Chapter 5 Page 1
Network Flow Programming Methods
The focus of this chapter is on the development of algorithms for solving network flowproblems. We begin with a discussion of the most prominent special cases, including thetransportation problem, the shortest path problem, the maximum flow problem and theirvariants, and conclude with a presentation of the primal simplex algorithm for the pureminimum cost flow problem. Although virtually all of the special cases are instances of theminimum cost flow problem, a great deal can be learned by studying them separately. Theindividual algorithms provide insight into different ways of solving problems, and have thebenefit of being extremely efficient. In addition, many applications of the minimum costflow problem embody features of the special cases. From a modeling perspective, it ishelpful to know how these features can be incorporated in broader formulations.
5.1 Transportation Problem
The transportation problem is concerned with finding an optimal distribution plan for asingle commodity. A given supply of the commodity is available at a number of sources,there is a specified demand for the commodity at each of a number of destinations, and thetransportation cost between each source-destination pair is known. In the simplest case,the unit transportation cost is constant. The problem is to find the optimal distribution planfor shipments from sources to destinations that minimizes the total transportation cost.
The traditional way to describe a transportation problem is with a matrixor tableau as in Fig. 1. The
sources at which the commodity isavailable are identified by name at the left side of the matrix, and the
destinations to which the commodity is to be shipped are arrayed alongthe top. The quantities available at the sources are shown as numbers atthe right of the matrix with
the supply at source
. The quantitiesrequired by the destinations are shown as numbers along the bottomwith the demand
required at destination
. The numbers in the bodyof the matrix are the unit costs of shipping from sources to destinationswith
the cost from source
. If it is not possible toship between a given source and destination, a large cost of
is enteredin the appropriate cell.A requirement of most solution algorithms is that total supplyequal total demand; i.e.,
. This is known as the
. All instances of the traditional transportation problem can bemodified so that this requirement is satisfied by simply adding either adummy source if demand exceeds supply, or a dummy destination if supply exceeds demand.