Operations research analysts live in a world where business, computers
and math reign supreme. They help organizations find the most efficient and
profitable way to run their business.
They use mathematical principles and scientific methods to come up with
ways to do this. They may, for example, examine telephoning patterns for a
mail-order company, or look at passenger preferences to determine flight schedules
More and more companies realize they have to keep up with the startling
amount of data new technologies are producing. They also need employees who
can harness that data and put it to better use.
United Airlines officials said at a meeting that their operations research
office had saved the company $60 million in a single year. That's where operations
research -- commonly referred to as OR -- comes in.
Almost every large industry in corporate America either has or needs operations
Operational research applications can be found in manufacturing, distribution
and retail companies in the mining, energy, transportation and construction
industries. OR is used in services such as banking, and in many departments
But if you think these analysts will only be working for companies where
the numbers game is obvious, think again. Even motel chains are using operations
research to examine traffic patterns and customer needs to decide where to
place new motels.
In general terms, operations research analysts apply scientific methods
and mathematical principles to help organizations operate efficiently. Once
that's done, managers can examine the alternatives and choose the best direction
for the company.
By using mathematical models, analysts determine how the organization works.
That makes it possible to project improvements.
Operations research analysts have a variety of titles, including management
science analysts, business systems analysts, financial engineers and even
market research analysts.
That has created some confusion within the field and for businesses, says
Randy Robinson. He is a member of the Institute for Operations Research and
the Management Sciences -- known as INFORMS. "We have the embarrassment of
the riches of names. That is something INFORMS is trying to address."
The reasons for the multitude of names are many, he says. The field is
relatively new and not all that well established. "And as a group, we in operations
research are very uninterested in self-promotion. However, the demand is so
strong for what we do, we recognize that there's a need for a unified field."
Major employers include computer and data processing services, banks, insurance
companies, telecommunication companies, engineering and management firms,
manufacturers of transportation equipment, air carriers and the federal government.
About 20 percent of analysts work for organizations that consult for firms
that don't have in-house operations research staff. One of the largest employers
is the federal government, where many analysts work for the armed forces or
even on contract for national defense.
Robinson recommends operations research as a career option for young people
only if they an aptitude and a love for the work.
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Operations Research Analysts
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