Strategic planning requires a reflected understanding of setting the right goals and being aware of changing circumstances. Operations Research supports defining goals and setting up controlling systems over-watching the decisive parameters. Stefan Pickl explains.

Modern Operations Research offers a comfortable methodological toolbox for decision makers from the level of strategic planning over simulations to operational decisions in the defence and security domain.

Topics addressed in this article include new interoperability issues, advanced real-time analysis challenges, modern soft and hard OR approaches including system dynamics techniques, evolving military and training exercises and the future role and importance of OR/M&S.

In a world where interconnectedness, delimitation, complexity, dynamics and uncertainty play an ever increasing role, decision making has become ever more challenging and requires a reflected analysis of the situation. OR/M&S is sometimes defined as the “Science of Making Better,” delivering analysis through qualitative and quantitative methods to support decision makers. In that contribution the “Science of Making Better“ is transformed to a general strategic process optimization that is embedded in an intelligent IT-based decision support:

Alex Bordetsky, Director Center for Network Innovation and Experimentation CENETIX, NPS Monterey states, “Network decision support systems (NDSS) are a new type of DSS which has evolved from the rapid development of mobile technology and needs a new kind of intelligent IT-based decision support.”

Implicit in this citation is that the methods’ bandwidth of Operations Research has changed dramatically over the last 75 years. Initially OR used only quantitative methods and was strongly mathematical. Over the years the understanding of complexity grew and it became obvious that complex decision problems can rarely be solved with mathematical equations but with an integration of soft and hard OR techniques as well as strategic process optimization. Hence OR has changed to address reality!

Nowadays there exist so-called soft OR methods, which capture and describe decision problems qualitatively. Furthermore, the application areas and opportunities extend over all business areas and most sciences, e.g. economics makes heavy use of OR methods like optimization. Logistics without OR support to improve efficiency seems to be bound to failure. Especially military decision makers increasingly use newer OR and simulation techniques methods as well. Last but not least the challenging fields of Humanitarian Logistics and CIMIC as part of “Industry 4.0” (the fourth industrial revolution) are based on the integration of soft and hard OR methods. According to Goran Mihelcic, “The vision “Industry4.0” is based on the integration of soft and hard OR techniques which interprets ‘M&S’ as modern and powerful Management Science”.

Strategic Planning and IT-based Decision Support

In an actual contribution to WinterSim2012 in Berlin a High Level Panel was invited to discuss the future role of Modeling and Simulation especially in the area of modern decision-making. It was summarized in the conference Proceedings that:

“Modeling and Simulation as part of OR together with modern information technology and high computational resources enables decision support in the very early phases by discovering problem areas that even analysts cannot always envision (...)

Strategic planning (for example within modern CD&E experiments) requires a reflected understanding of setting the right goals and being aware of changing circumstances. OR supports defining goals and setting up controlling systems over-watching decisive parameters. Unexpected future events and developments can impair the implementation of previously formulated goals and plans or even make it impossible. If possible new developments should be considered beforehand, existing plans reviewed and modified when necessary.

Hence OR/M&S offers a whole methodological toolbox for decision makers from the level of strategic planning to operational business decisions.”

This was elaborated in detail by the panel, which consisted of Nabil Adam, Erdal Cayirci, Joseph Sullivan, Andreas Tolk, William Waite and the author, concluding “Such a holistic decision support procedure supports the flexible coordination between multiple disciplines and responsibilities (for example within the creation of OR cells, complex CD&E processes and modern Reachback Operations).”

Therefore OR/M&S is central in the area of IT-supported process optimization as well as issues regarding decision and game theory/ strategic planning, particularly with a view to the background of international military experiments and service-orientated “reachback”-operations.

Holistic “Operations Research” approaches are the basis for an efficient and intelligent decision making process especially for military decision makers and Operational Analysts who deal with information and knowledge. The so-called IRIS (Integrated Reachback Information System)-approach focuses on the development of a technical platform that seeks to support the effective and efficient application and integration of soft and hard OR techniques within a distributed decision environment

Information and knowledge as a basis for learning processes are gaining more and more importance in our complex world. Organisation must be able to store information and distribute it. This applies particularly to the area of critical projects such as military Operational Analysis, Disaster Relief or Humanitarian Logistics that require great experience on the part of those responsible; but, how to make this store of experience available to others?

Figure1
Figure1

Knowledge and Information Sharing System (KISS)

This important question might be answered by the “Knowledge and Information Sharing System” (KISS) (see Figure 1) developed by the research institute COMTESSA, located at the Federal Armed Forces University Munich under the chairmanship of the author together with Goran Mihelcic, Dr. Silja Meyer-Nieberg and Dr. Jörg Wellbrink .

