„Operations Research as a highly dimensional complexity management”

Modern Operations Research for supporting planning tasks and process optimisation within the centre of excellence COMTESSA

 Stefan Pickl


Operations Research (OR) is a young scientific discipline aiming at solving decision problems. Here, the basis consists of situations where decision makers are supposed to make decisions in precariousness and accumulation of risk, using different methods of OR in order to depict the problem systematically and to analyse it. This analytical aspect is the special topic of this essay. Here, at first the initial situation for OR is made up by decision problems – mostly in precariousness and accumulation of risk. The decision maker often has only fragmentary knowledge about the future development, and in this situation he wants to find optimum solutions nonetheless. Thereby, either an optimal solution can be shown – provided that clear aims are available and the problem can be apprehended quantitatively – or a quantity of alternative methods can be shown. For this purpose, (often mathematical) models are generated for creating a quantitative basis. With correspondent data thus a (simplified, as a rule) image of reality is designed for working on the problem and solving it. Analysing different possible scenarios in order to select the optimal variation is an area of responsibility of OR as well, when precariousness does not exist necessarily, such as, for example, when selecting production procedures at optimal costs. Optimization is not always the aim of OR. Optimization, besides model building, simulation and analysis, is a branch of OR, dealing with decision support in the sense of modern complexity management. In this essay the ethical dimension of applying OR in the military context will not be dealt with. The importance of this topic, however, will increase as well, as can be seen in the course of the discussions on the use of UAVs. Without modern algorithms and analyses, UAVs do not make sense. For this reason, OR-procedures take on a special part in a current socio-technological discussion. OR has a firm position in industry, but some time ago a well-known OR-professor said: “We have this good reputation because we save resources and jobs.” This is the other side of OR with a strong socio-technological dimension. Guaranteeing security ought to be the greatest aim of the military, and not dim-sightedly maximizing one’s position and at the same time minimizing the opposition. This ambivalence is not only expressed in the duality theory.