Last updated on October 4th, 2024 at 07:15 am

Linear Programming (LP) is a method of mathematical optimisation used to discover the most optimal solution for a problem with linear constraints and a linear objective function. It is widely utilised across various domains such as business, economics, engineering, and operations research.

## The Core Concept of Linear Programming

The fundamental concept of LP is to maximise or minimise a linear objective function while adhering to a set of linear constraints, which represent necessary limitations or requirements. The goal is to achieve the best possible outcome within these given constraints.

## The Importance of LP

The linearity of LP is of utmost importance, as it signifies that all variable relationships are depicted through linear equations. This simplifies the optimisation process significantly, given that linear functions are relatively easy to handle mathematically. On the contrary, non-linear relationships can introduce complexity and make the problem more challenging.

## The Key Components of LP

Here are the important components of linear programming:

**Decision variables:**We can manage or modify these variables to discover the best solution, representing the quantities or values we aim to ascertain.**Objective function:**This function is the one we strive to maximise or minimise, expressing the problem's objective, such as maximising profit or minimising cost.**Constraints:**These are the restrictions or demands that must be met, which can be presented as linear equations or inequalities. They ensure that the solution is feasible and complies with the given conditions.

For instance, let us consider a company producing two products, A and B. Each product requires specific resources (e.g., labour, materials). The company's objective is to maximise profit while not exceeding its available resources.Â In this case, the decision variables would be the quantities of products A and B to produce, the objective function would be the total profit, and the constraints would represent the resource limitations.

## Formulating Problems for LP

When applying linear programming, the initial step involves converting a real-world issue into a mathematical model. Below is a general process, demonstrated with instances from the finance and banking sectors:

**Identify the decision variables:**These quantities that can be controlled or adjusted. For instance, in a bank's portfolio optimisation problem, the decision variables could be the amounts invested in various asset classes.**Define the objective function:**This represents the desired goal. In finance, it often involves maximising return or minimising risk. For example, a bank might seek to maximise the expected return on its portfolio while minimising its risk exposure.**Identify the constraints:**These are the limitations or requirements that need to be met. In banking, constraints include minimum required returns, maximum risk limits, regulatory requirements, and liquidity constraints.

**Example: Portfolio optimisation**

**Decision variables:**Amounts invested in stocks, bonds, and cash.**Objective function:**Maximise expected return.**Constraints:**Minimum required return, maximum risk limit, liquidity constraint (e.g., ensuring sufficient cash for withdrawals).

## Constraint Development for LP

Ensuring that the solution is feasible and realistic depends on constraints, which can be represented as linear equations or inequalities. For instance, various types of constraints are commonly found in the fields of finance and banking:

**Resource constraints:**These restrict the availability of resources like capital, labour, or materials. For instance, a bank may have limited capital for investment.**Demand constraints:**These guarantee that demand is fulfilled, such as meeting minimum loan requirements or maintaining adequate liquidity in banking.**Regulatory constraints:**These ensure compliance with laws and regulations, such as capital adequacy ratios and leverage limits for banks.

For example:

**Resource constraint:**The total investment cannot exceed the available capital.**Demand constraint:**At least 20% of the total portfolio must be invested in stocks.**Regulatory constraint:**The capital adequacy ratio must surpass a specific threshold.

## Formulation of Objective Function for LP

The objective function denotes the desired goal and is often expressed as a linear combination of decision variables. For instance, in a portfolio optimisation problem, the objective function may be represented as:

Maximise expected return: ** ExpectedReturn = w1 * Return1 + w2 * Return2 + ... + wn * Returnn**, where

**,**

*w1***,**

*w2***,**

*...***are the weights of each**

*wn***and**

*asset***,**

*Return1***,**

*Return2***,**

*...***are the expected returns of each asset.**

*Returnn*## Solving Linear Programming Problems

There are multiple ways to solve LP problems. Let us explore three important methods.

### Graphical Method

When solving linear programming problems, the graphical method is utilised as a visual technique for small-scale problems with two decision variables. This method entails plotting the constraints as lines on a graph, determining the feasible region (the area that meets all constraints), and locating the optimal solution (the point within the possible region that maximises or minimises the objective function).

The steps involved are as follows:

**Plot the constraints:**Represent each constraint as a line on a coordinate plane.**Identify the feasible region:**Shade the region that satisfies all constraints.**Find the optimal solution:**Assess the objective function at the corner points of the feasible region. The optimal solution is the point with the highest (or lowest) value.

### Simplex Method

The simplex method offers a more practical approach for solving more extensive and intricate linear programming problems with numerous decision variables. It entails iteratively transitioning from one corner point of the feasible region to another, enhancing the objective function value at each stage until the optimal solution is achieved.

