What is Operations Research?
Last Updated: 08/16/2022 and all information on this page is accurate and up-to-date
What is Operations Research?
The simple answer: Operations research (OR) is a discipline of problem-solving and decision-making that uses advanced analytical methods to help management run an effective organization. Problems are broken down, analyzed and solved in steps.
- Identify a problem
- Build a model around the real-world problem
- Use the model to arrive at solutions
- Test the solution and analyze its success
- Implement the solution
The technical answer: Operations research, also known as management sciences, uses scientific methodology to study systems whose design or operation requires human decision-making. OR provides the means for making the most effective systems design and operation decisions. The strength and versatility of OR stem from its diagnostic power through observation and modeling and its prescriptive power through analysis and synthesis.
OR is interdisciplinary, drawing on and contributing to the techniques from many fields, including mathematics and mathematical sciences, engineering, economics and the physical sciences. OR practitioners have successfully solved a wide variety of real-world problems, varying from the optimal design of telecommunications networks in uncertain demand to the planning for an optimal deployment of armed forces during wartime. Many new applications originate from current societal energy production and distribution problems, environmental pollution control, health maintenance, and software production.
The CEO of the Future is an Engineer
Studies show that three times as many S&P 500 CEOs hold undergraduate degrees in engineering rather than business administration. Operation research practitioners lead that trend among the next generation of engineers and scientists. They are tomorrow’s business leaders.
Operations Research Offers Workplace Freedom
Operations research practitioners have offices and work in the settings they are trying to improve. When collecting data, they may observe the staff working in a restaurant or watch workers assembling parts in a factory. When solving problems, they are in an office analyzing the data they or others have collected.
The World Needs more Operations Research
As companies battle in the competitive world market, the need for operations research practitioners grows. Why? They are the engineers trained to be productivity and quality improvement specialists. They share the common goal of saving companies money and increasing performance.
Operations Research is all about Options
Operations research practitioners work in almost any industry, anywhere in the world. They can work in and out of the office while interacting with people and processes they want to improve. This flexibility gives them a career advantage over other types of engineering. Operations research practitioners have the luxury of not specializing. They can keep their options open. This makes them immune to the ups and downs of any individual industry.
Careers in Operations Research
When considering a career in operations research, it’s logical to ask, Will I be able to get a job?” Answer: “YES”
Operation Research Continues to Grow
According to the Bureau of Labor, operations research employment will continue to grow by over 25 percent during the next decade. This is faster than the average for all occupations.
Companies look for new ways to reduce costs and raise productivity every day. They will turn to operation research practitioners to develop more efficient processes and reduce costs, delays and waste. This leads to job growth for these engineers, even in manufacturing industries with slow-growing or declining employment. Because their work is done in management, many operations research practitioners leave the occupation to become managers.
It is a great time to be an operations research practitioner. They solve problems and there’s never a shortage of those!