INDUSTRY NEWS

Frontline Systems makes advanced analytics easy in Web, mobile apps

Frontline Systems has launched a free public beta version of its new RASON™ modeling language and REST API at https://rason.com. Application developers can sign up for free accounts to use the language and REST API service, to create compact analytic models that “live” in any mobile app or Web page, solve them easily in the cloud and get back results.

“Deployment of advanced analytics for Web and mobile applications has been quite difficult in the past,” says Daniel Fylstra, Frontline’s president and CEO. “The RASON service makes creating and deploying analytics models radically simple.” A new generation of apps that can use advanced analytics “behind the scenes” in domains ranging from finance, logistics and energy to consumer services and even games are now much easier to build with RASON.

RASON, an acronym for RESTful Analytic Solver™ Object Notation, denotes a high-level, declarative modeling language that is embedded in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), the popular structured format widely used to pass data between Web clients and servers. A REST API at https://rason.net enables applications to submit RASON models to Frontline’s servers, solve them and obtain results in JSON.

RASON (2015) is a modern language for the Web, designed so both models and results are readable and writable by both humans and programs. Compared to conventional “callable libraries” for optimization or simulation, RASON offers a higher level, more expressive language, saving time in development, as well as “zero-footprint” deployment, with no code other than JavaScript needed on a Web or mobile client.

In addition to use in “thin client” applications via a REST API, RASON models may be used in server-based applications, in a new release of Frontline’s Solver SDK Platform (http://www.solver.com/solver-sdk-platform) product – enabling applications in C++, C#, Java, Visual Basic and other languages to work with high-level RASON models, while retaining the full control available in a programming language.

The RASON service, currently in free public beta, will be offered on a monthly subscription basis with a free tier to get started, and paid tiers that support solving models of different sizes, using varying amounts of CPU time on Frontline’s back-end servers.

The RASON language is simple enough so its essential features can be grasped through a single-page example, shown at https://rason.com/Home/About. But it packs a lot of power, with arithmetic, logical and string operators, 650 built-in functions, array and vector-matrix operations, and “slicing and dicing” of multi-dimensional tables. RASON model parameters may be bound to data in external files, Excel spreadsheets, SQL databases, and soon in several Web-based common formats.

RASON models can express linear programming and mixed-integer programming models, quadratic programming and second-order cone models, nonlinear and global optimization models, and “arbitrary” models solved via genetic algorithms and tabu search methods. They can also express Monte Carlo simulation/risk analysis models, simulation optimization, robust optimization and stochastic programming models with recourse decisions and chance constraints.

The RASON server solves small models in sub-second times, but is capable of solving extremely large, challenging models, such as LP/MIP models with millions of decision variables. A RASON client app, even on a mobile device, can request solution of even a very large model, check the solution status and retrieve results, even hours or days later.

Nampak picks AIMMS, Districon to boost production-planning process

Nampak is Africa’s leading packaging company, Nampak Glass, the bottling division of the company, operates a world-class manufacturing plant in Roodekop, South Africa. The facility is equipped with the latest international technology and supplies a diverse range of standard as well as customer-specific glass bottles to the beverage and food industry. Increasing needs for product flexibility and production efficiency, paired with rising customer demand volatility require Nampak Glass to improve their ability to deploy the best possible production schedule at all times. A redesign of the scheduling process was necessary to align different production phases. To address this, Nampak chose AIMMS’ optimization software and Districon, an AIMMS implementation partner, to develop a customized production scheduling and optimization tool.

Districon will develop this tool in four months supporting Nampak’s detailed planning process for three furnaces, enabling improvements in turnaround times and efficiency. The tool will leverage AIMMS’ modeling technology to support the company’s schedulers, sales and management teams to make the best business decisions through the evaluation and optimization of profit scenarios. This will also allow the business to respond to daily disturbances and changing demand requirements in a cost-effective way. The AIMMS-based optimization solution answers Nampak’s key business question: “What actions do we need to take to achieve our business objectives?”

Nampak will develop a unique business platform named GOBSS (Nampak Glass Optimization Business Software Solution). AIMMS and Districon were chosen for their combined ability to deliver smart optimization-based supply chain solutions in a short space of time with clear ROI, supported by a professional and capable team.

“Our goal is to be able to make fast, efficient and comprehensive business decisions in an environment where demands are constantly changing,” says Vishal Devan, supply chain director from Nampak Glass. “Our business requirements are not only complex, but unique in nature and working with the right tools and the right team was imperative for us to achieve our goals.”