The following are the steps involved:

**Reformulate the problem into standard form:**Express the problem in a standard form with all constraints as equations and ensure that all variables are non-negative.**Establish an initial tableau:**Create a tableau that includes the coefficients of the decision variables, slack variables, and the objective function.**Determine the entering and leaving variables:**Identify which variable should enter the basis and which should leave.**Execute a pivot operation:**Update the tableau to reflect the new basis.**Verify optimality:**The optimal solution has been reached if the objective function row does not contain any negative coefficients. Otherwise, repeat steps 3-5.

### Sensitivity Analysis

Sensitivity analysis is a method utilised to examine how variations in input parameters (such as coefficients of the objective function or constraints) influence the optimal solution. It offers insights into the stability of the solution and assists decision-makers in evaluating the repercussions of uncertainties.

Typical types of sensitivity analysis:

**Adjusting parameters:**Investigating the impact of alterations in objective function coefficients or constraints.**Changes in the right-hand side:**Evaluating the consequences of modifications in the right-hand side values of constraints.**Inclusion or exclusion of constraints:**Assessing the impact of adding or removing constraints.

## Applications of Linear Programming

Linear programming has numerous applications in many sectors, enabling organisations and individuals to make well-informed decisions, optimise portfolios, and effectively manage risk. Here are some applications of LP in different fields.

### Business and Economics

- The goal of production planning is to determine the best combination of products to maximise profits while considering resource limitations.
- To minimise transportation costs and delivery times, the aim is to find the most efficient routes in transportation.
- The objective of portfolio optimisation is to allocate investments to maximise returns while managing risk.
- Optimising inventory levels, distribution routes, and production schedules is the key focus of supply chain management.

### Engineering

- The primary objective in structural design is to minimise material usage while meeting safety standards.
- Circuit design aims to optimise circuit layouts to reduce size and power consumption.
- In manufacturing, the aim is to enhance production efficiency by minimising waste and maximising output.

### Healthcare

- In diet planning, the goal is to create balanced meal plans that meet nutritional requirements while minimising costs.
- The allocation of limited healthcare resources (e.g., beds, equipment) is done with the aim of maximising patient care.

### Social Sciences

- Urban planning seeks to optimise land use and transportation networks to improve quality of life.
- In education, allocating resources (e.g., teachers, classrooms) is aimed at maximising student outcomes.

### Other Applications

- In agriculture, the objective is to optimise crop planting and resource allocation to maximise yields.
- The goal of LP in energy management is to determine the optimal mix of energy sources to minimise costs and emissions.
- Environmental planning aims to optimise resource conservation and pollution control.

### How LP is Used

Linear programming models are formulated in these applications by defining decision variables, an objective function, and constraints. The objective function represents the optimisation goal (e.g., maximising profit, minimising cost), while the constraints represent limitations or requirements. The model is then solved using mathematical techniques to find the optimal solution.

## Case Studies: Real-World Applications of Linear Programming in Finance and Banking

By understanding case studies and the underlying principles of linear programming, practitioners can effectively apply this technique to solve complex problems. Let us look at two case studies.

### Case Study 1: Portfolio Optimisation at a Large Investment Firm

**Issue:** A large investment firm aimed to optimise its portfolio allocation to maximise returns while managing risk.

**Resolution:** The firm employed linear programming to create a portfolio that balanced expected returns and risk. Decision variables represented the amounts invested in different asset classes (e.g., stocks, bonds, cash), the objective function was the expected return, and constraints included minimum required returns, maximum risk limits, and liquidity requirements.

**Advantages:** The firm managed to achieve higher returns while controlling risk, leading to improved performance for its clients.

### Case Study 2: Loan Portfolio Management at a Regional Bank

**Issue: **A regional bank aimed to optimise its loan portfolio to maximise profitability while minimising credit risk.

**Resolution: **The bank utilised linear programming to distribute its loan portfolio among different loan types (e.g., consumer loans, commercial loans, mortgages) based on factors such as expected returns, credit risk, and regulatory requirements.

**Advantages: **The bank improved its loan portfolio's profitability by focusing on higher-yielding loans while managing credit risk effectively.

#### Wrapping Up

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### Frequently Asked Questions

**What is linear programming and why is it different from nonlinear programming?**

Linear programming addresses problems where all relationships are linear (expressed by equations or inequalities), while nonlinear programming tackles problems with at least one nonlinear relationship.

**Can linear programming be utilised to address problems with integer variables?**

Yes, although it is generally more effective to employ integer programming methods specifically tailored for problems with integer constraints.

**What does duality in linear programming mean?**

Duality is a key principle in linear programming that involves creating a connected problem known as the dual problem. The dual problem offers important perspectives into the original problem, including the optimal solution, sensitivity analysis, and economic interpretation.