Optimization, in its simplest form, is the process of choosing “the best” alternative. For the optimization process to execute, the presence of an objective – which serves the purpose of comparing different alternatives – is a must. Furthermore, some constraints may be present which dictate whether a given alternative is feasible or not. Hence, whenever there is a decision to be made and that, there are different courses of action related to the decision, and there is a need to determine the feasibility and the desirability of different courses of action to choose which one to follow, an optimization problem exists. Therefore, instead of approaches such as sorting customer orders with respect to due dates and dispatching related work orders on suitable workstations, which is only a single course of action, the system must be able to actively pursue different courses of action with respect to changing objectives and data.

For many companies, optimization techniques are not in widespread effective use due to not grasping the magnitude of the benefits that can be obtained and/or optimizations systems being far too complicated. However, ranging from layout design to operations scheduling, optimization techniques can provide significant improvement over many existing practices.

There are three important factors which plague the application of optimization systems in practice. Namely, the excessive number of possible alternatives, the accuracy and the amount of data needed and finally, the complexity and the difficulty of defining and maintaining constraints and objectives. NovaLab’s planning software, xS Planner, has built-in capabilities to address each of these obstacles.