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Systems Optimisation


Admission requirements

Not applicable


This course is a computational and application-oriented introduction to the modeling of large-scale systems in a wide variety of decision-making domains and the optimization of such systems. Application domains include production planning, product mix, portfolio optimization, bidding, among others. We will cover the basic elements of modeling -- how to formulate a model and how to use and interpret the information a model produces. The aim of the course is to help students become intelligent consumers of optimization models and provide students tools for interpreting and analyzing model-based solutions.

I recommend the following books (not mandatory) for the course:

  • Winston and Albright, 2001, Practical Management Science: Spreadsheet Modeling and Applications, 2nd Edition (W&A).

  • John F. Barlow, 2005, Excel Models for Business and Operations Management, 2nd Edition.

Computer Software We will use excel spreadsheets extensively throughout the course. More specifically, we will explore the extensive optimization capabilities built in the spreadsheet.

Course objectives

Lecture 1:

  • Course overview.

  • Introduction to decision models: scale and complexity.

  • Linear programming formulation.

  • Demonstration of the spreadsheet optimization method.

  • Product mix

  • Transportation planning

Lecture 2:

  • Shelby Shelving case

  • Understanding the solver sensitivity report

  • Bidding/assignment problems

Lecture 3:

  • Project scheduling

  • Multi-period planning

  • Cash flow matching LP

  • Multi-period revenue management problem

Lecture 4:

  • Purchasing television ads

  • Estimating a response function

  • Portfolio optimization

Lecture 5:

  • Portfolio optimization (cont.)

  • Options

  • Hedging


The schedule can be found on the Leiden University student website

Detailed table of contents can be found in Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

The course has 6 lectures, individual assignments and a written exam.

Assessment method

There are four assignments to be done individually, which requires calculations on all accounts (e.g., modeling). During many of the class sessions, you will be asked to present your results in class and may receive bonus points for the assignments, depending on your performance. There is an open-book exam for this course.

Your final grade will be determined according to the following components (see the table below). Your final score needs to be at least 5.5 (on a scale of 10) in order to pass the course. In addition, you need to score at least 4 in each component to pass the course. Weight
4 Individual Assignments 40%
Class Participation 20%
Exam 40%

After the grades are published, the exam and standard answers will be made available for inspection in the professor's office.

Signing up for classes and exams

You have to take two steps:
1. Fill in this link;
2. Sign up for classes and examinations in uSis (in time).

There is only limited capacity for external students. Please contact the programme Co-ordinator.

Contact information



  • Students are responsible for enrolling/unenrolling themselves for (partial) exams/retakes.

  • Students are responsible for enrolling themselves for (partial) exams/retakes.

  • The deadline for enrolling for an exam/retake is 10 calendar days before the exam/retake takes place (exam date - 10 = deadline enrolling date).

  • Students who do not enroll themselves for an exam/retake by the deadline are not allowed to take the exam/retake.

  • Students fail the course if any of the components that make up the final mark of the course is assessed below 5.0.

  • The final grade is expressed as a whole or half number between 1.0 and 10.0, including both limits. The result is not to be expressed as a number between 5.0 and 6.0.

  • If one of the components of the final mark constitutes a component that assesses attendance or class participation, students cannot take a retake for this component. Therefore, students fail the course if their mark for this component is less than 5.0.

  • It is not possible to do retakes for group assignments. Therefore, if students fail the group assignment component, they fail the course.

  • Students pass the course if the final mark is 6.0 or higher (5.49 will rounded down to a 5 and a 5.5 will be rounded up to a 6.0).

  • For courses, for which class participation is an assessment component, students may not be penalised for an absence if the student has a legitimate justification for this absence. The student must notify the program coordinator via email (info@sbb.leidenuniv.nl) of such an absence BEFORE the lecture, describing the reason for missing the lecture. If the student does not notify the program coordinator before the lecture, the student will be penalised. Students may be required to provide further documentation to substantiate their case, and class attendance requirements are only waived under exceptional circumstances such as illness.

  • Students who are entitled to more exam/retake time must report to info@sbb.leidenuniv.nl 10 days before the exam/retake takes place.