By Charles Seiter
Microsoft Excel cant do everything. If youre dealing with what-if situations in production scheduling, workflow, logistics, and financial modeling, you need more sophisticated tools. Excels built-in Solver can handle some assignments, such as trying to optimize profits across a product line, but its generally limited to situations with smoothly varying quantities- --expects you to accept answers like "3.7 trucks" in shipping problems.
On the other hand, Evolver 4.0, a $395 Excel add-on from Palisade, is well suited to handling optimization in many real-world problems where the basic information involves many variables, as in shipping and manufacturing. I tested a shipping version.
Evolver implements a genetic algorithm. The optimizer generates a batch of random inputs as variables for the problem. Then it checks the results that the variables produce, keeps the variables that yield the best results, and creates a new generation of inputs by mixing components of surviving variables. Also, Evolver works impressively fast on big problems (with up to 80 variables). Check this program out if youve outgrown Solver
PRO: Fast, sophisticated analysis tool for use with Excel.
CON: None significant
VALUE: Excellent choice for complex profit-optimizing
For more information, contact:Randy Heffernan