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)

ISSN (Online) 2319-183X, (Print) 2319-1821

Volume 3, Issue 4(April 2014), PP.01-07

www.irjes.org 1 | Page

A computational experiment in a heuristic for the Fixed Charge

Transportation Problem

Gustavo Valentim Loch

1

, Arinei Carlos Lindbeck da Silva

2

1

(Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil)

2

(Universidade Federal do Paraná, Brazil)

Abstract:- The Fixed Charge Transportation Problem is a NP-Hard special case of mathematical programming

and may be applied to a variety of real life problems. Not only is it used in commodity transportation problems,

but also in inventory control, employment scheduling, facility allocation and other applications. While the

classic transportation problem involves only variable costs, the Fixed Charge Transportation Problem includes a

fixed cost associated with the use of each arc. The fixed cost may represent, for example, tools in Highways or

costs to build a road. The objective is then to determine not only the amounts shipped from each source to each

destination, but also the arcs to be used. In this paper, we present a heuristic algorithm, comparing the quality

solution and computational time with the widely used solver cplex. The tests include problems of different sizes

from 5x5 to 25x25 and different ranges of fixed costs.

Keywords:- Computational experiment, Fixed Charge Transportation Problem, Heuristic, MODI

I. INTRODUCTION

The Fixed Charge Transportation Problem (FCTP) arises as a generalization of the Transportation

Problem (TP) and a particular case of Fixed Charge Problem (FCP) formulated by Hirsch and Dantzig [1]. The

objective is to minimize the total cost for sending a single commodity from m origins to n destinations subject to

offers and demands constraints. Its mathematical formulation is described as

(1)

(2)

(3)

(4)

(5)

(6)

The unitary transportation cost is defined by c

ij

and the fixed cost to activate the route from source i to

destination j is defined by f

ij

. The decision variables x

ij

and y

ij

describe the amount to be shipped from origin i to

destination j and if the route from i to j is used, respectively. The quantity offered by the source i and demanded

by destination j are represented respectively by a

i

and b

j

. The set of constraints (4) indicates that to transport any

quantity greater than zero from source i to destination j it is necessary to activate the route, i.e., y

ij

=1.

Additionally, m

ij

=min{a

i

, b

j

} indicates the amount that is possible to be shipped if the route is activated.

A computational experiment in a heuristic for the Fixed Charge Transportation Problem

www.irjes.org 2 | Page

The set of constraints (2) and (3) is composed of m+n equations and there is exactly one redundant

constraint [2]. When any one of those constraints is dropped, the remaining system of equation is linearly

independent. Therefore, an extreme point is represented by m+n-1 basic variables.

While it is possible to solve the TP in a polynomial time, Hirsch e Dantzig [1] showed that the FCTP is

a NP-Hard and Klose [3] demonstrated it is a NP-Hard even with a single destination. Hirsch and Dantzig [1]

and Charnes and Cooper [4] demonstrated that the FCTP admits an optimal solution in an extreme point.

Applications of FCTP are not restricted to distribution problems, but also in different real-life

problems. The FCTP was used in a problem of launch vehicles allocation to space missions [5], process

selection [1], nuclear plant location [6], solid-waste management [7], wastewater systems [8] and teacher

assignment [9].

During the last decades, different heuristic algorithms were proposed to solve the FCTP, such as the

ones presented by Balisnki [10], Kuhn and Baumol [11], Cooper and Drebes [12], Sun [13], Adlakha and

Kowalski [14][15], Glover [17].

This paper aims to present a simple heuristic for the FCTP, showing that its use in small problems leads

to a near optimal value solution in an acceptable computational time.

II. THE MODI METHOD FOR SOLVING TRANSPORTATION PROBLEM

The methods to solve a transportation problem start with an initial Basic Feasible Solution (BFS)

followed by an iterative improvement procedure. The BFS may be obtained by different methods, such as the

well-known northwest corner, minimal cost, Vogel or Russel. For solution improvement, the most referenced

method is the MODI.

