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Making Better Decisions: Operational Research


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Designed to motivate potential A level maths students to study the further maths and decision maths option. Delivered at Denbigh School, Milton Keynes 6th July 2016 as a volunteer in the Operational Research Society OR in Schools programme ( The session was lead by the Further Maths Support Program (

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  • Although I'm a KS3 student, I decided to give Jeevan's guide a try because I know GCSE and KS3 are fairly similar. Looking back now, it was one of the best decisions I made. The guide has helped me jump from a level 6A to a level 8C in maths, and I'm only in year 8! Achieving a level 8 in maths is regarded as a gifted individual. Thank you for this terrific guide and I will recommend it to anyone taking a maths exam! ●●●
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Making Better Decisions: Operational Research

  1. 1. Making Better Decisions: Operational Research Daniel Sandars, BSc (Hons) MSc AFORS MIAgrM:CEnv Research Fellow, Cranfield University Denbigh School, Wednesday 6th July 2016
  2. 2. 2 My Message
  3. 3. 3 Why? It is useful •As a Decisions Professional aka Operational Researcher, or •In every profession and vocation due to need for good decisions skills, and •Good decision skills are good life skills
  4. 4. 4 Career Attributes 1. Financial security 2. Growth opportunities 3. Enjoyment 4. Variety & Flexibilty
  5. 5. 5 Me as AFORS MIAgrM:CEnv Research Fellow 1995+ 1990 BSc Agriculture 1994 MSc Applied Environmental Science 2004 MSc Operational Research
  6. 6. 6 How do you choose? 1. Peer pressure? 2. Rule of thumb? 3. Gut Instinct? 4. Pseudo science? 5. Methodically/ Scientifically?
  7. 7. 7 Problem Solving Cycle Problem? Evidence & options Analyse Decide Act Evaluate & Learn
  8. 8. 8 Operational Research ∞Operational Research (O.R.) is the application of mathematical methods to tackle real-life problems associated with decision- making in businesses and other enterprises. ∞O.R. combines to provide the means for making more informed and better decisions. A way of thinking & communicating + Analytical techniques
  9. 9. 9 Origins of O.R. ∞World War II Video Courtesy of : √ German U-Boats targeted merchant ships bound for Britain, which were loaded with important goods. √ The British Royal Navy decided to respond by deploying warships within convoys of merchant ships in order to offer vital protection.
  10. 10. 10 Origins of O.R. ∞ Travel faster than large convoys and may evade the threat of combat ∞ Slower than a small convoy but heavily armed to fight off an attack
  11. 11. 11 Origins of O.R. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 %RATEOFSUCCESS NUMBER OF WARSHIPS IN CONVOY
  12. 12. Bullet holes and Bombers 12
  13. 13. 13 When is O.R. useful? ∞ When a decision is complex or it’s not clear what the main problem is ∞ When it’s uncertain what the outcome of different actions will be ∞ When you don’t know how well things are working or think they could work better ∞ When you are worried about risks ∞ When you need to take account of the views of different stakeholder groups
  14. 14. 14 How is O.R. useful? ∞Optimisation is a way to solve problems in which one seeks to achieve the best outcome. ∞Simulation allows you to try out different approaches by simulating events numerous times and answer the “What if…?” question. ∞Queuing theory is used to approximate a real queuing situation or system, so the queuing behaviour can be analysed mathematically. ∞Other techniques include: Forecasting Heuristics Data Mining Soft Systems Methodology Statistics Multi-Criteria Methods Cognitive Mapping System Dynamics
  15. 15. 15 Is O.R. rewarding? ∞Starting Salaries £20,000-28,000 ∞Senior Operational Researchers £40,000 - £80,000 ∞Self-employed or top Consultants £100,000+
  16. 16. 16 Practical Exercise ∞ 1st person in the line, look at the person on your left. ∞ If you are taller, swap. ∞ 2nd person in the line, look at the person on your left. ∞ If you are taller, swap. ∞ 3rd person in the line, look at the person on your left. ∞ If you are taller, swap. ∞ And so on…until you reach the end of the line. ∞ The last person in the line should now be the tallest and can turn around. ∞ Start again. The end of the line is the person next to someone who has turned around.
  17. 17. Bubble Sort Dance 17
  18. 18. 18 Real-life applications of maths
  19. 19. 19 Real-life applications of maths
  20. 20. 20 Real-life applications of maths
  21. 21. 21 Real-life applications of maths
  22. 22. 22 Cost of computer memory
  23. 23. 23 Speed of computers
  24. 24. 24 Growth of big data
  25. 25. 25 What makes O.R. Fun? •Mathematical aptitude? •Is your brain Ravenous? • Thirst for gleaning knowledge and understanding out of data? • Hunger for better innovative solutions to puzzles •Make the world a better place?
  26. 26. 26 What makes O.R. Fun?
  27. 27. 27 Societal challenges 1. Health, demographics changes and well being 2. Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research and the bio-economy 3. Secure, clean and efficient energy 4. Smart, green and integrated transport 5. Climate action and resource efficiency including raw materials 6. Inclusive, innovative and secure societies 7. Secure societies – protecting freedom and security of Europe and its citizens
  28. 28. 28 Real-life applications of maths ∞ O.R. is the maths inside Supermarkets √ Determining the number of staff needed on checkouts and at when √ Calculating order quantities and delivery times √ Understanding people’s buying patterns
  29. 29. 29 Real-life applications of maths ∞ O.R. is the maths inside Sport √ One day cricket √ Scheduling football games √ Designing and building a new stadium ∞ Case Study: Formula One √ The Challenge ≥ Determine optimal pit stop strategy √ The O.R. Solution ≥ Game theory and simulation √ The Value ≥ Ability to account for influential factors and increase probability of winning the race
  30. 30. 30 Real-life applications of maths ∞ Other examples include: √ Your Phone Tariff √ Your Local Government √ Your Gas Supply √ Your Local Factory √ Your Airline Flight √ Your Pint of Milk √ Your Doctor’s Surgery √ Your Wages
  31. 31. 31 Where can O.R. take you? ∞ O.R. is an evolving discipline because the world is ever-changing. O.R. departments are firmly embedded within large businesses across most industries: √ Manufacturing √ Transport √ Retailing √ Marketing √ Financial Sector √ Service Sector √ Local/Central Government
  32. 32. 32 Where can O.R. take you? ∞ O.R. is a profession where initiative, creativity and enthusiasm are equally as important as technical ability. There is great scope for you to make your mark and, consequently, your future is very much in your own hands. ∞ O.R. teams are involved in projects which draw on a wide range of business skills and have dealings with anyone from shop floor to boardroom. ∞ As an Operational Researcher you will have the opportunity to undertake a variety of roles including: √ Analytical/consultancy √ Project management √ General management √ Lecturer/researcher
  33. 33. 33 Interested? ∞ Next steps… √ Maths GCSE and A Level, Further Maths may be required at university √ Obtain a good classification in a numerate degree √ Join The OR Society – Student Membership is free! √ A Master’s in O.R. is often desirable, although not always essential √ Gain work experience while studying, e.g. via a summer placement or voluntary work during studies
  34. 34. 34 Take Away Points Decision skills are everywhere Flexibility and Variety Financial security and growth Fun
  35. 35. 35 Interested? ∞ Find out more… √ √ √ ∞ Get in touch… √ Education Officer Seymour House, 12 Edward Street, Birmingham, B1 2RX +44 (0)121 233 9300