History of MS/OR

Historical needs for MS/OR

Until the middle of the 19th century, most industrial enterprises only employed a few workers. However, as companies expanded, it became less and less feasible for one person to manage all of the new managerial functions of the business effectively. New scientific methodologies were developed to provide assistance to each new type of managerial function as it appeared. As more specialised forms of management emerged, more specialised subfunctions, such as statistical quality control, equipment maintenance, marketing research, and inventory control emerged. Whenever a managerial function is broken down into a set of different subfunctions, a new task, called the executive function of management, is created to integrate the diverse subfunctions so that they efficiently serve the interests of the business as a whole. The executive function evolved gradually with organizations themselves. However, increasing demands were made on the manager who, in turn, sought aid outside the organization. This gave rise to management consultants. What we call OR/MS today is, in fact, the use of scientific tools to aid the executive.

OR originated in Great Britain during World War II to bring mathematical or quantitative approaches to bear on military operations. Since then OR/MS has evolved to be applicable to the management of all aspects of a system, product, or service, and hence is often referred to as Systems Science or Management Science. It has now become recognised as an important input to decision-making in a wide variety of applications in business, industry, and government.

The term OR arose in the 1940's when research was carried out on the design and analysis of mathematical models for military operations. Since that time the scope of OR has expanded to include economics (known as econometrics), psychology (psychometrics), sociology (sociametrics), marketing (marketing research and marketing science), astrology (astronomy), and corporate planning problems. The growing complexity of management has necessitated the development of sophisticated mathematical techniques for planning and decision-making, and OR/MS features prominently in this structured decision-making process cycle by providing a quantitative evaluation of alternative policies, plans, and decisions. The mathematical disciplines most widely used in OR/MS modeling process include mathematical programming, probability and statistics, and computer science. Some areas of OR, such as inventory control, and production control, and scheduling theory, have grown into sub-disciplines of their own right and have become largely indispensable in the modern world.

Military organisations had gone through the same type of evolution as other businesses and industries. This organizational evolution took place in the twenty year gap between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II when the military leadership had to turn to teams of scientists for aid. These teams of scientists were usually assigned to the executive in charge of operations; hence their work came to be known as Operational Research in the United Kingdom and by a variety of names in the United States: Operation Research, Operational Analysis, System analysis, and Management Science. The name Operations Research is the most widely used.

The potential of computer and information systems as new tools for management forced the non-technically trained executives to begin to look for help in the utilization of the computer. The emerging search for assistance was accelerated by the outbreak of the Korean War. This vigorous growth of OR in the military continued to provide rapid applicability to other industries and sectors.