About Operations Research

Operational Research (OR), also known as Management Science (MS), is the scientific approach to solving management problems. Typical OR/MS problems involve deciding how to make the most cost-effective use of limited resources such as people, machines, money and time. Using observation, data, and analysis, the OR practitioner builds up quantitative relationships, called models, which may be used to help management make informed decisions.  To find out more, visit Min and Max, the O.R. Heroes

Examples of OR/MS in practice

Operational Research is very practical discipline, and it has been used successfully to improve the productivity of New Zealand industry and commerce. We list here some examples of the recent application of OR/MS in New Zealand.

Air Crew Scheduling
Air New Zealand has an active OR/MS group concerned with flight and crew scheduling. Their systems use  optimisation software developed by Professor David Ryan and his students at the University of Auckland. (For more, see the article in the April 2000 issue of OR/MS Today (or a text version in air-crew scheduling). )

Staff Rostering
Models based on OR/MS techniques underly the computer systems for staff rostering  implemented at a number of nNew Zealand companies. (For more, see  rostering)

Supply-chain planning in the paper industry
A supply-chain optimisation model, known as Paper Industry Value Optimisation Tool (PIVOT) was recently developed for a New Zealand paper comapny. PIVOT finds an optimal allocation of supplier to mill, product to paper machine, and paper machine to customer, while at the same time modelling many of the supply chain details and nuances which are peculiar to the company.  PIVOT has assisted the company in solving a number of strategic and tactical decision problems, and provided significant economic benefits to the company. (For more, download PDF)

Scheduling trains and drivers simultaneously
A single optimisation model which schedules both trains and their associated train drivers is being developed for a New Zealand railway utility. The train scheduling (or timetabling) problem seeks to construct a legal timetable for a specified number of trains that minimises train delays. The driver scheduling problem constructs minimal cost driver shifts for a given train timetable.

Electricity market modelling
The New Zealand wholesale electricity market software for computing optimal dispatches and nodal prices is based on a linear programming model of the electricity transmission grid. Linear programming is one of the standard modelling techniques of OR/MS.  (For more, download PDF)

Micro-simulation in military applications
The New Zealand Defence Establishment is collaborating with other defence forces in the development of micro-simulation models of military engagements.  These simulation models can be used to investigate the implications of different military strategies. (For more, download PDF)

Three Dimensional Container Packing of Drums and Pallets
A model has been developed for a New Zealand electrical cable company to enable them to increase teh utilisation of the pallets and drums they use to transport their cable. (For more, download PDF)