Introduction – Detailed history of Operations Research

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Detailed history of Operations Research

There is always a specific developmental period of management which one can often find in management books. This period of development is known as Scientific Management.Fredrick W. Taylor who is considered as the “father of scientific management”, in 1885 developed the theoriesof scientific management.

Also known as the Modern Era, the theory was conceptualised when techniques of management and its development of concepts took place rapidly. It was during World War II when the  government of Great Britain was forced to look upto engineers and scientists by production bottlenecks. This was done by them to achieve an utmost military production in  that situation.

Then was the creation of mathematical models which took place that was made by engineers and scientists. These models were produced to find the solution of a grave issue; the growing military equipment production.

Since these models were used as research stereotypes for armed forces in war operations, this particular branch of study is known as Operations Research or OR.Production system also faced problems similar to that of armed forces. As this Operations Research was a huge success to the war problems in the military operations, industries also started using this approach as well.

Why is the study of Operations Research necessary?

Where there is a restriction of limited resources and the decision has to be taken under those circumstances, Operations Research comes to help. It helps in determining the most favourable course of action to such complicating issues. As real life problems can be converted to amathematical model, the basic features of Operations Research helps in formulating them.

Nearly all the manufacturers in the production industry look for effective methods to reduce their production costor labour cost. They can easily employ Operations Research to resolve their production problem in real life.

Operations Research is both an Art and Science and should always be considered as a problem-solving method. The part of Operations Research which is associated with Art deals with the OR team. They develop a good connection with the people who implement the supplied information as an effectively recommended solution. The utilisation of mathematical procedure for solving decision-related problems is the Science part of Operations Research. Both the parts, i.e., Science and Art part of Operations Research when are understood properly, they together can function as a problem-solvingsystem.

It was during 1950’s when the Operations Research (OR) was formed in India. Serving the entire OR community which included researchers, students,educators and practitioners were the mission of the Journal of Operations Research. In Jan-Feb 2001, an anniversary issue was published to honour its 50th Anniversary of Operations Research.

In the current times, many business and industrial houses hire Operations Researchteams touse this approach for findingsolutions to their issues. This is because the industries have become aware of the potential of Operations Research technique.

The sectors which are using the advantageousness of OR are Indian Airlines, DCM netcare,Telco, Defence Forces, and Railways. For an effective control and planning in construction projects, many companies in most of the times use few operating procedures of Operations Research. The commonly used methods are like Critical Path Method (CPM)and Programme Evaluation and Reviewing Techniques (PERT).

As Operations Research is an excellent decision-making tool, it helps in increasing a firm’s interest. But there are certain organisations which see OR as a management trend which for them has limited use.Also, there are few companies who in order to prove that they can use Operations Research as an effective managerial technique, try to force fit it. They even do not consider if their company’s functioning need requires OR or not. Nevertheless, Operations Research techniques have always been an advantage to companies because of its effective solution provision tocomplicated real life problems.

Defining Operations Research

It is nearly impossible to limit the scope of Operations Research in one definition, although numerous authors have specified various meanings of OR. If students want to know the precise definition of Operations Research, they should understand that a single definition of it isn’t satisfactory to everyone. But there are two definitions, explaining the concept of Operations Researchwhich is accepted widely.

Definition according to Operations Research Society of America

“The scientifically deciding factor which states how to design and operate the best man-machine system and generally falls under certain conditions demanding allocation of insufficient resources is Operations Research.”

In short, this definition has 4 important parts.

  1. The resources here are limited.
  2. The concern is withman-machine system.
  3. It increases the value of the result.
  4. It is based on scientific decision-making technique.

Definition according to HM Wagner

“For a decision-making management, Operations Research is a problem solving scientific approach.”

The emphasising points in this definition are:

  1. It is a technique used for solving problems relatedto industries.
  2. It is a scientific methodology.
  3. Executives who take major decisions for the companies use this approach.

If both the definitions are looked upon closely, it can be clearly seen that both the interpretations have the same meaning. The other definitions apart from these two which are used by people covers these same essential features.

Parroting the definitions by many authors will not serve the purpose if it is not done with a clear understanding of its meaning. The importance of Operations Research lies on the technique’s application which can come to the advantage of a company. Therefore, a company’s ability to in meeting their objectives by utilising the advantage of any managerial technique is ORs actual work.

Operation Research, Operation Management, Production Management and Systems Management

Before one starts understanding the basic concepts of these above-stated subjects, the person needs to know that the 4 of these are inter-related to each other.

Materials,machines andmost importantly, workmen are the 3 main factors which are brought together by any production function. The combined use of these three factors helps in the provision of services and commodities and for fulfilling the requirements, necessities as well as the desires of people.

The word ‘production’ has always been associated with companies and factories whose physical sense has been only related to theproduction of commodities. The basic idea related to the definition offactory is a working ground or a place where people are hired to perform various functions. These works include cleaning,  working in specific areas, creating, breaking, modifying, demolishing, reconstructing, beautifying, finishing, or selecting any good for sale.

It can be explained in the form of a simple example. When  household items or commodities are manufactured in a factory, generally it is produced as a mass production. Although the production management of these commodities is important but the service management related to it is also extremely essential.

If the example of McDonald’s is taken, a person can easily differentiate between the production of a burger which is a product, from its delivery which is its service.

The production of merchandises and its service can be easily taken into account in production management if we can conceptualise the production procedure as a process where both commodities and services are created. Due to this concept the area of production management covers certain non-manufacturing processes which includes education, transport, banks, health and much more.

Just because of all the abovestated reasons which numerous authors have put forward regarding operations managementor term production, application of management technique of the trio* has been included in OR.

The factor which is involved in every large or small scale business is its operation function. Therefore, it is ‘Operation’s general concept which incorporates both aspects of manufacture and service in a company, and not ‘production’.

Trio*: Material, machine and men.


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