Operational Research is an applied science devoted to solve real problems. Focusing on decision making, applies concepts and methods from various scientific areas to design, plan or operate systems. It is employed to evaluate alternative courses of action and find solutions that best serve the goals of individuals or organizations.
Through appropriate models of a quantitative basis, Operational Research also aims to introduce elements of objectivity and rationality in the decision-making processes, without neglecting, however, the subjective components and organizational framework that characterize the problems.
Operational Research rose during the Second World War, from the need to deal with problems of logistics, tactics and military strategy of great size and complexity. To support the operational commands in facing these problems, were created multidisciplinary groups of mathematicians, physicists, engineers and social scientists. These scientists did nothing more than apply the scientific method, which they knew so well, to the problems they had to solve. From this experience, they elaborated the idea of creating mathematical models, based on data and facts, allowing for understanding the problems under study by means of simulation and evaluation of the outcomes of hypothetical strategies or alternative choices.
The success and credibility earned during the war were so great that, by the end of the conflict, these groups of scientists and their new methodology for addressing the problems were transferred to the companies, which, in the economic boom that followed, also confronted decision problems of great complexity. In some countries, where prevails the concern about the theoretical foundations, Operational Research has grown under of Management Science or of Decision Science. In others, where the dominant emphasis is on application, has taken the name of Industrial Engineering or of Production Engineering.
Great technical and methodological developments followed, enabling to deal, with the help of computational methods of increasing capacity and dissemination, with huge amounts of data about the activities, not only of businesses but also of public sector institutions within and outside the economic area.
Given its multidisciplinary nature, Operational Research is a scientific discipline with horizontal features, extending its contributions to virtually all areas of human activity, from Engineering to Medicine, from Economics to Business Management.