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Unformatted text preview: H.A. Eiselt and C.-L. Sandblom, Operations Research: A Model-Based Approach , 1 DOI 10.1007/978-3-642-10326-1_1, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010 In its first section, this introductory chapter first introduces operations research as a discipline. It defines its function and then traces its roots to its beginnings. The second section highlights some of the main elements of operations research and discusses a number of potential difficulties and pitfalls. Finally, the third section of this chapter suggests an eight-step procedure for the modeling process. 1.1 The Nature and History of Operations Research The subject matter, operations research or management science (even though there may be philosophical differences, we use the two terms interchangeably), has been defined by many researchers in the field. Definitions range from a scientific approach to decision making, to the use of quantitative tools for systems that originate from real life, scientific decision making, and others. In the mid-1970s, the Operations Research Society of America (then one of the two large professional societies in the field) defined the subject matter as follows: Operations Research is concerned with scientifically deciding how to best design and operate man-machine systems usually under conditions requiring the allocation of scarce resources. Today, the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS) markets operations research as the science of better. What all of this essentially means is that the science uses indeed quantitative techniques to make and prepare decisions, by determining the most efficient way to act under given circumstances. In other words, rather than throwing large amounts of resources (such as money) at a problem, operations research will determine ways to do things more efficiently. Rather than being restricted to being a toolkit for quantitative planners, operations research is much more: it is a way of thinking that does not just do things, but, during each step of the way, attempts to do them more efficiently: the waitress, who 1 Introduction to Operations Research 1 Introduction to Operations Research 2 provides coffee refills along the way rather than making special trips; the personnel manager who (re-) assigns employees so as to either minimize the number of employees needed, or to schedule employees to shifts, so as to make them more pleasant; the municipal planner, who incorporates the typically widely diverging goals and objectives of multiple constituents or stakeholders when locating a new sewage treatment plants; the project manager, who has to coordinate many different and independent activities. All of these individuals can benefit from the large variety of tools available....
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