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Mixed integer optimization: a new step in formulation software

Mixed integer optimization: a new step in formulation software

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Formulators and nutritionists in animal feed manufacture typically use formulation software based on Linear Programming (LP) to obtain least-cost recipes when mixing raw materials to meet specified nutrient profiles.
Formulators and nutritionists in animal feed manufacture typically use formulation software based on Linear Programming (LP) to obtain least-cost recipes when mixing raw materials to meet specified nutrient profiles.

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Published by: Grain and Feed Milling Technology magazine on Oct 15, 2013
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Digital Re-print -September | October 2013
Mixed integer optimization: a new step informulation software
Grain & Feed Milling Technology is published six times a year by Perendale Publishers Ltd of the United Kingdom. All data is published in good faith, based on information received, and while every care is taken to prevent inaccuracies,the publishers accept no liability for any errors or omissions or for the consequences of action taken on the basis of information published.©Copyright 2013 Perendale Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any formor by any means without prior permission of the copyright owner. Printed by Perendale Publishers Ltd. ISSN: 1466-3872
ormulators and nutritionists inanimal feed manufacture typically useformulation software based on LinearProgramming (LP) to obtain least-costrecipes when mixing raw materials tomeet specified nutrient profiles.
Physical constraints in the plant and particu-larly in the weighing equipment often mean that the formulae resulting from the formula- tion system cannot be presented directly for manufacture. Rounding and creative ‘tweak-ing’ normally happens, post-optimization, inorder to get the quantities of ingredients to match the minimum weighing quanti- ties (MWQ) and rounding factors (RDF)relevant to the scales and batching system.Despite efforts over the years to make the techniques more sophisticated, automaticrounding functionality in formulation systemsremains a blunt instrument. It usually endsup producing formulae which have in one or more ways ‘broken’ the intended specifica- tion, perhaps not by much, but neverthelessany such breakage or flexing of the con-straints needs investigation.Some formulation systems have developedvery helpful exception reporting, such asFormat’s Biosecurity system, which pro-vides intelligent analysis of serious violations;nevertheless manual intervention is oftenrequired prior to approval for manufacture.As a consequence it may take a formulator amatter of minutes to get an ‘optimal’ solution to the plant’s formulas, and thenseveral hours of further work tomake them ‘production-ready’.This is not simply an issue for  traditional or older manufacturingplants. The most modern of feedmills with state-of-the-art processcontrol systems, batching andweighing equipment and sophisti-cated software also have the sameissues; this is very well understoodby informed formulators and pro-duction directors. Indeed the con-straints in more modern feed mills may wellbe more severe and more apparent than inolder plants.
Mixed integer optimization (MIO)
A highly appealing and thoroughly practicalsolution would be to incorporate the MWQand RDF directly into the FormulationSolver, thus obtaining the least-cost solution that complies with all such constraints.This type of problem is non-linear andrequires Mixed Integer Optimization (MIO)in order to solve it. While it’s relatively straightforward to provide this technique insingle optimization, that’s simply not enoughfor today’s professional formulators whorequire Multi-Mix
ingredient allocationcapabilities to deal with the complex issuesin the supply chain.As a result of a three-year research anddevelopment program, Format has produceda new Solver which not only includes theseinteger constraints but also fully solves themin the context of a multi-product optimiza- tion which includes the overall ingredientavailabilities. The latest software is now dem-onstrating the power of the new approach.
Production plant case study
A study from a real-life production plant
Table 1: Plant informationNumber of optimized products130Number of ingredients95Ingredients with MWQ4Range of MWQ0.02 to80 KgIngredients with RDF & MWQ4Ingredients with overall quantity restrictions9
Mixed integer optimization:
a new step in formulation software
By Merryl Webster, Format International, UK 
fd illinG hnlGy32 | September - ctober 2013
provides an impressive illustration. The plantin question is a complicated but not untypi-cal plant with ingredient restrictions andequipment limitations that impose minimumweighing quantities on many of the ingredi-ents. The size, number and type of restric- tions are given in Table 1.In this plant, many of the macroingredients,such as maize, soybean, sunflower and wheatmiddlings cannot be weighed accurately unless more than 50 kg is used in the diet.Other microingredients also have minimumweighing quantities resulting from equipmentlimitations. These typically are much smaller mini-mum weighing quantities, in the order of 0.1 kg.The smallest minimum weighing quantity inoperation is 0.02 and the largest is 80 kg.Of the 95 ingredients in use in the plant,47 have a minimum weighing quantity stipu-lated. A much smaller number of ingredientshave additional rounding factors of the order of 40 or 50 kg.Multi-Mix
solutions were obtained (asshown in Table 2).The strictly linear optimization takes only seconds to solve, and produces a solutionwith the total cost given in the table above.An inspection of the resulting formulaereveals that there are 92 products needingattention, containing 144 violations of theminimum weighing quantity and/or roundingfactor constraints. This typically takes the for-mulator several hours of careful but tedious tweaking to tidy up ready for presentation to the plant.
MIS: Longer but more practical
The mixed integer solution took much longer (relatively speaking) to solve – 59 secondscompared with five seconds. However, allof the formulas produced are entirely con-sistent with the minimum weighing quantity and rounding factor constraints. Moreover, they are already prepared for production.An obvious snag could be that the integer solution is more expensive – and so it ison first inspection; but only by a very smallamount, in fact considerably less than half of one percent. This apparent ‘cost’ of theinteger solution is not real; in practice theplant cannot make the recipes supplied by  the linear solution, so left to deal with theLP solution using its own devices, it will over-use some ingredients and under-use others,resulting in both additional cost and violationof the nutritional specification.Sometimes this is picked up only by ingredi-ent stock reconciliation at the end of theperiod, and by unexplained variation inproduct analysis during testing. Use of thisnew MIO approach ought to explain part of  the missing cost and ought to match moreclosely the actual ingredient consumption.
Table 2: Solution ResultsStandard LPsolutionNew MIOsolutionDifferenceIgnoring weighingconstraintsIncludesMWQ andRDFOverall Cost 
2,281,8110.33 %Range in individual product cost -2.45% to+5.34%No. of MWQ/RDF violation1440No. of products with MWQ/RDF violation920Time to solve5 seconds59 secondsPost-optimization ‘tweaking’ Several hoursNone
fd illinG hnlGySeptember - ctober 2013 | 33

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