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Application of scientific methods to management and administration of military, government, commercial, and industrial systems. It began during World War II in Britain when teams of scientists worked with the Royal Air Force to improve radar detection of enemy aircraft, leading to coordinated efforts to improve the entire system of early warning, defense, and supply. It is characterized by a systems orientation, or systems engineering, in which interdisciplinary research teams adapt scientific methods to large-scale problems that must be modeled, since laboratory testing is impossible. Examples include resource allocation and replacement, inventory control, and scheduling of large-scale construction projects.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on operations research, visit Britannica.com.