Decision aid

Michaël Schyns is Professor at HEC, the Management School of the University of Liege.
His background is in Computer Sciences and in Management Sciences.
His global field of research is optimization of business processes for improved decision making. He is especially interested by:
New digital technologies for business (especially Virtual and Augmented Reality + Digital Twins)
Machine Learning/Artificial intelligence and Business Analytics
Operations Research (combinatorial optimization)
Combining these elements to create Digital Twins

Some specific projects below. See also the list of project of the AR/VR lab and the publications list.

Digital Twins

We are one of the partners of the Digital Twin Academy project. It is being carried out within the context of Interreg V-A Euregio MeuseRhine, and from the European Regional Development Fund. Considered one of the key technologies of Industry 4.0, digital twins are the ultimate step in digitization creating a virtual representation of a real entity and organizing an exchange iterative loop between digital and real world, they integrate the whole life cycle of products, machines, production lines or even entire companies.  Within the next few years, the use of digital twin technologies will rocket and truly change the way we conduct innovation, research and development, conception, prototyping, production, integration, maintenance, IOT and data management, customer services, logistics, etc. Therefore it affects all companies regardless of their size or sector of activities.


ASLB Digital Twin
at Liège Airport

Partners: ASLB (JM Urbani - R. Ramkissoon) - Liège Airport
This work is done in the context of the Interreg EMR project "Digital Twin Academy" and of a doctoral research funded by the University of Liège.. One of Pr. Schyns' fields of research is the domain of air transportation. Our lab is based in Liège where we can find Liège Airport, a renowned European cargo airport, base of operations for FedEx and Alibaba. Liège Airport and the companies operating within its walls, including ASLB, are faced with a plethora of challenges with costly and potentially dangerous resources. What better way to test your theories on an actual airport? In addition to the plane cockpit and the warehouses, Liège Airport and its numerous resources are currently being digitally modelled and made accessible in Virtual Reality.
This virtual environment is progressively connected to the real one through classical information systems but also thanks to new IoT sensors. When a plane lands at Liège Airport, it also lands in our virtual digital copy! Our system allows the stakeholders to know exactly what happens everywhere at any time. They can visit the airport as if they were in the real one (but with less restrictions). Not only now. You can also go back in the past...or (soon) in the short term future (thanks to machine learning)! It will allow you to better understand all the processes and to see it in a (nearly) real way; in 3D (in addition to more conventional 2D dashboards)! If you wonder what happened at a specific time in the past, you can go and watch.
The next step is under developement by PhD and Master students: the design of new process models. The goal is to activate alerts immediately if the virtual environment detects something unusual in the real one. Some corrective procedures may even be suggested to the operators to ease and speed up their work.

Finally, this VR env is also a perfect place to train new operators or to test new processes! Want to drive a luggage cart to bring ULDs (containers) to an aircraft? Need to learn how to operate the high loader to fill this aircraft? Would you like to simulate an emergency situation without hindering real airport activity?...

If you are interested by previous researches:
The Airline Container Loading Problem with Pickup and Delivery
A mixed integer programming formulation for the three-dimensional bin packing problem deriving from an air cargo application
An ant colony system for responsive dynamic vehicle routing (the case of Liege Airport)
All publications and communications

Animatronics - Robotics

Partners: Jobs@Skills, Inno-Botic
A new project for the lab and the students in Business Engineering: training a dog! This nice four-legged animatronic robot arrived recently in Belgium and was unfortunately not able to do much; like a puppy. With my students at HEC, we implemented vision, data analytics and machine learning techniques to teach him some tricks. This all-terrain robot must be able to help industrial firms in their tasks: systems control, security watch, quality checks, inventory, welcome agent...
Beside, a simulation environment has been designed to test our codes and to communicate with the dog...first step to build a digital twin.
Interested by the dog? More information on the Inno-botic website
La RTBF en parle..

Weight and Balance

We have designed an automatic and interactive mathematical model (Operations Research) providing solutions for the optimal loading of merchandise intended for transport by air. By taking into account a large range of constraints related to the industry it promises to save a lot of time and result in less fuel being used. The model is interesting both from an economic and ecological point of view. More about this research (first work)

- The Aviation Applications Section of INFORMS 2016: best PhD dissertation (Virginie Lurkin)
- AGIFORS (Airline Groupe of the International Federation of Operational Research Society) 2014 Dubai: Anna Valicek Award (best innovative research).
- AGIFORS 2013 Amsterdam : best talk

Hackathon WeCargo

Year: 2019

24h hackathon contest organized by Liege Airport:
"The objective is to bring bright minds together and surround them by industry experts to come up with a solution to an identified problem within 24 hours of intensive work. Get outside your comfort zone and help to shape the future of the air cargo industry in a fun atmosphere.
The winners will get the opportunity to fly to China to present their solution to Alibaba’s headquarter."
12 teams (schools, IT and business intelligence companies), 24h...

Our research team developed in 24h a GSE Pooling solution: a mathematical model forecasting airport equipment use in order to optimize it, based on data measurement.
We were awarded the 1st prize!

SpeakInVR - Digital Twin MeetingRoom

Field experts: E. Etienne, AL Leclercq, F. Peters, A. Remacle, M. Schyns
Development: Service Informatique de Gestion
Year: 2020

SpeakInVR was originally an extensive multi-disciplinary research project. In the context of her PhD thesis, Ms. Etienne has for objective to create a smart learning environment. Candidates will be able to train their public speaking skills. With the help of managers, psychologists and speech therapists, a semi- or fully-automatic custom feedback will be delivered. Traditional as well as artificial intelligence tools are being developed to instantly give a feedback to the candidate. The environment is realistic. The virtual audience will react automatically to the orator's speech. Our research will first analyse what are the best attitudes for the audience (and their impact on the speaker) as well as the level of realism to attain in order to strengthen the sentiment of presence.

(3D) bin packing optimization of a container

Optimal packing of containers (ULDs) in particular for air transport.
Research topic: optimization of a packing "policy" via artificial intelligence (Deep Reinforcement Learning) and operations research techniques.
Goals: training and decision making aid for on-site operators (guided by an augmented reality headset).