Operations Management  33:623:386:06 -- Spring 2010

All class policies subject to change at instructor's discretion.

Quick Overview:

Course Content

The core of this course is a mathematical way of approaching planning and decision-making problems arising in business and related areas.  This "mindset" is called Management Science (MS) or Operations Research (OR). Basically, the MS/OR approach involves forming (imperfect) mathematical models of business situations, analyzing these models, and then deciding on some "optimal" course of action.  A key concept in this approach is to separate the analysis of a decision problem into two steps, first mathematical modeling, and then solution of the resulting abstract model.  In this class, we will focus on the modeling process, and leave solution of the model up to standard computer software.

There are two key ideas in applying MS/OR: the first is modeling decision making and planning as a mathematical optimization problem with variables, and objective function, and constraints.  The second is to model uncertainty using the tools of probability theory.  We will spend the first 15 regular classes exploring the first idea, and the last 10 regular classes exploring the second.  We will cover a relatively small set of subtopics in each case, but try to explore them in depth so you get a better feeling for the modeling process.  Note that optimization and stochastic models can be combined much more closely than we attempt in this course, but that is a more advanced topic (called stochastic programming)  

MS/OR is most helpful in situations where quantitative information is plentiful and there are relatively few intangible or psychological considerations, making it easier to produce accurate mathematical models. It is also particularly beneficial when the decision or planning situation is complex, making it hard for managers to simply "eyeball" the decision or "fly by the seat of their pants." Such situations arise most at the operational level of the management hierarchy, and progressively less at the higher levels (tactical and strategic), although they are still useful there. Hence the application to operations management. "Operations management" courses at many other schools may deal more with qualitative generalities of managing business operations; this course basically focuses on the key quantitative tools.

General Information

Projected Syllabus

For 10 classes, we will study a variety of applications of something called linear programming.  We will spend 5 classes on a related topic called (mixed) integer programming.    Finally, we will spend 10 classes on elementary probability modeling, using simulation as our main analytical tool.  There are two in-class exams, and the last class of the semester will be a review session for the final exam.

Detailed schedule, subject to change: