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 MWQ47 Range 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
fd illinG hnlGy32 | September - ctober 2013