According to operational Research society, UK Operational research "Operational research is the application of the methods of science to complex problems in the direction and management of large systems of men, machines, materials and money in industry, business, government and defence.


The roots of operation extend to even early 1800s , it was in 1885 when Ferderick W Taylor emphasized the application of scientific analysis to method of production , that the real start took place. Taylor conducted experiments in connection with a simple shovel. His aim was to find that weight load of ore moved by shovel which would result in maximum of ore moved with minimum of fatigue. In 1917, A .K. Erlang , a Danish mathematician , published his work on the problem of congestion of telephone traffic. The difficulty was that during busy periods, telephone operators were unable to handle the calls they were made , resulting in delayed calls. The well-known economic lot size model is attributed to F.W. Harris , who published his work on the area of inventory control in 1915.

During the 1930s, H.C. Levinson , an American , applied scientific , analysis to the problems of merchandising . His work included scientific study of customers’ buying habits , response to advertising and relation of environment to the type of article sold. The industrial development , brought with it ,a new type of problems called executive –type problems. These problems are a direct consequences of functional division of labour in an organization. In an organization , each functional unit performs a part of the whole job and for its successful working , develops its own objectives. The production department wants to have maximum production, associated with the lowest possible cost. This can be achieved by producing one item continuously. The marketing department also wants a large but diverse inventory so that a customer may be provided immediate delivery over a wide variety of products. The finance department wants to minimize inventory so as to minimize the unproductive capital investments ‘tied up’ in it. Personnel department wants to hire good labour and to retain it. This is possible only when goods are produced continuously for inventory during the slack period. All the executive type problems can be solved by using OP techniques. The decision which is in the best interest of the organization as a whole is called Optimal decision and the one of the best interest of an individual department is called sub-optimal decision.

World War II

During World War II, the military management in England called on a term of scientists to study the strategic and tactical problems of air and land defense. Many of these problems were of executive type. The objective was to find out the most effective allocation of limited military resources to the various military operations and to the activities within each operations. The name operations research was apparently coined in 1940 because the team was carrying out research on operations.


Immediately after world war, the success of military teams attracted the attention of industrial managers who were seeking solutions to their problems. In U.K. the critical economic situation required drastic increase in production efficiency and creation of new markets. In U.S.A. situation was different. Most of the war-experienced OR workers remained military services. Industrial executives did not call for much help because they were returning to the peace- time situation. OR has been known by a variety of names in that country such as operational analysis , operations evaluation ,system analysis, decision analysis ,decision science, quantitative analysis and management science. To increase the impact of OR, the OR Society of America (ORSA) was formed in 1950. Today, the impact of operation research can be felt in many areas. This is shown by the ever increasing number of educational institutions offering this subject at degree level. The fast increasing number of management consulting firms speaks of the popularity of the subject. Some of the Indian organizations using OR techniques are : Indian Airlines , Railways , Defense Organizations,  Fertilizer Corporation of India , Delhi Clioth Mills , Tata Iron and Steel .Co. etc.