The Deluxe Balancer. What it is. What it does.
(from the Deluxe Balancer Manual)
A ShipIt database reflects the movement of products that take place on a real railroad.-- Products moving from shippers to consignees. But if your shippers produce products faster than your consignees can accept them, or your consignees request deliveries faster than your shippers can produce them, your database will grind to a halt in fairly short order. Your database is out of balance. The Deluxe Balancer is a software program that helps ShipIt users correct such imbalances.
While the primary function of the Deluxe Balancer certainly is the automatic balancing of your database, it also does much, much more! For example:
i) The Deluxe Balancer will determine whether you have the right mix of cars needed for your database. -- See the description of the car mix report in Deluxe Balancer Manual Chapter V. Also see Chapter IV for ways you can use the Deluxe Balancer to help change the car mix, if you don't like what you see.
ii) The Deluxe Balancer will also tell you if you are running the right number of trains, and will break down the needed number of trains for you division-by-division.
iii) By studying the industry report and the product report, described in Deluxe Balancer Manual Chapter V, as well as the divisional net flow report and divisional product report, described in Deluxe Balancer Manual Chapter VII, you will be amazed at the insights you will get about the flow of products in your database! For example, if you have a complex coal operation where coal is produced in several divisions and consumed in several other divisions, these reports will help you see exactly what the flow of products is, carload-by-carload, from where these carloads are produced to where they are consumed. Of course there is no problem if you have several complex product flows besides coal. -- The Deluxe Balancer will break down the flow of products for every one of your products and industries!
iv) And if you would like, much of the detailed information about your database produced by the Deluxe Balancer can be conveniently exported into a spreadsheet. -- See the description of the "spreadsheet export files" in Deluxe Balancer Manual Chapter V.
And these are just a few of the many capabilities of the Deluxe Balancer that go well beyond just balancing.
The Deluxe Balancer is written in the scientific programming language FORTRAN. It is the kind of mathematical program that scientists and engineers call a pure "number cruncher". For example, it computes the rate at which your shippers are producing each shipment and the rate at which consignees are requesting these products. If the rates don't match, the Deluxe Balancer will adjust the frequencies and the empties values in your database to try to get the numbers to match. The Deluxe Balancer also checks the number of carloads going into each siding, and adjusts things so that those carloads will fit.
If it is mathematically possible to balance your database, the Deluxe Balancer will drive your database into balance, no matter how badly out of balance things are at the start. Chances are, though, it won't be possible for the Balancer to balance your database on the first try. That is because, even if you try your best to add industries, shippers, consignees, and products to your database carefully, it is almost a given that you will set things up in a way that things simply cannot be balanced. There is no reason to feel badly about that. A ShipIt database can be very complex. (That's because ShipIt reflects the real world so well!) But, generally speaking, it is beyond the capacity of the human mind to set up such a complex mathematical system in a way that it can be brought into balance.
But not to worry! If the Deluxe Balancer finds that it cannot automatically drive your database into balance, it will create several reports that you can use to change your database so it is possible for the Balancer to bring it into balance. And explaining how to do that is what much of this users guide is about.
Before running the Deluxe Balancer, you should know that it is assumed that your ShipIt database has already been created. So go ahead and follow the instructions in the ShipIt users manual for setting up your database. -- Get all your divisions, towns, industries, products, shippers, consignees, etc., etc. set up "by the book" first. Do your best not to create any problems while doing this. -- The worse the shape that your database is in when you start using the Balancer the harder your job will be in correcting things when using the Balancer. For example, make sure the Orphan Industries report is blank!
And just so you know, the Deluxe Balancer is not a panacea (cure-all) for every problem that might come up in a ShipIt database. If you have set up your car routes incorrectly, have set up your "default staging destinations" improperly, have created an "impossible" situation where trains cannot reach an industry to switch it due to limited setout direction, etc., etc., the Deluxe Balancer certainly will not help fix those kinds of problems. But when your Deluxe Balancer "grade" is good enough, and you've eliminated all the "discrepancies" that the Deluxe Balancer tells you about, your ShipIt database is in fact in balance. So you can look elsewhere for what might be causing any troubles you might have in your database.
And just one more thing before we start: Always keep in mind that the Deluxe Balancer is a program that will change your ShipIt database. So always, always, always back up your database before using the Deluxe Balancer. Especially when you’re just learning to use the Deluxe Balancer, you might make mistakes. It will give you confidence to play with the Deluxe Balancer as you wish if you know there are backups of your database available, should you accidentally do something that you regret.
So if your database is more or less set up, let's get started with balancing...
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