Operation Research – Meaning, Definition and Characteristics

Operation research

The term Operation Research (OR) related to military operations during the Second World War. Scientists used various techniques to deal with strategic and tactical problems during the war. After the war military OR group scientists tried to apply OR techniques to civilian problems relating to business, industry and research development. During the 1950s educational institutions introduced OR in their curricula. Today service organizations such as airlines, railways, hospitals, libraries and banks employ OR to improve their efficiency.

Operation Research in India

In India, operations research came into existence with the opening of an OR unit in 1949 at the Regional Research Laboratory in Hyderabad. At the same time another OR was set up at the then Defense Science Laboratory to tackle the problems of stores, purchase and weapon evaluation. An OR unit under Professor P.C. Mahalonobis was established in 1953 in the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata to apply OR methods in national planning and survey. Operation Research Society of India (ORSI) was formed in 1957 and its first conference was held in Delhi in 1959. For academic studies, the first M.Sc. course on OR was started by Delhi University in 1963. At the same time, Institutes of Management at Kolkata and Ahmedabad introduced OR in their MBA courses. In the Industrial Sector, organized industries in India are becoming conscious of the role of operations research and a good number of them have well trained OR terms. Some of the Indian organizations, using OR techniques are : Airlines, Railways, Defense Organizations, Fertilizer Corporation of India, Hindustan Steel Ltd., TaTa Iron and Steel Co.. TELCO, DCM, CSIR, STC, BHEL, SAIL, ONGC etc.


1. According to C.W. Churchman

Operation Research is the application of scientific methods, techniques and tools to problems involving the operation of a system so as to provide those in control of the system with optimum solution to the problem.

2. According to C. Kittel

O.R. is an aid for the executive in making his decision by providing him with the needed quantitative information based on the scientific method of analysis.

3. According to H.M. Wagner

O.R. is a scientific approach to problem solving for executive management.

4. According to Operations Research Society of America

O.R. is an experimental and applied science devoted to observing, understanding and predicting the behavior of purposeful man-machine systems ; and operations research workers are actively engaged in applying this knowledge to practical problems in business, government and society.

5. According to E.L. Arnoff and M.J. Netzorg

O.R. is the systematic, method oriented study of the basic structure, characteristics, functions and relationships of an organization to provide the executive with a sound, scientific and quantitative basis for decision making.

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