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 Modeling techniques for cushions

You’re planning purchases of trucks for a utility company fleet. You want to ensure that you always have enough trucks ready to roll. If the number you need is N, you can pad N with:

• A constant integer
• A computed integer
Round(N*(1+Pad),0) gives an integer cushion such that result is a constant percentage greater than the computed value
N+<reference>
Here we compute the actual value in <reference>

Demonstration

This is an example of cushioning. The cushion can be anything the human mind can imagine, but here we look at three possibilities: additive, multiplicative, or additive/complex.

The additive constant pad is the most straightforward, but if the ideal value N varies over a wide range, an additive constant is rarely the right choice. For example, if N starts in Q1 at 10 and grows to 50 in Q4, it’s unlikely that even if two spare trucks would suffice in Q1, that they would also suffice in Q4. In Q4, you probably need more. So additive constant pads are most useful when the attribute you’re cushioning doesn’t vary much.

Understanding Implicit Intersection

Implicit Intersection is one of the most underrated — and at the same time one of the most powerful — techniques in all of Excel. Yet few people truly understand it.

Implicit Intersection is the method by which one cell can retrieve a value from another range by examining the intersection of its row (or column) with that range. If the intersection is unique — a single-cell — then the formula of the cell that depends on implicit intersection can update its value without incident. If not, an error results.

Terminology for Worksheet Functions

When talking about worksheet functions, it’s important to be careful about your choice of terminology. Technology is like that, and like it or not, Excel is a piece of technology.

Cells can have formulas, as we’ve seen, and those formulas can invoke worksheet functions. Cells do not contain functions — rather, they can contain formulas, which, in turn, can invoke one or more worksheet functions.

User-defined names are not functions.

To invoke a worksheet function in the context of a cell formula, one calls a worksheet function. Often, you hear this described as “applying a worksheet function.” Do not use that terminology. For example, we’ll speak of “calling a function on its arguments,” or “calling a function with its arguments.” We do not say that we “apply a function to its arguments.”

When Excel calculates the value of a cell, and that cell’s formula contains a call to a worksheet function, that function call is evaluated. Its value is then returned to the formula, which uses it, in turn, to compute its own value.

Sometimes you hear worksheet functions referred to as commands. They aren’t commands. Commands are found on Excel’s menus, or perhaps in some dialog boxes. Commands do things, like format a cell, or sort a range. Commands don’t return values — functions return values.