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- Excel Solver Sensitivity Analysis
- Management Decision Science Module Handbook (1)
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You are on page 1of 8

**FEBRUARY 2009 THE CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT 1408
**

M

icrosoft Excel

Solver is an op-

timisation tool,

inbuilt provided into Ex-

cel. This tool can be used

to solve practical business

problems like ‘optimum

product mix problems’,

‘transportation or distribu-

AN INTRODUCTIONTO EXCEL

SOLVER – AN OPTIMIZATION

TOOL

—CA. Liyakatali Lal

(The author is a Member of the Insti-

tute. He can be reached at liyakatali_

lal@in.com)

([FHOVROYHULVDQRSWLPL]DWLRQWRROZKLFKFDQEHXVHGWRÀQGVROXWLRQRU

make decision on real life business problems, where we want to arrive at

decision either based on maximum or minimum value of something. For ex-

DPSOHSURÀWFRVWUHWXUQRQLQYHVWPHQWHWF8VLQJ([FHO6ROYHULVHDV\DQG

VLPSOH,WFDQEHXVHGWRDQVZHUSUREOHPVZKLFKRWKHUZLVHVHHPVGLIÀFXOWRU

time consuming. This article provides an insight into this tool.

tion problems’, ‘capital Budget-

LQJ SUREOHPV· ¶ÀQDQFLDO SODQ-

ning problems’, ‘retirement

planning problems’, and ‘work-

force scheduling problems’.

8VLQJ ([FHO 6ROYHU LV HDV\ DQG

simple. It can be used to answer

problems which otherwise seem

GLIÀFXOWRUWLPHFRQVXPLQJ

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

1409 THE CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT FEBRUARY 2009

See below listed illustrative problems:

A 1vpe oí problem Example

Optimum product

mix

How can a large FMCG

companv determine

the monthlv product

mix at their Mumbai

plant that maximizes

their pro£t with use oí

limited resource?

B Transportation or

Distribution

If XYZ Textile Ltd

produces textile at

three different loca-

tions and distribute to

four outlets, how can

thev minimize the cost

of meeting demand for

them?

C Capital Budgeting

(Selection of proj-

ect)

Software Ltd would like

to undertake 10 projects

that will require capital

and labour for the next

íew vears. 1hev do not

have enough resources

for all projects; which

ones thev should un-

dertake?

D Financial Planning How should I allocate

mv in·estment portío-

lio among Govt. bond,

blue chip stocks, specu-

lative stocks and short

term deposits?

In all the abo·e situations, we want to £nd the best`

wav to do something i.e. we want to either maximize

or minimize values of certain cells in a worksheet to

achie·e our objecti·e. Microsoít Oí£ce Lxcel Sol·er

tool helps us answer all such optimization problems.

1he best wav to understand how to use Sol·er is to

look at some detailed examples

An optimization model has three parts: target cell,

changing cells, and the constraints.

1. The target cell represents the objective or goal. We

want to either minimize or maximize the amount in

the target cell. In our examples

Example Maximise or

minimise

Target cell

FMCG Com-

panv - Product

Mix

Maximise Pro£t

XYZ Textile

Ltd

Minimise Di s t r i but i on

cost

Soítware Ltd -

Project

Maximise Net present val-

ue (NPV)

I n v e s t me n t

planning

Maximise Annual return

2. The changing cell represents cells that we can

change or adjust to optimize the target cell. In our

examples

Example Changing cell

lM(G (ompanv -

Product Mix

Otv oí each product pro-

duce during the month

XYZ Textile Ltd Otv produce at each

plant and shipped to

each outlet

Soítware Ltd - Project Which project to be se-

lected

Investment planning Amount oí monev in-

vested in each asset class

3. The list of problem Constraints in our examples

Example Changing cell

lM(G (ompanv -

Product Mix

Product mixes don’t

use more resource than

a·ailable: Otv should not

be more than demand.

XYZ Textile Ltd Don’t ship more than

plant capacitv: outlet

recei·e Otv what thev

need

Soítware Ltd - Project Projects can’t use more

capital and labour than

available

Investment planning Minimise risk and £xed

% in speculation stock

1o install Sol·er, click the Microsoít Oí£ce Button,

click Excel Options, and click Add-Ins. In the Man-

age box at the bottom of the window, select Excel

Add-ins, and click Go. Check the Solver Add-in in the

Add-Ins box, and click OK. After Solver is installed,

vou can run Sol·er bv clicking Sol·er in the Data tab.

