Collecting goods for a charity

February's issue of the Journal of the Operational Research Society (JORS) opens with a case study about collecting items for a charity in the UK.  Items have to be collected from the charity's shops and from large collection bins.  The aim of the work was to find the best routes for the collecting vehicles, subject to a variety of constraints on travel times, collection windows and vehicle capacity. 

The paper, Matheuristics for solving a multi-attribute collection problem for a charity organisation by Güneş Erdoğan, Fraser McLeod, Tom Cherrett & Tolga Bektaş (JORS (2015) vol 66 issue 2, p177-190) gives a mathematical programming formulation for the problem discusses where it fits into the canon of problems related to the travelling salesman problem.  They model and solve the problem by Matheuristics and give results for simulated runs of the model, using data from the charity.

(Matheuristics are, according to the paper, combinations of metaheuristics and exact optimization methods, giving the diversification ability of metaheuristics and the intensification ability of exact methods.  It was not a term that I had met before - go on learning, even when retired!)

I enjoyed the paper, because it tackles a real-life problem with messy constraints, models it well enough for the solution to be useful, and is realistic about the assumptions that are made.  Well worth reading!


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