The ambiguous term operations research (O.R.) was coined during World War II, when the British military management called upon a group of scientists together to apply a scientific approach in the study of military operations to win the battle. The main objective was to allocate scarce resources in an effective manner to various military operations and to the activities within each operation.
The effectiveness of operations research in military spread interest in it to other government departments and industry.
Due to the availability of faster and flexible computing facilities and the number of qualified O.R. professionals, it is now widely used in military, business, industry, transportation, public health, crime investigation, etc.
"War is the science of destruction." - John S. C. Abbott
OR means to use scientific and mathematical techniques for making decisions and solving problems. It is concerned with co-ordinating and controlling the operations or activities within an organization. It can be regarded as use of mathematical and quantitative techniques to substantiate the decisions being taken. OR helps to take decisions about operations and production. It takes tools from subjects like mathematics, statistics, engineering, economics, psychology, etc. and uses them to know the consequences of possible alternative actions.
Numerous synonyms for operations research are in common use. The British like operational research and the Americans like management science, but a preferable term to describe this subject is decision analysis.
Following are some defintions of operations research by different authors.
O.R. is the art of winning wars without actually fighting. - Aurther Clarke
It is concerned with scientifically deciding how to best design and operate man-machine systems usually under conditions requiring the allocation of scarce resources. -O.R. Society of America
O.R. is the art of giving bad answers to problems which otherwise have worse answers. -T.L. Saaty
O.R. is applied decision theory. It uses any scientific, mathematical or logical means to attempt to cope with the problems that confront the executive, when he tries to achieve a thorough-going rationality in dealing with his decision problems. -D.W. Miller and M.K. Starr
Operational research is a scientific approach to problems solving for executive management. -H.M. Wagner
O.R. is the application of scientific methods, techniques and tools to problems involving the operations of a system so as to provide those in control of the system with optimum solution to the problem. -Churchman, Ackoff and Arnoff
O.R. is the study of administrative system pursued in the same scientific manner in which systems in Physics, Chemistry and Biology are studied in natural sciences.
O.R. is scientific methodology-analytical, experimental, quantitative-which by assessing the overall implication of various alternative courses of action in a management system, provides an improved basis for management decisions. –Pocock
O.R. is the use of scientific methods to provide criteria for decisions regarding man machine systems involving repetitive operations.
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