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Maximising the impact of maths in practice Sue Merchant Past president OR Society 1.

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Presentation on theme: "Maximising the impact of maths in practice Sue Merchant Past president OR Society 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 Maximising the impact of maths in practice Sue Merchant Past president OR Society 1

2 Purpose of talk Highlight the practical impact of maths/OR in the workplace Highlight the importance of a maths education, particularly to OR analysts Point to features which might usefully be stressed in Maths courses to help maximise the impact of mathematical skills in the workplace 2

3 3 OR is: “The application of appropriate analytical methods to help make better decisions”

4 4 OR is: A way of thinking & communicating + An analytical toolkit

5 5 What’s in the toolkit…? Simulation Mathematical programming Statistics Heuristic methods Cognitive and causal mapping Data miningForecasting Genetic algorithms Scenario analysis Multicriteria decision methods Process mapping Scheduling algorithms Spreadsheet analysis- ’what if’s Soft systems modelling CPA

6 6 Typical types of problem tackled by OR Diagnose management problems Envision the future Develop options for action Choose between options Improve/optimise performance Control performance Measure/compare performance ?

7 7 Comment from the first OR conference “ OR in my experience is only too accustomed to taking on the things that no one else is willing to have a go at. That makes me think that OR workers, on the whole, are rather rash. That may be so, but it is great fun!” Dr K.Pennycuick 1958

8 8 Examples of problems tackled by OR people Reducing patient waiting times Finding the best routes for van deliveries Optimising mobile phone networks Reducing waste in garment cutting factories Making better use of office space/locations Estimating best number of checkouts Where to put goods on shelves to maximise sales Increasing flexibility of car production

9 9 Examples of problems which OR helped tackle in the Met Police Dispatch van routes Choosing between options (eg equipment; strategies) Resource allocation between units (Manpower / budget/vehicle allocation) Looking for good practice efficiencies across similar units(DEA, and simple methods) Number of prisoner cells needed (stochastic models) Information strategies –process modelling Performance management: developing indicators Planning for big projects (CPA) Evaluation of police schemes

10 10 Value of a maths education think logically analyse a problem from first principles model the real world develop new types of models interpret statistics see the wood for the trees understand dimension and significance pick out important relationships from data Know the most effective way of displaying data appreciate the stochastic nature of some problems Enables one to:

11 11 Desirable features of a maths education- Need practice in: Communication –  Using language which managers will understand  Representing maths concepts simply and clearly Recognising when maths can help and then presenting real world problems mathematically Modelling the problem as it is- not shoe-horning it into an interesting maths technique Writing reports with diagrams which clearly show the facts and summarise them Learning to find new ways of solving problems Thinking about data sources, likely flaws, managing missing data

12 12 The ORS: Helping to link academics and practitioners Website for members (, another for learning about OR ( and a third for potential users ( A range of international journals ( the Journal of the OR Society; OR Insight; Journal of Simulation etc) A range of training courses & conferences A regular monthly newsletter for members Special interest groups (eg criminal justice; health) Regional groups A professional accreditation system Putting members in touch

13 13 Thank you! Are there any questions ?

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