Figure 1 shows the Solver parameters dialog box.

Navigation to Excel Solver tool:

Lxcel200¯: Oí£ce Button ·· Lxcel Options ··

Add-Ins ·· In Manage box select Lxcel Add-Ins ··

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

FEBRUARY 2009 THE CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT 1410

Go ·· (heck Sol·er Add-in ·· OK. Aíter installa-

tion go to Data tab in ribbon ·· Sol·er

Lxcel2003: 1ool ·· Add-Ins ·· (heck Sol·er Add-

in ·· OK. Aíter installation 1ool ·· Sol·er

Figure 1 : Solver parameters dialog box

After we have input the target cell, changing cells, and

constraints, what does Solver do? To understand this

we need to know some background in Solver termi-

nologv. Anv speci£cation oí the changing cells that

satis£es the model's constraints is known as a íeasible

solution. In our example oí lM(G companv product

mix that satis£es the íollowing three conditions would

be a feasible solution:

1. Does not use more raw material or labour than

is available

2. Does not produce more of each product than

is demanded

3. Does not produce a negati·e amount oí anv

product

Lssentiallv, Sol·er searches all íeasible solutions and

£nds the one that has the "best" target cell ·alue the

largest value for maximum optimization, the smallest

for minimum optimization). Such a solution is called

an optimal solution. Some Solver models have no op-

timal solution and some have a unique solution. Oth-

er Sol·er models ha·e multiple actuallv, an in£nite

number of) optimal solutions.

A. Determine the Optimal Product Mix:

How can I determine the monthly product mix

WKDWPD[LPL]HVSURÀWDELOLW\"

(ompanies oíten need to determine the Otv oí each

product to produce on a monthlv basis. In its simplest

form, the product mix problem involves how to deter-

mine the amount of each product that should be pro-

duced during a month to maximize pro£ts. Product

mix must usuallv adhere to the íollowing constraints:

1. Product mix can't use more resources than are

available.

2. \e can't produce more that its demand, because

the excess production is wasted (for example, a per-

ishable drug).

Let's sol·e the íollowing example oí the product mix

problem. Sav we work íor a lM(G companv that

produces six different products at their plant. Produc-

tion of each product requires.

ligure 2 : leasible solution not optimum, £ts con-

straints

Iow can this companv maximize its monthlv pro£t,

within the labour, material and demand constraints?

If we knew nothing about Excel Solver, we would

attack this problem bv constructing a worksheet to

track pro£t and resource usage associated with the

product mix. 1hen we do trial and error to ·arv the

product mix to optimize pro£t within the gi·en con-

straints. \e can use Sol·er in process onlv at the trial-

and-error stage i.e. Solver is an optimization tool that

performs the trial-and-error search.

In solving the product mix problem we need to com-

pute the resource usage and pro£t associated with

given product mix. An important function SUM-

PRODUCT can be used to calculate this. 1he SUM-

PRODU(1 íunction multiplies corresponding ·alues

in cell ranges and returns the sum of those values.

Lach cell range used in a SUMPRODU(1 e·aluation

must ha·e the same dimensions i.e. we can use SUM-

PRODU(1 with two rows or two columns, but not

with one column and one row.

Let's trv to compute our resource usage. Our usage

is calculated as "Labour Otv oí P Otv produce oí

P, - Labour oí O Otv oí O, -. Labour oí U

Otv oí U,`, we could compute usage in tedious íash-

ion as ~B4B5-(4(5-D4D5-L4L5-l4l5-G

Available

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

1411 THE CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT FEBRUARY 2009

4G5 or bv using ~SUMPRODU(1B4:G4,B5:G5,.

Similarlv, raw material usage could be computed as

~B4B6-(4(6-D4D6-L4L6-l4l6-G4G

6 or bv ~SUMPRODU(1B4:G4, B6:G6,. Lntering

formula in traditional fashion for six products is time-

consuming. Imagine how long it would take if we are

working with a companv that produced 50 products.

