Wednesday, 20 August 2008

O.R. and the Infrastructure (2)

I'm sure that I shall return to the expression that "O.R. is the hidden science" many times. In the T.V. presentation of "Britain from Above" already mentioned, the presenter observed part of the distribution chain that supplies shops and (especially) supermarkets. In a throwaway remark, he mentioned the 15-minute time windows for collections and deliveries at many stores. And these are part of the world of the O.R. scientist. There have been numerous papers on vehicle routing, and many software companies employ O.R. staff to provide tools for scheduling vehicles with time windows. It is a testimony to the success of O.R. that these hidden tools work, and so everyone can take them for granted! Yes, even the best systems can go wrong, but when was the last time that you couldn't buy an everyday item of food in your local supermarket?

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