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Operations research refers to the process of becoming educated on organizational structure and function. The specific type of definition of such research differs depending on the nature of the company. A trucking company, for example, would do operations research on the appropriate management of other trucking companies, while a law firm would do a very different type of research on how to effectively manage and run a law firm.
Typically, operations research involves a number of different types of study. For example, a company could hire a management consultant to come in and evaluate the function and operation of the company. The consultant, who would generally either be an expert within the industry and/or would be an efficiency expert, would observe the manner in which the company is run and make suggestions for how to streamline productivity and decrease costs. The suggestions might include restructuring job duties, changing the order of operations, or changing a given system of producing or selling a product.
Such research can also involve studying successful companies to determine how those companies are run. The companies studied would generally be termed as benchmark companies. This can include reading case studies of industry leaders and otherwise trying to get data on how to successfully run and manage the operations of a given company. Case studies may be published or the person conducting the research may actually have to observe how the other company or industry leader functions.
Because most industries are competitive, the industry leaders do not necessarily permit other companies to simply come in and observe operations. Therefore, those companies conducting operations research need to use other tactics to determine how to successfully manage their operations. They may use any information they obtain from public data on how the industry leaders within their field operate and then attempt to incorporate those principles.
Operations research usually involves learning how the day-to-day management of the company is handled. For example, the research could involve learning how best to streamline an ordering process. Any aspect of operating a company, from managing cash flow to hiring employees to setting up performance appraisals of staff can also be considered part of the daily operations of the particular company. Each of these areas can be improved and strengthened through operations research, as a company learns the best and most efficient ways to run its business.