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Applications of Operations Research

(The University of Chicago - Alvin Wei-Cheng Wong)


- Overview

The discipline of operations research (OR) is a branch of mathematics, especially applied mathematics, used to provide a scientific basis for management to make timely and effective decisions on its problems. It tries to avoid the dangers of making decisions by mere guesswork or using rules of thumb. 

Management is a multidimensional and dynamic concept. It is multidimensional because management problems and their solutions have impacts in multiple dimensions, such as the human, economic, social and political spheres. Since the manager runs his system in an environment that will never remain static, it is dynamic in nature. Therefore, any manager, when making a decision, considers all aspects besides the economic one, so his solution should be useful in every respect. 

The general approach is to analyze problems from an economic perspective and then implement solutions without aggression or violence affecting other aspects such as human, social and political constraints.


- The Applications of Operations Research

Operations research (OR) is a field that uses statistics and simulation to make business decisions. OR is a practical discipline that can be applied to many areas, including: 

Some examples of OR include: 

  • Employee scheduling
  • Logistics routing
  • Inventory policy
  • Airplane ticket pricing
  • Emergency evacuation
  • Manufacturing facility staffing
  • Courier delivery routes

OR can also be used in health care to examine disease causes or drug effectiveness. For example, scientists might study the emotions in movies to see which scripts produced more revenue. They might use statistical analysis of language to extract trends of emotions within movies. They might also use statistical notions from the study of economies to analyze the effects of these emotions on customer purchases. 

OR can also be used in supply chains to help make transportation decisions. These decisions can influence a large amount of cash-flow.

OR is often concerned with determining the extreme values of a real-world objective, such as maximum profit or performance. OR solutions are backed by logic and data and can work well where intuitions fail to provide answers. 



[More to come ...]



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