Using preference/utility curves in the creation of a computer program for decision evaluation display analysis

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


During the course of a life-cycle cost (LCC) analysis, many decisions must be made. The different phases of the program must be broken out e.g., acquisition, production, Operations, maintenance, and disposal/retirement, then the appropriate cost and multifactor parameters must be defined. Cost parameters include research and development, production and construction, operation and support, and retirement/disposal. Multifactor parameters include mean time to repair, speed, weight, and many others. One way for the analyst to obtain an understanding of the project's or program's non-cost performance against its life-cycle cost is to use the decision evaluation display (DED). The DED (Figure 1) uses life-cycle cost as the x-axis and the multifactor criteria as the y-axes. Each alternative has a life-cycle cost line drawn with its multifactor criteria noted. The DED allows the analyst insight into the performance or effectiveness indicators (usually non-cost parameters) of various alternatives against their LCC.

After working with life-cycle cost analysis and decision evaluation displays (DEDs) in both ENGR 5004, Systems Engineering and ISE 5434, Economic Evaluation of Industrial Projects, I became frustrated with the lack of a formal method for evaluating mutually exclusive alternatives which were close in both their life-cycle costs and in their effectiveness measures (performance indicators). Selecting the final alternative almost always fell back to the "gut feel" method. While taking ISE 5144, Performance and Productivity Measurement and Evaluation, I became acquainted with a method for dealing with multifactor criteria which seemed to supply the means for analytically dealing with the multifactor criteria of the DED. This method was called the multicriteria performance/productivity measurement technique (MCP/PMT). Thus, I chose as the basis for my project and report to write a program in "C" which allows the analyst to enter the basic data for a standard decision evaluation display and then produce a utility curve based DED. Hopefully, this program will help other students avoid the same type of frustration I encountered.

This report is divided into three parts: the body, a program user's guide (Appendix A), and a programmer's guide (Appendix B). The body describes the background and motivation behind choosing this particular project, the basic theoretical concepts involved, a general program description, advantages and disadvantages of using the program, suggestions for possible enhancements to the program, conclusions, and a reference list. The user's guide provides a detailed description of the program's user interface, the calculations performed, the program's capabilities, and the available report formats. An example problem is also included. The programmer's guide which is provided to help individuals who may wish to modify the computer program describes the "C" program, the basic programming philosophy, provides a data dictionary, and contains the source code listings for the program.