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Publisher: Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS)

INFORMS is located in Maryland, USA

Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information:

http://pubsonline.informs.org

Cliff T. Ragsdale, Evelyn C. Brown,

Cliff T. Ragsdale, Evelyn C. Brown, (2004) On Modeling Line Balancing Problems in Spreadsheets. INFORMS Transactions on

Education 4(2):45-48. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/ited.4.2.45

Full terms and conditions of use: http://pubsonline.informs.org/page/terms-and-conditions

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inclusion of an advertisement in this article, neither constitutes nor implies a guarantee, endorsement, or

support of claims made of that product, publication, or service.

Copyright 2004, INFORMS

Please scroll down for articleit is on subsequent pages

INFORMS is the largest professional society in the world for professionals in the fields of operations research, management

science, and analytics.

For more information on INFORMS, its publications, membership, or meetings visit http://www.informs.org

issn 1532-0545 04 0402 0045

informs

doi 10.1287/ited.4.2.45

2004 INFORMS

I N F O R M S

Transactions on Education

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Problems in Spreadsheets

Cliff T. Ragsdale, Evelyn C. Brown

Department of Business Information Technology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,

Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, USA {crags@vt.edu, evebrown@vt.edu}

agsdale (2003) recently introduced an innovative approach to implementing project management networks

in spreadsheets that greatly simplies the handling of precedence relations among activities. This paper

demonstrates how a similar technique can be used to create efcient spreadsheet models for line balancing

problems.

1.

Introduction

(adapted from Meredith and Shafer 2003).

The proposed spreadsheet model for this problem

is shown in Figure 2. [Click here http://archive.ite.

journal.informs.org/Vol4No2/RagsdaleBrown/

LineBalancing.xls to download the Excel le for this

example.] Cells E6 through E12 in this spreadsheet

represent decision variables indicating to which

workstation each task is assigned. In the solution

shown, each task has been arbitrarily assigned to a

unique workstation. Formulas in cells I6 through I12

compute the sum of the task times assigned to each

workstation. The total task time for each workstation

must not exceed the desired cycle time of 0.4 minutes

specied in cell I13. Clearly, the solution shown in

Figure 2 is sub-optimal as the activities assigned to

workstations 4 and 5 (i.e., activities d and e) could

be assigned to a single workstation with a cycle

time of 0.37 minutes without violating the required

precedence relations.

Note that a precedence violation occurs if the maximum workstation assigned to a predecessor for a

given task x is greater than (or downstream from)

the workstation to which task x is assigned. The maximum workstation assigned to predecessors for each

task is computed in column F by entering the following array formula in cell F6 (and copying it to cells

F7 through F12):

For a given a set of manufacturing tasks and a specied cycle time, the classical line balancing problem

consists of assigning each task to a workstation such

that: (1) each workstation can complete its assigned

set of tasks within the desired cycle time, (2) the

precedence constraints among the tasks are satised,

and (3) the number of workstations is minimized.

The line balancing problem appears in most introductory operations management textbooks (Krajewski

and Ritzman 2002, Meredith and Schafer 2003). See

Scholl (1999) for a detailed analysis of this problem.

The precedence relations among activities in a

line balancing problem present a signicant challenge for students in formulating and implementing an optimization model for this problem. While

integer programming formulations are possible, they

quickly become unwieldy and increasingly difcult

to solve as problem size increases. As a result, many

authors recommend heuristic approaches to solving

the line balancing problem (Meredith and Schafer

2003, Sabuncuoglu et al. 2000, Suresh et al. 1996).

This paper introduces a simple, efcient approach

to implementing line balancing problems in spreadsheets. The resulting model can be used to facilitate

the discussion of heuristic solution techniques and/or

optimization using the evolutionary search engine in

Premium Solver for Education (provided with numerous spreadsheet-based OR/MS texts).

=MAX(IF(ISERR(FIND($B$6:$B$12,D6)),0,

$E$6:$E$12))

2.

Example

(Note that array formulas must be entered by pressing [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Enter].) This array formula is comprised of four nested functions (i.e., FIND( ), ISERR( ),

times (in minutes) for a credit application processing

45

46

Downloaded from informs.org by [217.117.239.157] on 23 December 2016, at 08:23 . For personal use only, all rights reserved.

Figure 1

INFORMS Transactions on Education 4(2), pp. 4548, 2004 INFORMS

0.40 Minutes

repeated calculations. Table 1 outlines the operation

of this array formula in determining the maximum

predecessor workstation for activity e (cell F10 in

Figure 2).

Figure 2

starts with the innermost function and substitutes

each of the values in cells B6 through B12 as the rst

argument (denoted by x in Table 1) in the FIND( )

function. In general, the function FIND(x, y) attempts

to nd the text string denoted by x within the text

string denoted by y and, if found, returns the starting position of x within y; otherwise, it returns the

Excel error code #VALUE!. For example, FIND(c,

c, d) returns the vaue 1 because the letter c occurs

in the rst position of the string c, d. Thus, in

Table 1 the FIND( ) function returns the value 1 when

cell B8 (containing c) is compared to cell D10 (containing c, d). Similarly, FIND(d, c, d) returns

the value 4 because the letter d occurs in the fourth

position of the string c, d (note that FIND( ) counts

the space following the comma). Thus, in Table 1,

Cell

Copied to

E13

F6

I6

=MAX(E6:E12)

=MAX(IF(ISERR(FIND($B$6:$B$12,D6)),0,$E$6:$E$12)) (Press [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Enter] to enter.)

=SUMIF($E$6:$E$12,H6,$C$6:$C$12)

F7:F12

I7:I12

INFORMS Transactions on Education 4(2), pp. 4548, 2004 INFORMS

Table 1

Activity e

Downloaded from informs.org by [217.117.239.157] on 23 December 2016, at 08:23 . For personal use only, all rights reserved.

