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Features and Characteristics of Operations Research

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Operations Research utilizes a planned approach following a scientific method and an interdisciplinary team, in order to represent the complex functional relationships as mathematical models, for the purpose of providing a quantitative basis for decision-making and uncovering new problems for quantitative analysis. The broad features of the operation research approach in solving any decision problem are summarized as follows:

Interdisciplinary approach:

For solving any managerial decision problem often interdisciplinary teamwork is essential. This is because while attempting to solve a complex management problem, one person may not have the complete knowledge of all its aspects such as economic, social, political, psychological, engineering, etc. Hence, a team of individuals specializing in various functional areas of management should be organized so that each aspect of the problem can be analyzed to arrive at a solution acceptable to all sections of the organization.

Scientific approach:

Operations research is the application of scientific methods, techniques, and tools to problems involving the operations of systems so as to provide those in control of operations with optimum solutions to the problems. The scientific method consists of observing and defining the problem; formulating and testing the hypothesis; and analyzing the results of the test. The data so obtained is then used to decide whether the hypothesis should be accepted or not. If the hypothesis is accepted, the results should be implemented, otherwise not.

Holistic approach:

While arriving at a decision, an operations research team examines the relative importance of all conflicting and multiple objectives. It also examines the validity of claims of various departments of the organization from the perspective of its implications for the whole organization.

Objective-oriented approach:

An operations research approach seeks to obtain an optimal solution to the problem under analysis. For this, a measure of desirability (or effectiveness) is defined, based on the objective(s) of the organization. A measure of desirability so defined is then used to compare alternative courses of action with respect to their possible outcomes

Example:

The OR approach attempts to find a solution acceptable to all sections of the organization. One such situation is described as follows. A large organization that has a number of management specialists is faced with the basic problem of maintaining stocks of finished goods. To the marketing manager, stocks of a large variety of products are purely a means of supplying the company’s customers with what they want and when they want it.

Clearly, according to a marketing manager, a fully stocked warehouse is of prime importance to the company. But the production manager argues for long production runs, preferably on a smaller product range, particularly if a significant amount of time is lost when production is switched from one variety to another. The result would again be a tendency to increase the amount of stock carried but it is, of course, vital that the plant should be kept running. On the other hand, the finance manager sees stocks in terms of capital that is unproductively tied up and argues strongly for its reduction.

Finally, there appears the personnel manager for whom a steady level of production is advantageous for having better labor relations. Thus, all these people would claim to uphold the interests of the organization, but they do so only from their own specialized points of view. They may come up with contradictory solutions and obviously, all of them cannot be right. In view of such a problem that involves every section of an organization, the decision-maker, irrespective of his/her specialization, may require to seek assistance from OR professionals.

References:

Operations Research Theory and Applications – JK Sharma

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