Thursday, 26 June 2008

Instant Optimisation

Get your organisation optimised! All you need is our optimisation software package OptimalAll, install it on your computer, add some data and hit the OPT button. After only a few minutes of number crunching, your computer will come up with the optimal solution for your optimisation challenge. You can get OptimalAll at your local store for only €99.95. Ask for the special offer to have the software installed and run with support of one of our optimisation experts for only €150,- all in.

Visit any trade fair, look in any magazine and you will find companies that offer this kind of optimisation solutions. As with any ad, things are presented a little brighter than reality. Don’t expect that buying optimisation software solves you optimisation challenge. There is more to optimisation than you think. Many troubled managers that face optimisation challenges are often tempted by the tales that are told by salesman about the capabilities of the solution they sell. Because of their focus on selling, salesmen tend to exaggerate a bit, leaving the troubled manager in seventh heaven with his just bought answer to everything. (Note: As some of you may know, you don’t need software to figure that out, it is 42). After a while he wakes up and realizes that there is more to optimisation than just buying a tool.

In my work as an optimisation consultant I come across many of these managers. Because of their past experience they think optimisation is something for the academic world, not as something that can deliver results for them. I tell them a different story. About one thing the troubled manager is right, successful optimisation in practice is not just buying software. In my opinion is consists of the combination of three things. First of all, thorough understanding of the business that the manager is in. Without that knowledge you don’t know square about the challenges that the manager faces and what the do’s and don’ts are in his/her business. Talking to people of the manager’s organisation, having a look around, gather data, analyse it, etc. will help you build up that knowledge. In that process you will also build up a clear understanding what needs to be optimized and to what extend.

Next ingredient of successful optimisation project is using that knowledge to build and tune a fit-for-purpose optimisation model. This can be a one-off model or a model that is part of optimisation software like a scheduling, rostering or vehicle routing software package. The model enables you to generate and rank various alternatives to the challenge the manager faces. When the model has been tested, the best solution can be identified. Next step than is to implement the model. This is where the software comes in as the third ingredient of a successful optimisation project.

Software is an enabler for transferring you optimisation knowledge to the organisation. Main step is training employees that will use the model in the future. The organisation needs to have some basic optimisation knowledge to use the model effectively. Another thing is integrating your model with the business ICT systems to be able to feed your model with the required data and feed the results from the optimisation run back into those systems. This will enable the organisation to perform the optimisation runs in the future by themselves and capitalize on their investment in optimization software and consulting.