Welcome to the blog “Operations Research with SAS: Optimize, Simulate, Understand.” For those of you without an operations research background, a brief explanation: operations research (OR) is the study of the operations of systems, with a focus on making them function more efficiently and more effectively. The overall goal of operations research is making better decisions, well-supported by available data. Typical themes are maximizing performance with available resources, limiting or minimizing wasted effort, time, and resources, and determining the greatest influences of decisions and operating conditions on performance. OR achieves these goals through the use of a variety of model construction and solution methods and related analytical techniques. Areas of greatest emphasis include optimization, simulation, and scheduling, but OR also reaches into and interacts with many other analytical domains including statistics, data mining, and forecasting. Operations research fosters both better understanding of and better decisions regarding complex systems in just about every industry and setting imaginable.
SAS is in a unique position, since it provides breadth and depth of coverage in each of these analytical domains and more, covering the entire spectrum from data discovery, to analytics, to communication of findings and decisions. Similarly, while this blog will concentrate on operations research methods and models, when it’s appropriate we’ll pull in other SAS data, analytic, business intelligence, and reporting capabilities to interact with and augment the OR techniques. In case you’re wondering, it’s appropriate pretty often! This parallels real-world operations research work, which is almost never done in isolation.
We’ll cover a range of topics in this blog, since the real applications of operations research are so broad. Certainly, much of the time this blog will review successful applications of OR methods to solve critical business problems and deliver benefits to SAS customers. But that’s not all we’ll do. Better decision making is something that everyone pursues at some level, even in everyday life. Do you try to minimize your commute time? If you’re dieting, do you want to reduce calories/fat/carbs while still getting enough essential nutrients? Everybody wants to make better decisions, and so what we do every day isn’t so different from operations research, and vice-versa. In this blog we’ll spend part of our time exploring how OR methods—and the thinking behind them—can be applied not only to organizational and business planning problems but also to our individual lives. Several of this blog’s entries will fall into this category; some will even delve into puzzles, art, and other fun and surprising applications of operations research with SAS!