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Source: Operations Research, Vol. 10, No. 3 (May - Jun., 1962), pp. 405-406

Published by: INFORMS

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/167686 .

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George J. Minty 405

Maximal Network Flows and an Application to the Hitchcock Problem,"

Canad. J. Math. 9, 210-218 (1957).

3. - , , "The Capacitated Hitchcock Problem," Nav. Res. Log. Quart.

4, 47-54 (1957).

4. G. J. MINTY, "Monotone Networks," Proc. Roy. Soc. A 257, 194-212 (1960).

5. , "Solving Steady-State Nonlinear Networks of 'Monotone' Elements,"

Trans. P.G.C.T. (Inst. of Radio Engineers) CT-8, 99-104 (1961).

6. J. MUNKREE, "Algorithms for the Assignment and Transportation Problem,"

S.I.A.M. Journal 5, 32-38 (1957).

7. A. ORDEN, "The Transshipment Problem," Management Sci. 2, 276-285

(1956).

8. C. M. SHETTY, "A Solution to the Transportation Problem with Nonlinear

Costs," Opns. Res. 8, 571-580 (1959).

9. J. DE GUENIN, "Optimum Distribution of Effort: An Extension of the Koopman

Basic Theory," Opns. Res. 9, 1-7 (1961).

10. A. CHARNES AND W. W. COOPER, "Nonlinear Network Flows and Convex

Programming over Incidence-Matrices," Nav. Res. Log. Quart. 5, 231-240

(1958).

11. J. B. DENNIS, Mathematical Programming and Electrical Networks, Wiley, New

York, 1959.

12. MASAO IRI, "A New Method of Solving Transportation-Network Problems," J.

Opns. Res. Soc. Japan 3, 27-87 (1960).

13. C. BERGE, "Les Problemes de Flot et de Tension," Cahiers du Centre d'Etudes

de RechercheOperationelle (Bruxelles) 3, 69-93 (1961).

ACTIVITY TIME

Charles E. Clark

System Development Corporation, Santa Monica, California

(Received December 11, 1961)

ties*; its analytic details, not written by a mathematician, are confusing to

many analysts who continually request elucidation. This note is intended to

answer the question most frequently asked, namely, whence the statements in that

paper concerning the distribution of an activity time?

The paper is misleading to some extent. For example, it mentions the beta

distribution, but this distribution does not appear in the PERT model. Partly

for this reason it seems desirable to start this note with some fundamental orienta-

tion.

of a Technique for Research and Development Program Evaluation," Opns. Res. 7,

646-669 (1959).

406 Letters to the Editor

The PERT analysis was constructed for a specific problem. Plans had been

formulated for the creation of the Polaris weapon system. A schedule for the de-

velopment of Polaris had been made, but as time progressed, scheduled dates dif-

fered from dates of accomplishment. It was proposed to estimate when one could

expect the occurrences of scheduled milestones.

The PERT solution of this problem is to break down the development of

Polaris into a number of activities, to determine for each activity the prerequisite

activities, and to obtain estimates of the time required to carry out each activity;

with such information the remainder of the analysis is mechanical.

Each time estimate is to be made by a technician who understands the per-

formance of the activity (the estimates by management had been obtained and had

been incorporated into a schedule). Clearly, expected values and variances of the

activity times are required, because there must be much addition of independent

times. But expected values and variances seem too complex for immediate ap-

praisal, and it is necessary to decide what information can be obtained from the

sources available. One aspect of this information gathering is that estimates must

be made periodically, formally, and at low cost for thousands of activities. It is

felt that when one tries to conceive the time span of a future activity, the first time

estimate that naturally comes to mind is likely to approximate the mode of the

distribution of possible times. Hence a most likely time is requested. After the

most likely time, it is felt that the next information that most informants can give

with some reliability is an idea of the extreme times that would be required in cases

of good or bad fortune. With estimates of the most likely time and of the ex-

tremes, we would seem to have all the information that can be obtained easily in

an extensive survey.

With this information it is necessary to convert the estimated mode and range

of a distribution into an estimated expected value and variance. The author has

no information concerning distributions of activity times; in particular, it is not

suggested that the beta or any other distribution is appropriate. But the analysis

requires some model for the distribution of activity times, the parameters of the

distribution being the mode and the extremes. The distribution that first comes

to the author's mind is the beta distribution. However the beta distribution still

has a free parameter after its mode and extremes are designated. Suppose we

select one-sixth of the range as the standard deviation (the normal distribution

truncated at :?2.66 has its standard deviation equal to I the range, and we feel

that this truncated normal distribution is an appropriate simple model for specify-

ing the ratio of the standard deviation to the range). Then a beta distribution is

determined, and one can convert the mode and extremes into the expected value

and variance. This conversion requires computations, including the solution of a

cubic equation, which are ponderous relative to the reliability of the results. By

empirical numerical manipulation one can observe that the results obtained from

the suggested beta distribution analysis can be closely approximated by use of a

simple formula. This approximation is that the expected value is the weighted

arithmetic mean of the mode and the midrange, the mode carrying two-thirds of

the total weight. This together with the use of one-sixth of the range for the

standard deviation are accepted as the PERT estimates of the expected value and

standard deviation of an activity time.

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