In this article, we highlight 5 industries that cannot survive without Operations Research.
1) Electricity generation
For an Electricity provider, the amount of energy injected into the electricity grid must be equal to the total energy consumed. All the time!
Each player in the electricity system must ensure a balance between the consumption of its customers and the production of its plants. To ensure this balance, the electricity producer realizes each day for the next day a forecast of the consumption of its customers and must build a production programs for each of its plants accordingly.
The development of these production programs is both a major economic and a huge mathematical challenge. Without operation research and its optimization techniques, we would end up with major power cuts most of the time.
The field of telecommunications is constantly evolving. Economic and social issues concern all sectors of activity, from health to the production of goods and services.
Continuous evolution of technology and services in a liberalized sector continuously generate new optimization problems: resource management, mobile network planning, broadband and virtualization, big data management… etc. for which Operational Research is essential to understand these problems and to provide them with appropriate and optimized solutions.
The issues studied concern a wide range of supply chain management, optimization of vehicle routes, inventory routing, design of logistics networks, transport planning, establishment of optimized production plans, Personnel planning (aviation, medical, public transport, etc.)
Decision making usually requires trial-and-error, and sometimes simulations. Operation Research can be used as a tool to produce what if scenarios to answer questions such as what happens if I open or close a plant or depot?, what is the impact on my logistics network and my overall cost?.
4) Public transit scheduling
Do you know how buses timetables are created with-in a large scale transit agency? Or Why the bus arrives on time?
Public transit scheduling usually involves many sequential optimization activities such as network and route design, timetable development, vehicle scheduling, crew scheduling.
For example, vehicle scheduling involves a network of interlining routes, where trips are connected together form terminal to terminal or by deadheading (Have ever seen en empty bus with the sign in transit, it means deadheading) in a multiple depot system (with many bus garages involved).
This is known as a multi-depot vehicle scheduling problem and it is a very complex optimization problem that takes a considerable effort to solve so that the service quality is ensured for the public.
5) Airline scheduling
Have ever wondered how flight attendants and pilots fly around the world and end up back home?
The crew costs are the largest after the fuel costs for an airline. Hence, one of the major challenges of an airline is crew scheduling and the slightest improvements in the quality and cost of the crew schedule have significant financial benefit.
Because of its complexity, Operations Research usually solved in two steps:
A pairing is a sequence of flights, connections, that involves determining a set of feasible pairings such that the cost of the pairings is minimized.
It consist of building monthly schedules with the pairings previously created for each crew member respecting all the safety and labor constraints.
Do you wonder why these industries cannot survive without Operation Research ? Check out our article 6 Signs your business will benefit from Operations Research.