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T: 01636 816 466

The Old Vicarage
Station Road, Rolleston
NG23 5SE                              

Operational Research

You can always be more efficient

Operational Research is all about using analysis to improve decision making. Dr Angela Moore uses mathematical modeling, statistical analysis, optimisation, sequencing and scheduling techniques to create simple heuristics you can employ to run your operation more efficiently.

One Problem at a Time

People tend to solve their problems one at a time. Usually this is because the whole is just too daunting or they don’t know what to do. So let’s say they have a problem with absences, what do they do? They fire fight, so when they have someone off, they ring round and get someone in on overtime. They reschedule everything to cope for each shift individually. They solve the problem.

Well that is better than ignoring the problem or going into panic mode. But is it really the best approach?

When I see a problem, I don’t like to take it on face value. Maybe it’s the statistician in me but I just don’t trust facts. What people think of as facts are usually nothing of the kind! They are theories which are proved to be correct based on assumptions about what we know, have experienced and how we see the world. Think about light, that is both a wave and a particle. Both are true yet neither is the whole truth.

I like to see the whole problem and consider the causes of that problem. The first place to start is to understand why a problem is occurring. In the case of absence, the causes could be sickness, authorised leave, training, or the shift pattern. I would look at each of them individually and consider what impact, if any, they were making to the way absence was occurring. Sickness should be the most prominent cause of absence and this will be random. The other causes are not random and need to be considered individually, then as a whole.

Once I have discovered the causes of the problem, I then see if I can solve them rather that the problem itself. Sickness of course can’t be solved by me. I don’t have a magic pill that everyone can take and be well and healthy for all eternity. On the other hand, training could be done outside of the workload so that it doesn’t affect absence on shift.

If the causes of the problem can’t be solved; which is true in the case of sickness, then I consider the solutions that could be used and the consequences of those solutions. The consequences could be direct, like overtime budget or indirect like creating an overtime culture. The consequences have to be weighed up and then my clients will decide which ones they can live with and which ones they would prefer to live without. Everything is about balance. It is no good solving one problem only to make ten new ones you didn’t anticipate.

absence 2

Solving a problem is not about doing your bit or about only solving the problems in front of you. It’s about anticipating the problems before they happen, creating best practice solutions and looking at the whole picture. These may all sound like clichés, because they are. But if you want to solve your problems then don’t sweat the little things. Focus on the main problem and make a choice, what can you live with and what would you rather not. Everything has consequences. It’s the consequences we can live with that determine the best solution.

So if you have a problem with absence, don’t solve it one problem at a time or one shift at a time. Solve the problem for the whole year. Do it once but do it right. It will save you money and time in the long run as well as creating a more efficient and responsive operation. If you would like to know more, then contact us directly on (+44) 1636 816466.