The MODI method to solve a TP is highly described in the literature, such as Murty [2] and Hasan [16]

and is well known for those having worked with mathematical programming. The method may be resumed in

algorithm 1:

Step1. Obtain an initial basic feasible solution.

Step2. Compute the potential (or multiplier) of each row and column. Using the fact that c

ij

=u

i

-v

j

for

each basic variable, set u

1

=0 and, recursively, compute the remaining u

i

’s and v

j

’s.

Step3. For each non-basic variable, compute k

ij

=c

ij

-u

i

-v

j

.

Step4. If there is a negative k

ij

, chose the variable x

pq

associated with the most negative k

pq

to entry the

basis. Otherwise, go to step9.

Step5. Find a θ-loop in the set of cells consisted by the cell (p,q) and the basic cells.

Step6. Place an entry of +θ in the cell (p,q) and alternately the entries of –θ and +θ among the cells in

the θ-loop. The cells place with –θ are called donor cell and the ones placed with +θ are called recipient.

Step7. Identify the donor cell (r,s) with the smallest value (in case of a draw, choose one arbitrarily)

and set θ=x

rs

.

Step8. Compute x

ij

=x

ij

+θ for the recipient cells in the θ-loop and x

ij

=x

ij

-θ for the donor cell in the θ-

loop. Then cell (r,s) becomes non basic and cell (p,q) becomes basic. Go to Step2.

Step9. Finish. The current solution is optimal.

III. THE MODI METHOD ADAPTED FOR FIXED CHARGE TRANSPORTATION

PROBLEM

The ideas of the MODI method may also be used to improve a solution of the FCTP. By adapting the

algorithm 1 to the FCTP, it is possible to obtain algorithm 2:

Step1. Obtain an initial basic feasible solution.

Step2. Compute the potential (or multiplier) of each row and column. Using the fact that c

ij

=u

i

-v

j

for

each basic variable, set u

1

=0 and, recursively, compute the remaining u

i

’s and v

j

’s.

Step3. For each non-basic variable:

compute k

ij

=u

i

-v

j

Find a θ-loop in the set of cells consisted by the cell (i,j) and the basic cells

Place an entry of +θ in the cell (p,q) and alternately the entries of -θ and +θ among the cells in the θ-

loop. The cells placed with -θ are called donor cell and the ones placed with +θ are called recipients.

A computational experiment in a heuristic for the Fixed Charge Transportation Problem

www.irjes.org 3 | Page

Identify the donor cell (r,s) with the smallest value (in case of a draw, choose one arbitrarily) and set

θ=x

rs

Compute Δ

ij

= θk

ij

+f

ij

-f

rs

+D. D represents a value to correct the effect of degeneracy in the objective

function.

Step4. If there is a negative Δ

ij

, chose the variable x

pq

associated with the most negative Δ

pq

to enter the

basis. Otherwise, go to step9.

Step5. Find a θ-loop in the set of cells consisted by the cell (p,q) and the basic cells.

Step6. Place an entry of θ in the cell (p,q) and alternately the entries of -θ and +θ among the cells in

the θ-loop . The cells placed with -θ are called donor cell and the ones placed with +θ are called recipients.

Step7. Identify the donor cell (r,s) with the smallest value (in case of a draw, choose one arbitrarily)

and set θ=x

rs

.

Step8. Compute x

ij

=xij+θ for the recipient cells in the θ-loop and x

ij

=x

ij

-θ for the donor cell in the θ-

loop. Then cell (r,s) becomes non basic and cell (p,q) becomes basic. Go to Step4.

Step9. Finish.

The difference between algorithms 1 and 2 lies on the computation of the solution improvement,

represented by step3. When there is no fixed charge, it is only necessary to know if the marginal cost k

ij

of each

non-basic variable is negative. On the other hand, when there is a fixed charge, the improvement of variable cost

may be less than the extra fixed cost caused by the entry variable.

In the FCTP, there is an optimal solution at an extreme point, but there is no guaranty that a local

minimum is a global minimum. So the solution found after algorithm 2 is applied may not, and usually will not,

be the global optimal.