\e can now identiív the three components oí our

product mix solver model:

1. Target cell - Our goal is to maximize prof-

it in cell B11 computed bv íormula as

~SUMPRODU(1B4:G4,B9:G9, .

2. (hanging cells - 1he Otv produced oí each prod-

uct (listed in the cell range B4:G4)

3. Constraints - We have the following constraints:

z Do not use more of labour or raw material

than available i.e. values in cells B13:B14 (used)

must be less than or equal to the values in cells

D13:D14 (available).

z Do not produce more of a drug than its de-

mand i.e. values in the cells B4:G4 (produced)

must be less than or equal to the value in cell

B3:G3 (demand).

z \e can't produce a either partial or negati·e

Otv oí anv product.

Now enter the target cell, changing cells and con-

straints into Solver. Then click the Solve button to

£nd a pro£t maximizing product mix. Sol·er param-

eter dialog box will look like

Figure 3 : Final dialog box for product mix problem

Click the Options button in the Solver Parameters

dialog box. Check Assume Linear Model box and As-

sume Non-Negative box as shown below. Click OK.

Figure 4 : Solver option settings

Checking the Assume Non-Negative box ensures

that changing cell assumes a non-negative value. We

checked the Assume Linear Model box because this is

a linear problem. Lssentiallv, a Sol·er model is linear

under the following conditions:

1. 1he target cell is computed bv adding together

the terms in íorm changing cell, constant,

2. Lach constraint is e·aluated bv adding together

the terms in íorm changing cell, constant,.

Since our product mix problem is a linear model, whv

should we care?

1. If a Solver model is linear and we select As-

sume Linear Model, Solver is guaranteed to

£nd the optimal solution to the Sol·er model.

Ií a Sol·er model is not linear, Sol·er mav or

mav not £nd the optimal solution.

2. If a Solver model is linear and we select As-

sume Linear Model, Sol·er uses a ·erv eí£cient

algorithm the simplex method, to £nd the

model's optimal solution. Ií a Sol·er model

is linear and we do not select Assume Linear

Model, Sol·er uses a ·erv ineí£cient algorithm

the GRG2 method, and might ha·e dií£cultv

£nding the model's optimal solution.

After clicking OK in the Solver Options box, we re-

turn to the main Solver parameter dialog box, shown

earlier in Figure 3. When we click Solve, Solver calcu-

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

FEBRUARY 2009 THE CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT 1412

lates an optimal solution (if one exists) for our prod-

uct mix problem. An optimum solution calculated in

ligure 5.

ligure 5 : Optimum solution oí product mix within

constraint

Our lM(G (ompanv can maximize pro£t oí ¯,601

bv producing 1 unit oí R, 5¯6 units oí S and 1000

units of T. We can be sure that with our limited re-

sources and demand, there is no wav to make more

than ¯,601.

Is it necessary that Solver model always have a

IHDVLEOHVROXWLRQ"

1he answer is No`. Sav, in our example demand íor each

product must be met. Demand constraint will change from

B4:G4 ·~ B3:G3 to B4:G4 ·~ B3:G3. Sol·er result gi·es

message as "Sol·er could not £nd a íeasible solution".

This message means that with our limited resources, we

can't meet demand íor all products.

What if Solver result gives the message as “The

VHWFHOOYDOXHVGRQRWFRQYHUJHµ"

Let's see what happens ií we allow unlimited demand

for each product, delete demand constraint and we

allow negati·e Otv to be produced, clear the Assume

Negative box. When we click Solve, Solver returns the

message "Set (ell Values Do Not (on·erge". 1his

means that our model has an error.

%7UDQVSRUWDWLRQRU'LVWULEXWLRQ3UREOHPV

Manv companies manuíacture products at diííerent

locations Supplv point, and ship their products to

customers (Demand points). A question then is, what

is the least expensi·e wav to produce and ship prod-

ucts to customers and still meet demand· 1his tvpe oí

problem is called a transportation problem. A trans-

portation problem is a linear model with the following

speci£cations:

1. Target cell - Minimize total shipping and dis-

tribution cost

2. (hanging cells - 1he Otv produced at each sup-

plv point and shipped to each demand point

3. (onstraints - 1he Otv shipped írom each

supplv point can't exceed plant capacitv. Lach

demand point must receive its required de-

mand. Also, each changing cell must be non

negati·e and an integer number Partial Otv

cannot be shipped)

If XYZ Textile Ltd produces textile at three different

locations and distribute to íour outlets, how can thev

minimize the cost of meeting demand for them?

