Monday, November 24, 2008

Free software and Open Source tools for Operations Research

Operations Research is growing in many areas in our industrial society. Organizations are seeking experts in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering in a significant rate. These organizations are understanding the enormous potential that these analysts can contribute. The primary tools of the Operations Research specialist use to be proprietary or require a large software development team. Now these tools are entering the public domain known as free software or open source software.

Free software , or Open Source, is a software development movement started mostly in academia and is slowly moving toward industry. The idea is that computer software should be freely available to decipher, reuse, modify, and improve. Since the code that the software is built on is free than it is available for anyone to download and use to their advantage. This can have a huge advantage in terms of licensing and software costs. Also implementation can be rapid. Since free software is public domain than there is also a community available to support the software. A lot of times this community can be very large.

Examples of Operations Research tools in the public domain include:

GLPK, or Gnu Linear Programming Kit. Developed by the GNU project. From the website "...intended for solving large-scale linear programming (LP), mixed integer programming (MIP), and other related problems. It is a set of routines written in ANSI C and organized in the form of a callable library." IBM Developerworks devoted a tutorial on the GLPK.

Paul Jensen's Operations Research Models and Methods is a collection of Excel Add-Ins for various Operations Research and statistical analysis. The website includes great documentation and is a great resource for learning about Operations Research tools.

SimPy, a discrete event simulation language developed in the Python programming language. Excellent tool to perform simulation analysis. The website also includes tutorials and documentation.

These are just some to name a few. Brady Hunsaker has a great website with a collection of valuable open source tools of free and open source software for Industrial Engineers and Operations Research.

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