Differences between theoretical predictions and operational performance in a stock control application
Over the past decade, several experienced Operational Researchers have advanced the view that the theoretical aspects of model building have raced ahead of the ability of people to use them. Consequently, the impact of Operational Research on commercial organisations and the public sector is limited, and many systems fail to achieve their anticipated benefits in full. The primary objective of this study is to examine a complex interactive Stock Control system, and identify the reasons for the differences between the theoretical expectations and the operational performance. The methodology used is to hypothesise all the possible factors which could cause a divergence between theory and practice, and to evaluate numerically the effect each of these factors has on two main control indices - Service Level and Average Stock Value. Both analytical and empirical methods are used, and simulation is employed extensively. The factors are divided into two main categories for analysis - theoretical imperfections in the model, and the usage of the system by Buyers. No evidence could be found in the literature of any previous attempts to place the differences between theory and practice in a system in quantitative perspective nor, more specifically, to study the effects of Buyer/computer interaction in a Stock Control system. The study reveals that, in general, the human factors influencing performance are of a much higher order of magnitude than the theoretical factors, thus providing objective evidence to support the original premise. The most important finding is that, by judicious intervention into an automatic stock control algorithm, it is possible for Buyers to produce results which not only attain but surpass the algorithmic predictions. However, the complexity and behavioural recalcitrance of these systems are such that an innately numerate, enquiring type of Buyer needs to be inducted to realise the performance potential of the overall man/computer system.