Let's now sol·e the íollowing example oí the 1rans-

portation problem.

ligure 6 : leasible solution not optimum, within

constraints

\e can now identiív the three components oí 1rans-

portation Solver model:

1. Target cell - Our goal is to minimise Total ship-

ment cost in cell (19 computed bv using íormula

~SUMPRODU(1B4:L6,B12:L14, or can also be

calculated in tedious íashion as ~B4B12-(4(12-

D4D12-L4L12-B13B5-(13(5-D13D5-L1

3L5-B14B6-(14(6-D14D6-L14L6.

|Note: 1he SUMPRODU(1 íunction can multi-

plv corresponding element in two separate rectangle

(both rectangle are of the same size) and add together

the product.]

2. (hanging cells - 1he Otv produced at each supplv

point (Factories) and shipped to each demand point

(Outlet), (listed in the cell range B12:E14).

3. Constraints - We have the following constraints:

z Do not ship írom each lactorv more than

plant capacitv i.e. ·alues in cells l12:l14

(Sent) must be less than or equal to the values

in cells I12:I14 capacitv,.

Available

~SUML12:L14,

Recei·ed & Sent Otv is

calculated bv using SUM

function

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

1413 THE CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT FEBRUARY 2009

z Demand from each of warehouse outlet

must be met i.e. ·alues in the cells B15:L15

(received) must be more than or equal to the

value in cell B17:E17 (demand).

z \e can't ship either partial or negati·e Otv oí

anv product i.e. ·alue in cell B12:L14 should

be an integer.

Now enter the target cell, changing cells and con-

straints into Solver. Then click the Solve button to

£nd a minimum shipment cost. Sol·er parameter dia-

log box will look like

Figure 7 : Final solver dialog box for Transportation

problem

Our transportation problem is a linear Solver model

because our target cell is created bv adding together

the terms in íorm changing cell,constant, and both

our supplv and demand constraints are created bv

comparing the sum of changing cells to a constant.

Thus, Click Options and check the Assume Linear

Model and Assume Non-Negati·e boxes. linallv (lick

Solve, Solver will calculate an optimal solution (if one

exists) for our transportation problem. An optimum

solution calculated in Figure 8.

Figure 8 : Optimum solution for transportation prob-

lem that £ts constraints

The minimum shipment cost of meeting demand of XYZ

Ltd is 86,825 deri·ed bv supplving 9500 units írom lactorv3

to \1, 8000 units írom lactorv2 to \3 and so on.

&&DSLWDO%XGJHWLQJ3UREOHPV:

Manv companies like to know which new products to

develop or which projects to be undertaken, i.e. one

want to undertake projects that contribute the greatest

net present value (NPV), subject to limited resources

usuallv capital and labour,. 1he Sol·er íeature in Mi-

crosoít Oí£ce Lxcel can help to make such decisions.

Let's look at this problem, Soítware Ltd would like to

undertake 10 projects that will require capital and labour

íor the next 2 vears. 1hev do not ha·e enough resources

íor all projects: which ones should thev undertake·

ligure 9 : Data to decide which project to undertake -

Capital budgeting problem

Problems where either we want to do or don't do

something can be sol·ed bv using binarv changing

cells. A binarv changing cell alwavs equals 0 or 1.

Where 1 = Do the project and 0 = don’t do the proj-

ect. lor this we need to add constraint bv selecting

changing cell and then choose bin from the list in the

Add Constraint dialog box.

Figure 10 : Add constraint box with option of bin =

Binarv & int ~ Integer

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

FEBRUARY 2009 THE CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT 1414

Now, let us sol·e this problem, bv identiív the three

components of capital budgeting model:

1. Target cell - Our goal is to maximise To-

tal NPV in cell L18 computed bv using íormula

~SUMPRODU(1A3:A12,(3:(12,, this íormula

onlv picks up NPV oí project with 1 in column

A and doesn’t consider NPV with 0 in column

A. It can also be calculated in tedious fashion

bv multiplving binarv ·ariable in column A with

NPV ·alues in column (, e·erv row wise and

adding together for all projects to arrive at total

NPV £gure.

