research Society. According to the statutes of GOR, the Science Award is the most important award of GOR, for outstanding achievements in the development of Operations Research and recognition of life time contributions.

Born in 1948, Karl Inderfurth studied Economics at the University of Bonn and earned his PhD degree and wrote his habilitation thesis with contributions to Stochastic Dynamic Programming at the Free University of Berlin under the supervision of Christoph Schneeweiß. After working in practice at Schering, he held academic positions in Quantitative Methods at the University of Bochum, in Quantitative Business Administration at the University of Bielefeld and, since 1994, in Production and Logistics at the Otto-von-Guericke University of Magdeburg. His experience in practice explains his focus on relevance in his research, whereas his academic training is responsible for the rigor of his work.

In his career, Karl Inderfurth made important contributions in the fields of Stochastic Dynamic Programming, Inventory Control, at the interface of Operations Management and Finance – subjects which in modern terms we would attribute to Supply Chain Risk Management. In particular, he derived results on structural properties of (linear) inventory control rules using stochastic models of Operations Research. Applications range from cash-balancing models, safety stock placement, reverse logistics and random yield to spare parts inventory management and, recently, behavioral operations and supply chain coordination.

Karl Inderfurth has been a pioneer in various fields. He made contributions in supply chain inventory management when the field was still called multi-echelon inventory theory in the late 80s and early 90s. Here, he contributed to the development of the so-called »guaranteed service approach«, which nowadays is one of the two mainstream approaches in theory, applications, and software solutions to safety stock allocation solutions. He was a member of the European initiative on Reverse Logistics at a time when not many people knew about this field and even a definition had to be developed first. Karl Inderfurth developed structural properties for optimal inventory decisions under uncertainty for systems with product returns which are nowadays widely used for analyses of more complicated closed-loop supply chains. Further, he investigated the lead-time paradox and contributed to the valuation of returns in closed-loop supply chains.

In these two fields, he collaborated in particular with Dutch colleagues, Ton de Kok, Henk Zijm, Geert-Jan van Houtum, Jo van Nunen, Rommert Dekker, Ruud Teunter and Erwin van der Laan. Therefore, there can’t be a better place to hand out this award than Rotterdam in the Netherlands, at a joint conference between the Dutch and the German Operations Research Societies.

Besides research contributions, Karl Inderfurth established Operations Research in the core undergraduate curriculum at the University of Magdeburg. He further contributed to the internationalization of Operations Research in Germany. During his period of being the Editor-in-chief of OR Spectrum, it was decided to move the journal to an English only publication, enabling the success the journal has seen since then. His passion for research is reflected in an orientation for fundamental research, international collaboration, publications in peer reviewed journals – where he published in the major journals like Operations Research and Production and Operations Management and by promoting his PhD-students. This deserves particular mention, as it was not driven by rankings we see nowadays, but by his conviction and enthusiasm for research.

Although this is a science and not a service award, his service for the scientific community and the German Operations Research Society also need to be mentioned. Karl Inderfurth served as the leader of the working group on Inventory Management, he was the Editor-in-Chief of OR Spectrum from 1997 to 2000, he was a member of the Advisory Board of GOR from 1995-2007, during which period he also served as its chairman, and he was the main organizer of the annual OR conference 1999 in Magdeburg.

Because of all these achievements and several more which I cannot mention because of time limitations, congratulations to this well-deserved science award and all the best for the future and the time of professional, but hopefully not scientific, retirement.