The analysis, design and control of operational processes can be addressed from several research disciplines:
Quantitative analysis of operational processes with respect to quality, timing and costs can only be performed if tolerances, operation times, routings and failure rates are known. In most cases these variables can only be known in stochastic terms. This type of analysis requires both statistical analysis of real life data or data from laboratory experiments, but also application of mathematical modeling techniques. Operations management is supported largely by techniques such as analysis of stochastic processes, optimization methods and simulation. Vice versa, oper ations research and other branches of applied mathe matics have much benefited from their application to the engineer ing of operational processes.
Also, computer science and information and communication technology (ICT) contribute considerably to operations management. On one hand, formal models originating from computer science support the design and analysis of operational processes. On the other hand, ICT enables the development of new operational processes and changes existing ones. In contrast to many modeling techniques originating from operations research, the primary focus of these formal models is on specification rather than quantitative analysis. Examples are object diagrams for modeling static structures (e.g., data) and Petri nets for modeling the behavior of systems and processes. Such models provide alternative views on operational processes and can be used to configure information systems supporting these processes. To illustrate the impact of ICT on operational processes, it is interesting to observe the rapid developments in interfaces between organizations (cf. E-business and internet technology) and technological components. These developments pose new problems in the area of control policies for routing information through capacitated transmission channels. Such control policies, like the TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) in the Internet, operate without human intervention. It is to be expected that the insights gained from research into control policies of this nature can be used in the development of control policies for other types of operational processes in manufacturing and the service industry.
As control and optimization imply the existence of objectives and norms, marketing sciences play a role in that operational processes in organizations eventually fulfill a need in the market. Given the high-tech environment of Beta institutions, the focus is on business-to-business marketing, implying intense interactions between marketing, research and development, and manufacturing.
Operations management deals with organizations and people working in organizations. They take part in transformation processes themselves, so designers of these processes have to take the human possibilities and limitations into consideration. They also take part in controlling the processes and must deal with complex and diverse problems. So, input from social and organizational sciences are indispensable if Beta aims to analyze, design, implement and control systems that will actually be used.
The idea of optimal control and design of operational processes presupposes some criteria and objectives for optimality. Cornerstone of these notions is the economic evaluation of control policies and design choices. Economic research contributes to the development of qualitative and quantitative models for design and control of operational processes and for risk management. Such concepts involve Activity Based Costing, cash flow analysis, Balanced Score Card and real options theory. Due to the pervasiveness of these concepts from economics, they are addressed in each Beta research program.
This is why Beta needs a multidisciplinary and integrated approach. Scientific knowledge from applied mathematics, statistics, operations research, information and communication science, social and organizational sciences, and accounting and finance must be combined in order to design, implement and manage operational systems that really work. The Beta research programs provide the basis for the development of such scientific knowledge.