Linear programming

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Linear programming (LP) is a mathematical method for determining a way to achieve the best outcome (such as maximum profit or lowest cost) in a given mathematical model for some list of requirements represented as linear relationships.

More formally, linear programming is a technique for the optimization of a linear objective function, subject to linear equality and linear inequality constraints. Given a polytope and a real-valued affine function defined on this polytope, a linear programming method will find a point on the polytope where this function has the smallest (or largest) value if such point exists, by searching through the polytope vertices.

Linear programs are problems that can be expressed in canonical form:

where x represents the vector of variables (to be determined), c and b are vectors of (known) coefficients and A is a (known) matrix of coefficients. The expression to be maximized or minimized is called the objective function (cTx in this case). The equations Ax ≤ b are the constraints which specify a convex polytope over which the objective function is to be optimized. (In this context, two vectors are comparable when every entry in one is less-than or equal-to the corresponding entry in the other. Otherwise, they are incomparable.)

Linear programming can be applied to various fields of study. It is used most extensively in business and economics, but can also be utilized for some engineering problems. Industries that use linear programming models include transportation, energy, telecommunications, and manufacturing. It has proved useful in modeling diverse types of problems in planning, routing, scheduling, assignment, and design.

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