For example, consider the problem presented in Table 1.

Table 1 – Variable costs, Fixed costs, offers and demands in a FCTP example

Variable costs c

ij

Fixed costs f

ij

a

i

b

j

7 3 4 4 7 24 25 7 26 17 77 74

5 5 5 7 4 24 47 48 9 31 170 133

3 6 3 6 5 46 27 41 11 17 130 13

3 4 7 7 5 34 34 30 46 40 14 186

7 7 4 7 5 5 7 28 12 31 180 165

(a) (b) (c) (d)

An initial basic feasible solution for the problem may be the one presented in Table 2.

Tables 2 – Example of initial basic feasible solution for the example from Table 1

x

ij

1 2 3 4 5

1 77

2 5 165

3 74 51 5

4 14

5 8 172

After that, algorithm 2 is used and the solution presented in Table 3 is obtained.

Table 3 – Solution obtained after algorithm 2 is applied to the solution of Table 2

x

ij

1 2 3 4 5

1 77

2 5 165

3 74 56 0

4 14

5 13 167

As shown on Table 4, there is no negative Δ

ij

, so the solution is the local minimum.

A computational experiment in a heuristic for the Fixed Charge Transportation Problem

www.irjes.org 4 | Page

Table 4 – Values of Δ

ij

after algorithm 2

Δ

ij

= θk

ij

+f

ij

-f

rs

+D 1 2 3 4 5

1 496 7 26 17

2 61 69 44

3 11 17

4 34 8 41 8

5 57 20 165

In this solution (Table 3), the objective function is z=3027, but the optimal value for this problem is

z*=2964.

If we force the variable (4,1) to enter the basis, the new objective value will be z=3027+Δ

41

=3061.

After that, there will be negatives Δ

ij

’s, with Δ

34

=36 being the most negative. After this iteration, the most

negative will be Δ

42

=28 and following the next two iterations, Δ

52

=20 and Δ

53

=13, respectively. After these

iterations, the objective function reached is z=2964, which, coincidently, is the optimal for the problem. The

idea of forcing a non-basic variable is that Δ

ij

is greater than zero to enter the basis and then apply the

improvement procedure is used for the proposed algorithm.

IV. THE HEURISTIC ALGORITHM PROPOSED FOR FCTP

In this paper, we propose algorithm 3 as a heuristic algorithm for the FCTP. The first advantage of

algorithm 3 is in its similarity to algorithm 1, making it easy for those familiar with the well-known MODI

method to understand and use the proposed heuristic. Additionally, the next session shows that the algorithm

also provides good results for the problems tested.

Step1. Obtain an initial basic feasible solution. Set z*=z. Set flag=0.

Step2. Compute the potential (or multiplier) of each row and column. Using the fact that c

ij

=u

i

-v

j

for

each basic variable, set u

1

=0 and, recursively, compute the remaining u

i

’s and v

j

’s.

Step3. For each non-basic variable:

compute k

ij

=u

i

-v

j

Find a θ-loop in the set of cells consisted by the cell (i,j) and the basic cells

Place an entry of +θ in the cell (p,q) and alternately the entries of -θ and +θ among the cells in the θ-

loop. The cells place with -θ are called donor cells and the ones placed with +θ are called recipients.

Identify the donor cell (r,s) with the smallest value (in case of a draw, choose one arbitrarily) and set

θ=x

rs

Compute Δ

ij

= θk

ij

+f

ij

-f

rs

+D. D represents a value to correct the effect of degeneracy in the objective

function.

Step4. If there is a negative Δ

ij

, chose the variable x

pq

associated with the most negative Δ

pq

to enter the

basis. Otherwise, if flag=0, go to step9 and if flag=1, go to step10.

Step5. Find a θ-loop in the set of cells consisted by the cell (p,q) and the basic cells.

Step6. Place an entry of θ in the cell (p,q) and alternately the entries of -θ and +θ among the cells in

the θ-loop . The cells placed with -θ are called donor cells and the ones placed with +θ are called recipients.

