Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Engineering Classes - IE 405: Linear Programming

Simplex in 3 Dimensions - source: Wikipedia
IE 405 is a linear programming class that I am required to take for my major. The class mainly taught us how many problems we have in life can be broken down in the linear programs and solved. I give this class a 7/10. I did not really love the subject or doing the math but the business applications of it were really cool.  The professor Tao Yao was a good professor- he provided notes for us. The TA Jose Castro was great! He would host these review sessions for us and I am in his debt because that was why I did so well in the class. Rock on Jose! 

The main thing to know about linear programming is there is a specific way to set up a problem. First, you have to have a decision variables - basically what are you testing or using that needs to be optimized. This was usually like products produced, products sold,  or how many times you walk over a bridge. In the end, the LP will give you an optimal value for this. You have to have an objective function - basically what do you want to minimize or maximize in the problem. In most of our class problems, the objective function was based on  cost or distance. Lastly, you have constraints - what is hindering the process or flow. These were things like materials, supply, demand, and total products made in one area. You take all of these things, formulate the LP and solve for it. This is done in the real world with like 5000 equations but the most we had was like 20 equations. The Simplex Method was used most of the time to solve - for a basic understanding,  more information or a more mathematical understanding of this subject, check out these links. 

In daily life, I like to see where this is being applied in business. A lot of businesses today use linear programs to figure out what is the optimal number of products to store, sell and produce. I also see linear programming or people basically doing linear programming  when they play games like Diner Dash or something like that. You have to buy supplies, know how much of each dish uses the materials and manage your money to make sure you make the optimal amount of points and that you have enough supplies to cook. It's basically an linear program without the math - your brain does it almost automatically. 

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