There is no “official” definition of operations research. Perhaps the best description is that operations research is a scientific approach to solving complex problems. The basic “tools” in a operations researcher’s “toolbox” is mathematical modeling, simulation and quantitative or logical methods. Many of these methods are really powerful when computers are used.
Operations Research (in British English Operational Research and Operationsanalyse in Danish) was “born” in Britain during World War II. Here, the mathematical methods were used to support the military forces in connection with various operations. Since then, operations research developed to be used in conjunction with many different problems other than military ones. Today operations research is used in many different areas within the industry, service and research. This development has led to many analytical methods based on operations research. Examples are:
- Mathematical Programming
- Game Theory
- Queueing theory
- Multiple criteria analysis
With the starting point in military applications, operations research was for many years associated with industry and public authorities, especially in the United States and Great Britain. Since then, rapid development in operational analysis led to other areas involved. Operations Research has been successfully used in economics and financial issues. Similarly, operations research distinguished itself in manpower planning, route planning and logistics. Some of the new areas of operation analysis are health care, environmental issues and education.
In Denmark, operations research has been an active research area since the mid-50s. In Denmark operations research has found its use in:
- Logistics and Routing (KFK, Arla Foods)
- Manpower Planning (Ballerup-centret)
- Planning of Aviation (SAS)
- Telecommunications (TeleDanmark, Ericsson)
- Financials issues (Unibank)
- Production Planning (Lindø Ståls)
Today there is research and education in operations research at all leading Danish universities and colleges.