Array value x

B6

B7

B8

B9

B10

B11

B12

FIND(x,D10)

ISERR( )

IF( )

#VALUE!

#VALUE!

1

4

#VALUE!

#VALUE!

#VALUE!

TRUE

TRUE

FALSE

FALSE

TRUE

TRUE

TRUE

0

0

3

4

0

0

0

MAX( ) = 4

B9 (containing d) is compared to cell D10 (containing c, d). In every other case, the FIND( ) function

returns the error code #VALUE! because none of the

other activities in cells B6 through B12 appear in cell

D10 as immediate predecessors of activity e.

The result of each FIND( ) function is then evaluated by the ISERR( ) function which returns a Boolean

value of TRUE if its argument evaluates to an error

Figure 3

47

function then uses this Boolean result to determine

whether to return a value of zero (the default maximum predecessor workstation for tasks without predecessors) or the corresponding value in the range E6

through E12. For instance, because the value in cell

B9 (d) is found in cell D10 as an immediate predecessor of activity e, the ISERR( ) function returns the

value FALSE and the IF( ) function returns the corresponding workstation assignment from the range E6

through E12 (i.e., the value 4 from cell E9). Alternatively, because the value in cell B6 (a) is not found

in cell D10 as an immediate predecessor of activity e,

the ISERR( ) function returns the value TRUE and the

IF( ) function returns the value zero.

As shown in Table 1, the IF( ) function produces a

series of values that are either zero or the assigned

workstation number for activities that are immediate

predecessors of activity e. The MAX( ) function then

returns the largest of these values (i.e., 4) which represents the workstation to which activity d is assigned.

Note that if an activity has no immediate predecessors

(e.g., activity a) then all the values returned by the

48

IF( ) function will be zero and, as a result, the maximum predecessor workstation for such an activity

will also be zero.

In Excel 2002 (XP), the steps outline in Table 1 can

be replicated dynamically in the spreadsheet to assist

in ones understanding of the array formula used in

column F. To do this, select cell F10 and click Tools,

Formula Auditing, Evaluate Formula. You may then

step through the process Excel goes through in evaluating this formula.

Figure 3 shows an optimal solution to the problem

found using Premium Solver for Education. Although

this approach to implementing line balancing problems in spreadsheets is very efcient, the resulting

model is nonlinear and best attacked using Solvers

evolutionary algorithm. As a result, there is no guarantee that Solver will stop at a global (rather than

local) optimum. However, if a heuristic is used to

specify a good initial starting solution, Solver is usually effective at improving the solution if the initial solution is sub-optimal. (See Meredith and Shafer

2003, p. 193 for a description of the longest operation

time next (LOT) heuristic for this problem.) Of course,

one may also initiate Solver several times in an effort

to ensure that a good solution is found.

3.

Comments

above relies on the (case-sensitive) FIND( ) function

to identify each tasks maximum predecessor workstation. Recall that the function FIND(x, y) attempts to

nd the text string denoted by x within the text string

denoted by y. As a result, it is critically important to

use task labels that are unique and do not appear as

substrings within other task labels.

For example, the 26 letters of the English alphabet

may be used to uniquely identify up to 26 tasks. However, using the strings A1 and A11 as task labels

would not work in the proposed technique because

the FIND( ) function would locate A1 within A11

(i.e., FIND(A1,A11)=1)erroneously identifying

task A1 as a predecessor of task A11. Fortunately, use

of the strings A01 and A11 as task labels easily

remedies this situation.

Similarly, if one wishes to use numbers rather

than letters to identify tasks, using the numbers

problems within task labels 11 12 13 19 (among

others). However, this can be avoided easily by applying Excels Text format to cells containing task labels

and immediate predecessors (i.e., columns B and D

in Figure 1) and using two-digit numbers for all task

labels (e.g., 01 02 03 09 10 11 12 13 99). If

more than 100 numeric task labels are needed, threedigit numbers (formatted as text) should be used.

4.

Conclusions

approach for modeling line balancing problems in

spreadsheet using array formulas. While the resulting

spreadsheet model is nonlinear and requires heuristic optimization, it makes line balancing problems

far more accessible to students and practitioners than

more complicated integer programming spreadsheet

models for this type of problem (which may also

require heuristic optimization as the problem size

increases). Additionally, it introduces students to the

power provided by array formulas in a motivating

and easily understood fashion.

References

Krajewski, L., L. Ritzman. 2002. Operations Management Strategy and

Analysis, 6th ed. Prectice-Hall, New Jersey.

Meredith, J., S. Shafer. 2003. Introducing Operations Management.

Wiley, New York.

Ragsdale, C. T. 2003. A new approach to implementing project networks in spreadsheets. INFORMS Trans. Ed. 3(3), http://ite.

pubs.informs.org/Vol3No3/Ragsdale/index.php.

Sabuncuoglu, I., E. Erel, M. Tanyer. 2000. Assembly line balancing

using genetic algorithms. J. Intelligent Manufacturing 11

295310.

Scholl, A. 1999. Balancing and Sequencing of Assembly Lines. Springer

Verlag, Heidelberg.

Suresh, G., V. Vivod, S. Sahu. 1996. A genetic algorithm for assembly line balancing. Production Planning and Control 7(1) 3846.

Ragsdale, C. T. and E. C. Brown (2004), On Modeling Line Balancing Problems in Spreadsheets, INFORMS Transaction on Education, Vol. 4, No 2, http://archive.ite.journal.informs.org/Vol4No2/

RagsdaleBrown/.

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