Step7. Identify the donor cell (r,s) with the smallest value (in case of a draw, choose one arbitrarily)

and set θ=x

rs

.

Step8. Compute x

ij

=x

ij

+θ for the recipient cells in the θ-loop and x

ij

=x

ij

-θ for the donor cell in the θ-

loop. Then cell (r,s) becomes non basic and cell (p,q) becomes basic. Set z=z+Δ

ij

. If z< z*, set z*=z and x*=x.

Go to Step4.

Step9. Let N be the set of non-basic variables. Set h=1 and flag=1.

Step10. If z< z* then set z*=z and x*=x. If h<m+n then force the h

th

element of N to enter the basis, set

h=h+1 and repeat steps 2 to 8.

Step9. Finish.

A computational experiment in a heuristic for the Fixed Charge Transportation Problem

www.irjes.org 5 | Page

V. RESULTS

In order to evaluate the algorithm performance, the gap between the optimal solution obtained by the

use of cplex and the computational time was analyzed. The considered problems sizes were 5x5, 10x10, 15x15,

20x20 and 25x25. The offers and demands were randomly defined between 5 and 195. The variable cost range

ranged from 3 to 8. For the fixed costs, we considered three classes, in which the ranges of fixed costs varied

from 5 to 50, from 5 to 500 and from 5 to 5000, respectively.

The objective function value obtained by the heuristic, the cplex optimal value, the heuristic time and

cplex time are represented by z

h

, z

c

, t

h

and t

c

, respectively. For each parameter combination, 200 randomly

generated examples were tested and the average results are shown in Table 5.

Table 5 – Solution quality and computational time analysis.

Fixed costs f

ij

range

Problem

size

[5,50] [5,500] [5,5000]

(z

h

-z

c

)/z

c

t

h

/t

c

(z

h

-z

c

)/z

c

t

h

/t

c

(z

h

-z

c

)/z

c

t

h

/t

c

5x5 0,0355% 3,3936% 0,6939% 3,1740% 2,1468% 3,0408%

10x10 0,2221% 12,6729% 1,1939% 24,3978% 4,9921% 19,9253%

15x15 0,4034% 20,4667% 2,7925% 23,7345% 9,3966% 28,4382%

20x20 0,6231% 7,6388% 3,7343% 15,2270% 9,9595% 20,7852%

25x25 0,8001% 7,4629% 4,7553% 13,1057% 9,2788% 23,6588%

0,00%

2,00%

4,00%

6,00%

8,00%

10,00%

12,00%

5x5 10x10 15x15 20x20 25x25

Gap beetwen the optimal solution

[5,50]

[5,500]

[5,5000]

Figure 1 – Comparison of optimal solution gap for different problem sizes

0,00%

5,00%

10,00%

15,00%

20,00%

25,00%

30,00%

5x5 10x10 15x15 20x20 25x25

Computational time relatively to cplex time

[5,50]

[5,500]

[5,5000]

Figure 2 – Comparison of computational time for different problem sizes

A computational experiment in a heuristic for the Fixed Charge Transportation Problem

www.irjes.org 6 | Page

On the one hand, it is possible to infer that the gap between the heuristic solution and the optimal

solution increases for larger problems and larger ranges of fixed costs. On the other hand, when we analyze the

heuristic behavior for small problems and smaller ranges of fixed costs, the results are near optimal.

Another interesting performance indicator is the relative number of times that the optimal solution is

reached. In this case, it is possible to infer that for 5x5 conditions, the heuristic provides an optimal solution for

the majority of the examples (Table 6).

Table 6 – Number of times that the optimal solution was reached by the heuristic

Fixed costs range

Problem size [5,50] [5,500] [5,5000]

5x5 92% 72% 68%

10x10 46% 21% 22%

15x15 12% 4% 2%

20x20 2% 1% 0%

25x25 0% 0% 0%

Since the FCTP is a NP-Hard, it was expected that, for larger problems, the gap between the optimal

value would increase and the number of times that the optimal is reached would decrease.

