Lecture notes "Optimization of business processes"

Ger Koole


Being a successful OR/MS consultant demands other things than knowing the state-of-the-art in mathematics. On the contrary: many professionals will tell you that communication skills, knowledge of the right software tools and an idea of what is going on in businesses would have been more useful to know than the latest results in the area of, say, interior point methods. It still happens that graduates start with their first professional job without having seen once a spreadsheet such as Excel or without any training in communication skills. And these omissions are not the worst. Graduates without some knowledge of applications will not be able to single out their proper opportunities, thereby restricting the choice of potential employees.

These lecture notes consist of several parts. The first part is an introduction to stochastic processes with an emphasis on business applications. There are chapters on the Poisson process, on queueing theory, inventory models, and so forth. The second part focuses on the role of mathematical models for solving business problems. The third part is devoted to application areas. This is perhaps the most important part of these lecture notes. We present the terminology and main quantitative issues of areas such as call centers, supply chain planning, and yield management. We also discuss typical models that are useful for solving problems within these application areas.

Prerequisite is an introductory operations research course and basic knowledge of probability theory.

I use these lecture notes for my VU-courses Applied stochastic modeling and Optimization of business processes.