Operations Research

Researchers or companies in general use different forms of research techniques and methods according to issues they deal with. Especially large companies have a large number of issues or plans they have to sort out every day. Finding effective solutions for important issues plays a significant role in a company or organizational survival.  Operations are all the activities companies carry out on a daily basis. What is the role of operations research in all these? Let’s look at how Morris Tanenbaum, Vice-Chairman and Chief Financial Officer at AT&T Company, defines operations research:

Operations research, also called operational research, is an application of scientific methods to the management and administration of organized military, governmental, commercial, and industrial processes.

(Quote is taken from Brittanica)

In other words, operational research is a scientific study of the activities, operations to help make better and more effective decisions.  Sometimes decision-making is not that simple, and some of the factors that need to be considered don’t correspond with each other. This is when operations research comes into play. Operations research is quantitative in nature and uses mathematical and computational techniques to measure all the possible variations and decide on the final solution. As a result, it helps to improve overall performance. One of the limitations operations research faces is that it depends on statistics.

Operations research follows the standard research steps as in the identification of the problem, deciding on data collection methods that are more suitable, data collection, data analysis, solution, simulation or testing and implementation. The main data collection methods include interviews, observations, focus groups, and secondary data sources.

Operations research was first used for military purposes during WW2, but it has since expanded its horizons. Now, along with the military industry, it is used in government and public sectors – education, business, engineering, agriculture, transport, etc. It can help with investment decisions, advertising budget, distribution policies, and employee recruitment, among other things.


Operations research objectives

As mentioned above, operations research is used for achieving a variety of objectives. Here are some of them:

  • Assistance in better decision-making and productivity enhancement
  • Finding optimal, time-friendly, and cost-effective solutions, even though operations research itself can be quite costly depending on the scope of the issue
  • Help to manage employees, materials, funds more effectively
  • Monitoring the implemented solution


Operations research limitations

  • Operations research uses quantifiable data, so not all the information can be used during the research
  • It is technology-dependent when it comes to the analysis of a large amount of  mathematical data
  • Although it seeks the most budget-friendly solutions, it can be expensive to conduct this kind of research
  • It doesn’t take the human factor into account because it essentially is mathematical in nature