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A greedy look-ahead heuristic for the vehicle routing problem with time windows. (English) Zbl 1114.90317

Summary: We consider the problem of physically distributing finished goods from a central facility to geographically dispersed customers, which pose daily demands for items produced in the facility and act as sales points for consumers. The management of the facility is responsible for satisfying all demand, and promises deliveries to the customers within fixed time intervals that represent the earliest and latest times during the day that a delivery can take place. We formulate a comprehensive mathematical model to capture all aspects of the problem, and incorporate in the model all critical practical concerns such as vehicle capacity, delivery time intervals and all relevant costs. The model, which is a case of the vehicle routing problem with time windows, is solved using a new heuristic technique. Our solution method, which is based upon Atkinson’s greedy look-ahead heuristic, enhances traditional vehicle routing approaches, and provides surprisingly good performance results with respect to a set of standard test problems from the literature. The approach is used to determine the vehicle fleet size and the daily route of each vehicle in an industrial example from the food industry. This actual problem, with approximately two thousand customers, is presented and solved by our heuristic, using an interface to a Geographical Information System to determine inter-customer and depot-customer distances. The results indicate that the method is well suited for determining the required number of vehicles and the delivery schedules on a daily basis, in real life applications.

MSC:

90B06 Transportation, logistics and supply chain management
90C27 Combinatorial optimization
90C59 Approximation methods and heuristics in mathematical programming
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