Operations research deals with a class of problems that is ubiquitous in the industry, such as scheduling and supply chain management. However, these problems are not easily solved (or even solvable, for that matter) by everyday mathematics or trending technologies, for example machine learning and data mining. Let’s dive straight into a simplified example of a scheduling and path-finding problem that is often encountered in industry.
Figure 1: Mining quarry with four operation sites and roads.
Suppose there is a mining quarry consisting of four key locations positioned on the four corners of a rectangle (Figure 1). Quarry trucks traverse between these locations on single lane roads on a fixed schedule to maximise operational efficiency. Ongoing works at extraction sites make the dirt floor uneven thereby mandating periodic maintenance by a grader. The goal of the problem is to schedule a path for the grader to visit all sites without interrupting the quarry trucks.
Using operations research to tackle a problem like this generally consists of four key steps (in Figure 2):
Figure 2: Four steps in operations research.
We hope this blog sheds light on how operations research can solve some business problems that often feel solvable but are somehow always slightly out of reach. Feel free to reach out to us and we will be more than happy to discuss your business-specific questions.