Operational research, its methods and application; a review and prospect
A feature of modern wars has been the impetus which is given to the development of scientific and technical progress, a phenomenon which is very easily explained by the general urgency of development under the pressure of war requirements, the removal of normal limits on expenditure and the realization of the part that science can play in the development of the engines of war. This was shown to a marked extent in the second world war and amongst the examples can be quoted the vast development of electronic equipment, the emergence of the jet engine as an alternative to the internal combustion engine for motive power and the realization of the use of nuclear power, in the first instance in the form of explosive energy. However, over and above these examples of scientific and technical progress there was one development in the second world war of particular interest, the use of the scientific method of ‘operational research’ (hereafter denoted by OR). It is essential from the outset to differentiate between the developments of scientific equipments and techniques on the one hand and the development of OR on the other. The salient property of OR is that it is purely a scientific method and in no way connected with any particular equipment or scientific field. The question whether it is a distinct scientific discipline in its own right will be discussed later; at this stage it can be stated that OR became important because it provided a method of examining the properties of battle and warfare (in fact, all ‘operations’) on a scientific basis and thus of obtaining quantitative answers to problems which previously had only attempted answers in general terms. The continued importance of OR now that active operations have ceased lies in the fact that, as will be shown later, the principle of this method can be applied not only in the Armed Services, but also wherever organization has to make policy decisions where some quantitative knowledge of the factors involved may be used as a basis in place of personal knowledge and opinions. As this is a situation which is commonly encountered in industry and commerce as well as in the Armed Services, the general applicability of the method is immediately obvious.