Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Committee Member 1
Committee Member 2
Jose M. Tanchoco
The Minimum Latency Problem (MLP) is a class of routing problems that seeks to minimize the wait times (latencies) of a set of customers in a system. Similar to its counterparts in the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) and Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP), the MLP is NP-hard. Unlike these other problem classes, however, the MLP is customer-oriented and thus has impactful potential for better serving customers in settings where they are the highest priority. While the VRP is very widely researched and applied to many industry settings to reduce travel times and costs for service-providers, the MLP is a more recent problem and does not have nearly the body of literature supporting it as found in the VRP. However, it is gaining significant attention recently because of its application to such areas as disaster relief logistics, which are a growing problem area in a global context and have potential for meaningful improvements that translate into reduced suffering and saved lives. An effective combination of MLP's and route minimizing objectives can help relief agencies provide aid efficiently and within a manageable cost.
To further the body of literature on the MLP and its applications to such settings, a new variant is introduced here called the Multi-Depot Minimum Latency Problem with Inter-Depot Routes (MDMLPI). This problem seeks to minimize the cumulative arrival times at all customers in a system being serviced by multiple vehicles and depots. Vehicles depart from one central depot and have the option of refilling their supply at a number of intermediate depots. While the equivalent problem has been studied using a VRP objective function, this is a new variant of the MLP. As such, a mathematical model is introduced along with several heuristics to provide the first solution approaches to solving it. Two objectives are considered in this work: minimizing latency, or arrival times at each customer, and minimizing weighted latency, which is the product of customer need and arrival time at that customer. The case of weighted latency carries additional significance as it may correspond to a larger number of customers at one location, thus adding emphasis to the speed with which they are serviced. Additionally, a discussion on fairness and application to disaster relief settings is maintained throughout. To reflect this, standard deviation among latencies is also evaluated as a measure of fairness in each of the solution approaches.
Two heuristic approaches, as well as a second-phase adjustment to be applied to each, are introduced. The first is based on an auction policy in which customers bid to be the next stop on a vehicle's tour. The second uses a procedure, referred to as an insertion technique, in which customers are inserted one-by-one into a partial routing solution such that each addition minimizes the (weighted) latency impact of that single customer. The second-phase modification takes the initial solutions achieved in the first two heuristics and considers the (weighted) latency impact of repositioning nodes one at a time. This is implemented to remove potential inefficient routing placements from the original solutions that can have compounding effects for all ensuing stops on the tour. Each of these is implemented on ten test instances. A nearest neighbor (greedy) policy and previous solutions to these instances with a VRP objective function are used as benchmarks.
Both heuristics perform well in comparison to these benchmarks. Neither heuristic appears to perform clearly better than the other, although the auction policy achieves slightly better averages for the performance measures. When applying the second-phase adjustment, improvements are achieved and lead to even greater reductions in latency and standard deviation for both objectives. The value of these latency reductions is thoroughly demonstrated and a call for further research regarding customer-oriented objectives and evaluation of fairness in routing solutions is discussed.
Finally, upon conclusion of the results presented in this work, several promising areas for future work and existing gaps in the literature are highlighted. As the body of literature surrounding the MLP is small yet growing, these areas constitute strong directions with important relevance to Operations Research, Humanitarian Logistics, Production Systems, and more.
Duket, Timothy W., "The Multi-Depot Minimum Latency Problem with Inter-Depot Routes" (2014). Open Access Theses. 420.