Solvers, or optimizers, are software tools that help users find the best way to allocate scarce resources. The resources maybe raw materials, machine time or people time, money, or anything else in limited supply. The "best" or optimal solution may mean maximizing profits, minimizing costs, or achieving the best possible quality.

A wide range of successful applications of optimization have been developed by businesses, governments, universities, and other groups.  Many large companies have reported saving billions of dollars using optimization.  Many individual users of Frontline Systems' products have saved their companies millions of dollars, often after just a few months of work developing and optimizing a model.

To use a solver, the user must build a model that specifies:

  • The resources to be used, using decision variables,
  • The limits on resource usage, called constraints, and
  • The measure to optimize, called the objective.

The solver will find values for the decision variables that satisfy the constraints while optimizing (maximizing or minimizing) the objective.  To learn more about this, and optionally go through a step-by-step example, take our Solver Tutorial.

Using Spreadsheets.  Spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel provide a convenient way to build such a model.  Anyone who has used a spreadsheet is already familiar with the process:  Cells on a worksheet can hold numbers, labels, or formulas that calculate new values -- such as the objective of an optimization.  Constraints are simply limits (specified with <=, = or >= relations) on formula cells.  And the decision variables are simply input cells containing numbers.  Frontline's Premium Solver products provide powerful tools for solving, or optimizing, such models.

Using Custom Programs.  Another way to build an optimization model is to write code in a programming language such as Visual Basic, VB.NET, C/C++, C#, Java or MATLAB.  Instead of spreadsheet cells, variables or arrays in the program hold the decision variables and calculate the constraints and objective.  Frontline's Solver SDK products provide equally powerful tools for solving, or optimizing, models in this form.

The choice of approach is up to the user.  Spreadsheets offer a quick way to build a model, and one that can be easily explained to other users who are usually spreadsheet-literate.  Application programs written in compiled programming languages may offer higher performance and may be easier to distribute widely, within a company or to commercial users.  No matter which approach is chosen, Frontline Systems' Solver products provide the key optimization technology in an easy-to-use, reliable form.

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