2. (hanging cells - \e look íor a 0 or 1 binarv

changing cell for each project (listed in A3:A12).

Here, 1 = Do the project and 0 = don’t do the

project.

3. Constraints - We have the following con-

straints:

z Do not use capital and labour more

than a·ailable in each vear i.e. ·al-

ues in cells L14:I14 Used, must

be less than or equal to the values

in cells L16:I16 A·ailable,. Used capital

and labour is computed bv using íormula

~SUMPRODU(1>A>3:>A>12, L3:L12,

and copv írom L14:I14 > sign is used íor

absolute cell referencing).

z Values of changing cell listed in A3:A12

should be Binarv.

After entering the target cell, changing cells and con-

straints into Solver. Solver parameter dialog box will

look like

Figure 11 : Final solver dialog box with constraint

Since our model is linear, we will also check the As-

sume Linear Model and Assume Non-Negative boxes

under Option. linallv (lick Sol·e, Sol·er will calculate

an optimal solution for our capital budgeting prob-

lem. An optimum solution calculated in Figure 12.

Figure 12 : Optimum solution - maximum NPV with-

in constraint

Soítware Ltd. can obtain maximum NPV oí 6,554 bv

selecting project 1-3, 6-8 and 10.

D. Financial Planning:

1he Sol·er íeature in Microsoít Oí£ce Lxcel can be

used as a poweríul tool íor analvzing £nancial plan-

ning problems like how much monev I need to sa·e

íor retirement· Or how should I allocate mv in·est-

ment portfolio among Govt. bond, blue chip stocks,

speculative stocks and short term deposits?

Let's look at the example in ligure 13, we ha·e total

fund of 20 Lakhs to invest in among 4 options within

following constraints:

z \eighted a·erage risk íactor not to exceed 25

z Amt in speculative stocks should not exceed

20% of total amount invested

z At least 2 Lakhs to be invested in short term

deposits

z In·estment in anv option should be whole

number i.e. fraction of rupee cannot be in-

·ested in anv option.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

1415 THE CHARTERED ACCOUNTANT FEBRUARY 2009

Figure 13 : Feasible solution (not optimum) for In-

vestment decision within given constraints

\e can now identiív the three components oí Invest-

ment problem:

1. Target cell - Our goal is to maximise Annual Return

in cell L6 computed as ~SUML2:L5,.

2. Changing cells - The Investment amount in each

option listed in the cell range D2:D5,.

3. Constraints - We have the following constraints:

z 1otal in·estment amt ·alue in cell D6 not to

exceed total fund available i.e. 20 Lakhs.

z Weighted average risk factor computed in

cell (8 ~SUMPRODU(1(2:(5, D2:D5,´

SUMD2:D5, not to exceed 25.

z Amt in speculative stocks i.e. value in cell D4

not more than value in cell G4 (20% of total

amount invested)

z In·estment in Short term deposits in cell D5

should be at least 2 Lakhs.

z In·estment amount in cell range D2:D5

should be an integer.

After entering the target cell, changing cells and con-

straints into Solver. Solver parameter dialog box will

look like

Figure 14 : Final solver dialog box with all constraints

for Investment decision

In this £nancial planning problem, our model is non-

linear as the relationship that each constraint should be

in íorm changing cell, constant, is not satis£ed in

case of Risk factor constraint, where we have used divi-

sion to calculate weighted a·erage. \e will onlv check

the Assume Non-Negati·e boxes under Option. linallv

Click Solve, Solver will calculate an optimal solution for

our £nancial planning In·estment, problem. An opti-

mum solution calculated in ligure 15.

ligure 15 : Optimum solution within constraints íor

Investment planning

Maximum annual return oí 302,66¯ can be obtained

bv in·esting 383,334 in Go·t. bond, 1,016,666 in Blue

chip stocks, 4 Lakhs in Speculative stocks and 2 Lakhs

in Short term deposits.

Conclusion:

Excel solver is an optimization tool which can be used

to £nd solution or make decision on real liíe business

problems, where we want to arrive at decision either

based on maximum or minimum value of something.

lor example pro£t, cost, return on in·estment, etc.

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