KISS is based on a web-based Open-Source Content Management System and thus enables the complete control of the functionality and the adaptability to specific needs without being dependent on a particular company. One application of KISS is the Operational Analysis Toolbox (OAT) (see Figure 2), that was designed to support Operational Analysis Projects in the military field and has been implemented as a prototype. Its purpose is to store, link and provide easy methods that are linked with projects for which they were applied. The user is instantly informed whether and how they could be implemented successfully. KISS was implemented as a prototype for the area of military Operational Analysis.

The developed concept is not confined to the domain mentioned above and can be extended to a wide range of applications. It uses categories for storing information that is derived from the context of the respective application. Since one (OR-) method can be applied within the scope of several projects, this approach serves to avoid different representations and the need for keeping information available at various sites. A detailed description is mentioned in a contribution of "2011 Annual Military Scientific Research Report“ of BMVg.

It should be summarized that access to information and the entering and updating of data within the browser based OAT is by completing adapted templates of knowledge for the individual categories. Therefore the system is easy to use which is a great advantage and which demonstrates that Operations Research enables Strategic Process Optimsation and supports Intelligent IT-based Decision Support..

CENETIX and Complex Computational Supply Networks

The heart of Center for Network Innovation and Experimentation (CENETIX), which was invented by Alex Bordetsky, at Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Monterey is a modern network that enables partners to collaborate and share data that they can relay in real time directly to first responders and patrol crews in a position to interdict. International laws and enhanced monitoring capabilities have made it easier to track larger vessels and in many cases, identify any critical materials among their cargo.

COMTESSA

COMTESSA, as part of CENETIX, is engaged in the area of understanding complex supply networks especially in the area of cargo transportation, surveillance and strategic process optimization. As Bordetsky observes “The question is, if it is hard to detect this maritime traffic, how can we improve our awareness of what is going on?”

The approach requires an elaborate system of sensors, unmanned systems, screening portals, modeling and simulation and unconventional networking capabilities being advanced through the Maritime Interdiction Program (MIO) program. Details might be found on website CENETIX. Such a holistic decision support procedure supports the flexible coordination between multiple disciplines and responsibilities (for example within the creation of OR cells and CD&E processes) to create an optimal operational picture: In a new project related to that article COMTESSA develops a special information system called IRIS.

IRIS

As mentioned before OR/M&S is central in the area of IT-supported process optimization as well as issues regarding decision and game theory/ strategic planning, particularly with a view to the background of international military experiments and service-orientated “reachback”-conceptions.

The so-called IRIS (Integrated Reachback Information System) approach focuses on the development of a technical platform that seeks to support the effective and efficient application and integration of soft and hard OR techniques within a distributed decision environment like the Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) experiment series. In that series we presented several examples for intelligent IT-based decision support. In order to analyze such complex adaptive systems on that platform we can add that agent-based modeling and simulation as part of OR is appropriate.

Agent-based modeling and simulation are an approach for modeling real world systems that are of complex and adaptive nature. In the following we shall conclude with an adaptive supply chain network. Agent-based approaches enable to design each single actor of a supply chain network individually, based on their own decision rules. Moreover, it allows simulating the aggregate behavior of these heterogeneous organizations.

Supply Chain Control Tower

As mentioned in the previous paragraph the vision of COMTESSA is the creation of an intelligent operational picture to support military decision making for example within a supply chain. To adapt as flexible as possible to unexpected changes, information along a (general/ supply chain) network have to be visible. Yet, achieving visibility in a complex network still remains a problem. A new approach to overcome this difficulty represents the concept of a (supply chain) control tower which should be embedded in the global reachback concept in the future via a special service-orientated approach.  The whole initiative, once completed will enable analysts to put together a more complete comfortable operational picture. Our aim is the creation of a robust SOA in an agile complex environment like the Maritime Interdiction Operation (MIO) as experimentation series within CENETIX. Within the scope of the Datafarming-Project these approaches described here were embedded in a cooperation together with the DSO National Laboratories (Singapore) in the field “Modeling Human Intangibles - Security Scenario Analysis” as a first example for strategic process optimization.

Future Activities

This article stresses that “modern strategic process optimisation is based on intelligent IT-based decision support using OR/M&S”. COMTESSA is involved in several activities and research programs that demonstrate this vision. Furthermore, in 2013 it is intended to intensify the cooperation with the NATO Undersea Research Center NURC, the Centre of Excellence for Confined and Shallow Waters and the NATO COE “Modeling and Simulation” in Rome.

The author is organizing with the German DWT (Studiengesellschaft der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Wehrtechnik) the “Modeling & Simulation Conference” in March 2013 in Bonn.

“No one should think of his work as so godly, that it can not be improved!” - Ludwig van Beethoven

Decision makers are urged to attend the conference in Bonn as well as the ITEC 2013 that takes place in Rome where the future role of modeling and simulation in Operations Research will continue to be developed.