I had a few people ask me at Modex why Wayne’s wORld ignored proper use of capitalization and the “O” and “R” are bold. At first I was wondering if my passion wasn’t coming through in my words but then I thought maybe I need to work on this a little bit.
In short my answer is OR is Operations Research, the field of study in which I have earned an advanced degree and the analytics I love to apply every day to solve awesome problems. The full answer is certainly more complex and has a whole lot to do with mathematical optimization.
In the spirit of greater context or at least some background, at some schools of higher learning the study of Operations Research is called Industrial Engineering (IE). OR versus IE might be worth expounding on later but for now we’ll just let it ride.
OR (even if you prefer to call it IE) is high-powered problem solving that expands your mind. You know, redefines your ideal for what it means to contribute to higher levels of performance.
In our field of study we learn so many methods to solve complex problems that sometimes the toughest decision is to ensure we select the best method to fit not only the problem but also the appropriate outcome. Most OR professionals focus on a certain technique or discipline and seek to make a profound difference through applicable research and analysis.
I personally chose and specialize in mathematical optimization.
I want to be very clear on what mathematical optimization means. Far to often today “good feasible” or “better than what you were doing” are deemed optimal. And I’ll tell you that’s great fun at happy hours and cocktail parties but for those of us who are serious about the math it’s actually somewhat offensive and quite embarrassing.
The term optimal (notice no use of quotes) is mathematically assured or specifically defined in mathematical terms. For example, in those cases where an integer solution within less than some predetermined acceptable range of the continuous variable optimal is not achieved, we are still able to explain the limiting factors of the recorded best integer solution.
In the end, the objective is to determine the potential best performance of the business enterprise and then execute the plan to achieve this identified potential.
In recent conferences I’ve heard a great deal of talk from very respected and experienced members of the OR / IE community on the limited value of traditional supply chain optimization. I want to be very clear here that I agree with the supposition that traditional strategic supply chain network optimization has reached its theoretical limit.
Only those who continually innovate in the field and effectively apply the advanced capabilities of optimization to applications such as planning will define the full potential of the mathematics we know and love.
Optimal is not a word for us, it is a mathematical fact. We have a passion for proving this fact in a planning environment. For so many years identifying strategic value using supply chain network optimization has been academically and professionally satisfying…and it still is. But dude, I have to tell you, taking it to the next level or the next three levels is so much better, so much more satisfying.
Optimal as applied to planning goes far beyond strategic because tactical and execution optimization become reality.
It’s not easy my friends, but it sure is rewarding and the returns keep coming in.