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Evolver Answers Questions That Excel Can't
By Charles Seiter
November 1998
Reviewed in

Nov 1998

Microsoft Excel can’t do everything. If you’re dealing with what-if situations in production scheduling, workflow, logistics, and financial modeling, you need more sophisticated tools. Excel’s built-in Solver can handle some assignments, such as trying to optimize profits across a product line, but it’s 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 you’ve 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
Tel: +1 607-277-8000
Fax: +1 607-277-8001

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