How to recognise the opportunity
Begin with a general review of your organisation, its departments, and its processes. Look for difficult decisions that could benefit from the analysis of large amounts of data – like where to locate a new plant or how to make a manufacturing process more efficient. Look for complex processes that are being performed manually or with outdated systems. Look for important decisions that are made every day that might benefit from real-time data driven insight.
Are you gaining the most from your supply chain, logistics, or manufacturing processes? The way you deliver your services, set your prices, or evaluate your portfolio? These are all areas where O.R. can help you make significant improvements.
7 Signs that an organisation could benefit from operational research
If one or more of the following signs applies to your situation, an O.R. professional may offer the insight you and your organisation need.
- The management face complex decisions. Management are faced with more decision factors than they feel they can cope with and key operational systems lack 'intelligence'. O.R. professionals can analyse complex situations and build intelligence into key systems, so as to reveal the truly best options.
- The management isn't sure what the main problem is. Managers know that they face problems but find it difficult to determine exactly what the problems are, or which areas and projects should be prioritised.
- The management is uncertain about potential outcomes. Managers face great uncertainty about the operating environment and what could happen as a consequence of various decisions. O.R. professionals can model various scenarios, undertake 'what-if' analyses and help to determine potential outcomes and strategies.
- The organisation is having problems with processes. One or more of the organisation's processes is broken or needs to work a lot better. Many small, day-to-day decisions are not being made well, and it's having an impact on the bottom line. O.R. can help improve these processes and their outcomes dramatically.
- Management is troubled by risk. Assessing the risk of a new project or contract can be tricky. O.R. can help to quantify risk, which is key to controlling it. O.R. professionals can assist by planning how best to balance risk against the gains an organisation can expect.
- The organisation is not making the most of its data. Most organisations probably track information about many aspects of their operations and have huge amounts of data they're not sure how to use for decision making. O.R. specialises in working with data – extracting the most valuable information from what's currently collected, and showing what additional data could be collected to increase the value even further.
- The organisation needs to beat stiff competition. Others in the organisation's field are probably already using O.R. to gain competitive advantage. An O.R. professional can help an organisation to stay on top with the latest methods – and open up important new sources of advantage.
Where to find help
There's more than one way to engage O.R. professionals who have the expertise you need.
Inside your organisation: You may find employees with O.R. training in one or more departments – Analytics, engineering, R&D, IT, scheduling, planning, logistics, pricing, etc. If you don't, consider hiring an O.R. professional and adding him or her to the mix, or even creating a new department.
Outside your organization: There are many qualified O.R. professionals offering their services as independent consultants or members of consulting firms. There are also companies delivering O.R. solutions like optimisation software and services. To search for O.R. professionals or companies, go to Find an O.R. Professional.
Inside and outside: Combining both internal and external resources has its advantages. You can leverage external specialties beyond your own resources, while building solution and system expertise internally for long-term support after the outside resources are gone.