VI. CONCLUSION

The presented heuristic provided good solutions for small problems and, even when the optimal was

not achieved, the solutions were near optimal values. In additional to that, computational times were much better

than the ones achieved with the benchmark cplex.

For larger problems, the gap between the optimal value was bigger, but the computational time was, in

average, less than one quarter of the cplex solution time. It is important to have fast algorithms, even if they are

heuristics, because if the FCTP arises as a sub problem that needs to be solved several times in a real life

application, the time may be a determinant to the project´s success. Academically, it is important to provide

similar methods for different problems. In addition, preliminary studies are made easier, helping to better

understand the problem´s characteristics.

The results also showed that good performances for small problem do not necessarily guarantee good

solutions for larger problems in the case of the FCTP. Therefore, when a heuristic is proposed for the FCTP it is

necessary computational experiments in large problems and not only on the small ones.

REFERENCES

[1] Hirsch, W. M., Dantzig, G. B., The fixed charge problem Naval Research Logistics Quarterly, 15, 1968, 413-424

[2] Murty, K. Linear Programming, Wiley, 1983.

[3] Klose, A. Algorithms for solving the single-sink fixed-charge transportation problem, Computers & Operational

Research, 35(6), 2008, 2079-2092.

[4] Charnes, A., Cooper, W. W., Nonlinear Power of Adjacent Extreme Point Methods in Linear Programming.

Econometrica, 25, 1957, 132-153.

[5] Stroup, J. W. Allocation of Launch Vehicles to Space Missions: A Fixed-Cost Transportation Problem. Operations

Research, 15(6), 1967, 1157-1163.

[6] Dutton, R., Hinman, G., Millham, C. B. The Optimal Location of Nuclear Power Facilities in the Pacific

Northwest. Operations Research, 22, 2974, 478-487.

[7] Walker, W. E. A Heuristic Adjacent Extreme Point Algorithm for the Fixed Charge Problem. Management

Science, 22, 1976, 587-596.

[8] Jarvis, J. J., Unger, V. E., Rardin, R. L., Moore, R. W., Optimal Design of Regional Wastewater Systems: A Fixed

Charge Network Flow Model. Operations Research, 26, 1978, 538-550.

[9] Hultberg, T. H., Cardoso, D. M., The teacher assignment problem: A special case of the fixed charge

transportation problem, European Journal of Operational Research 101, 1997, 463-473.

[10] Balinski, M. L., Fixed-cost transportation problem, Naval Research Logistics Quarterly, 8, 1961, 41-54.

[11] Kuhn, H., Baumol, W., An Approximate Algorithm for the Fixed Charge Transportation Problem, Naval Research

Logistics Quarterly, 9, 1962, 1-15.

[12] Cooper, L., Drebes, C., An approximate solution method for the fixed charge problem. Naval Research Logistics

Quarterly, 14(1), 1967, 101-113.

[13] Sun, M., Aronson, J. E., McKeown, P. G. and Drinka, D. A tabu search heuristic procedure for the fixed charge

transportation problem, European Journal of Operational Research, 106, 1998, 441-456.

A computational experiment in a heuristic for the Fixed Charge Transportation Problem

www.irjes.org 7 | Page

[14] Adlakha, V. and Kowalski, K., A simple heuristic for solving small fixed-charge transportation problems, Omega:

International Journal of Management Science, 31, 2003, 205-211.

[15] Adlakha, V. and Kowalski, K., On the fixed-charge transportation problem. Omega: International Journal of

Management Science , 27, 1999, 381-388.

[16] Hasan, M. K., Direct Methods for Finding Optimal Solution of a Transportation Problem are not Always Reliable,

International Journal of Engineering and Science, 1(2), 2012, 46-52.

[17] Glover, F., Parametric Ghost Image Processes for Fixed-Charge Problems: A Study of Transportation Networks,

Journal of Heuristics, 11(4), 2005, 307-336.

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