In the current context, most organisations need to rethink their process and to optimise their activities to operate under new constraints. Social distancing, movement restrictions and fears are all bringing limitations on how businesses can operate at a safe distance. Whether that’s queues outside of shops to ensure physical distance is maintained in the shop, how many people can safely fit into a cinema, or indeed a classroom, or how you manage a factory production line whilst ensuring people are 2 metres (or 1 metre as we’re currently learning!) from each other.
This might feel like this is a very new problem that we are all facing for the first time. However this very interesting example indeed shows it’s not such a new problem. During World War II, military planners tapped into techniques coming from Operations Research to handle the logistics and the planning of operations. For instance, a team at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough in the UK used calculations which helped to reduce the number of anti-aircraft artillery rounds needed to shoot down an enemy aircraft from an average of over 20,000 at the start of the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940 to just 4,000 a year later.
Operations Research, or OR, is a branch of applied mathematics used to find optimal solutions to complex decision making problems. Typical problems solved with OR include critical path finding in things like project management, floor planning in manufacturing, network optimisation, resource allocation etc.
A particularly useful method in OR is Linear Programming which deals with the maximisation of a function under constraints. Linear Programming is an extremely useful tool to work on planning, routing and scheduling problems (eg. to minimise the cost of staffing a factory, given a set of constraints on the number of people needed, and constraints on each of the individual employees).
Our experts at Station10 can help with all your capacity and logistics planning, our in house team of specialists will help you look at the challenges your business is facing and using OR/applied Mathematics we will indeed allow you to decode those enigmas!