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You are on page 1of 20

Allo ation of Empty Containers

Jawad Abra he

Departement d'informatique et de re her he operationnelle, Universite de Montreal

and

Centre de re her he sur les transports, Universite de Montreal

C.P. 6128, su ursale Centre-ville, Montreal, Canada, H3C 3J7

e-mail: jawad rt.umontreal. a

Departement des s ien es administratives, Universite du Quebe a Montreal

and

Centre de re her he sur les transports, Universite de Montreal

C.P. 6128, su ursale Centre-ville, Montreal, Canada, H3C 3J7

e-mail: theo rt.umontreal. a

Mi
hel Gendreau

Departement d'informatique et de re
her
he operationnelle, Universite de Montreal

and

Centre de re
her
he sur les transports, Universite de Montreal

C.P. 6128, su
ursale Centre-ville, Montreal, Canada, H3C 3J7

e-mail: mi
helg
rt.umontreal.
a

Abstra t

The empty
ontainer allo
ation is an important problem en
ountered by maritime shipping
ompanies in the

management of their transportation operations. The problem addresses the short-term planning of empty
ontainer

movements intended to satisfy
ustomers requests, as well as the need to reposition empties for future demand.

The starting point of this paper is a dynami
model for the deterministi
problem proposed in the literature. To

solve this model, we suggest a new de
omposition approa
h, based on the
lassi
al restri
tion framework, that takes

into a
ount the spe
i
ities of the model, parti
ularly the substitution property between the dierent
ontainer

types. Several variants of a generi
algorithm are implemented in sequential and parallel environments and provide

us with interesting
omparative results.

1 Introdu
tion

Freight transportation has always been seen as an extremely important so
io-e
onomi
a
tivity. Besides its

huge in
uen
e on the e
onomy of most
ountries, its role as a support for industrial and
ommer
ial pro
esses is

indeed fundamental. However, the diversity of a
tors involved and the obligation for transportation
ompanies to

provide their
ustomers, in an highly
ompetitive environment, with eÆ
ient solutions in terms of
ost and quality

of servi
e in
rease in a signi
ant manner the
omplexity of distribution and transportation planning systems.

1

In their re
ent survey of the literature of freight transportation models and algorithms, Craini
and Laporte [16℄

give a
omprehensive
lassi
ation of the poli
ies and de
isions made, that
an be summarized as follows. At

a logisti
level, strategi
and ta
ti
al models address long-term de
isions su
h as the design of transportation

networks, the lo
ation of fa
ilities, the denition of operating plans and tari poli
ies, et
, as well as the update,

over medium-term horizons, of those de
isions in response to
oarse variations of the parameters of the system (for

example, subsequently to seasonal
hanges). On the other hand, operational models make detailed, day-to-day

planning de
isions where time is a major fa
tor. Prime examples of these models are the dynami
and sto
hasti

allo
ation and repositioning of vehi
les, their routing and the asso
iated s
heduling of
rews and operations.

In parti
ular, the allo
ation of vehi
les to demand requests and the repositioning of empties is an important

omponent of
eet management, and, more generally, belongs to the
lass of dynami
allo
ation of resour
es

problems. Sin
e the sixties, the development of models and solution approa
hes for this
ategory of problems has

re
eived mu
h attention (see the extensive literature reviews of Dejax and Craini
[18℄, Craini
and Laporte [16℄,

Powell, Jaillet and Odoni [36℄, and Craini
[12℄). The earliest works (Leddon and Wrathall [28℄ and Misra [29℄)

were stati
, deterministi
formulations applied to the empty vehi
le allo
ation in the railroad
ontext. The dy-

nami
aspe
ts of the problem were a
knowledged for the rst time by White and Bomberault [40℄, White [39℄

and Ouimet [30℄, and the multi-period stru
ture of the underlying network was exploited to develop spe
ialized

algorithms. The formulation of Haghani [23℄, whi
h
ombined the empty
ar dispat
hing and the train makeup

and routing, and the real-time simulation-based model of Chih [10℄ were among several eorts intended to pro-

vide more detailed and realisti
formulations. The sto
hasti
model of Jordan and Turnquist [26℄ for railroad
ar

distribution was an important advan
e, as it took into a
ount the un
ertainty in the behavior of the system. In

the eld of tru
kload and less-than-tru
kload tru
king, the sto
hasti
models of Powell, SheÆ and Thiriez [37℄

and Powell [31℄ were among the rst signi
ant
ontributions and re
ourse formulations (Powell [33℄) proposed a

methodology to deal with sto
hasti
ity by estimating the random fa
tors of the distribution system and properly

evaluating ee
ts of realizations of those fa
tors on later de
isions to be taken. Examples of appli
ations of

the re
ourse methodology are models by Powell [32℄, Frantzeskakis and Powell [21℄ and Cheung and Powell [9℄

that rely on linear and
onvex approximations of the re
ourse fun
tion. Finally, Powell and al. [35℄ and Powell

and Carvalh~o [34℄ have re
ently proposed a new methodology known as Logisti
Queuing Networks, LQN, that

onsists of queues asso
iated with either resour
es and tasks, at every node of the spa
e-time network, as well as

of links between nodes representing the allo
ation, repositioning and holding of resour
es. The solution approa
h

onsists of an iterative pro
ess assigning vehi
les to tasks,
omputing the marginal values of vehi
les at terminals,

thus building an approximation of the obje
tive fun
tion, and adjusting the assignment with respe
t to that

approximation, and so on, until
onvergen
e is a
hieved.

We are parti
ularly
on
erned with the deterministi
dynami
multimodal allo
ation of empty
ontainers. The

importan
e of empty
ows follows of
ourse from the ne
essity, in most
ases, to reposition unloaded vehi
les

in order to make them available for future demand, but also from regional imbalan
es between vehi
le supply

and demand that tend to appear in a medium-term run. Inter-depot movements of empties that periodi
ally

orre
t those imbalan
es are e
onomi
ally desirable to transportation
ompanies who benet from
ost redu
tion

for long-haul mass transportation of
ontainers. These
onsiderations, in addition to the amplitude of empty
on-

tainers (up to 40% of the total number of movements), justify to handle them separately from loaded movements.

Regarding the deterministi
aspe
t of the allo
ation, it must be pointed out that in most solution approa
hes,

either deterministi
or sto
hasti
, deterministi
allo
ation of
ontainers is an important subproblem that need

to be solved eÆ
iently. Furthermore, the results of deterministi
models (in terms of
ost and protability of

solutions)
an be referen
es for those of the sto
hasti
ounterparts.

The obje
t of this arti
le is to present a new de
omposition approa
h for the deterministi
, dynami
, mul-

ti
ommodity allo
ation of empty
ontainers, as formulated by Craini
, Gendreau and Dejax [15℄. The network

representation of the problem displays a minimum
ost
ow stru
ture and suggests standard network
ow with

gains algorithms as solution methods. Our approa
h takes however full advantage of the spe
ial stru
ture of the

model, parti
ularly of the substitution property. It is also shown to be an adaptation of the
lassi
al restri
tion

framework where subproblems are minimum
ost
ow problems over pure or nearly pure networks. After the

2

presentation of the generi
de
omposition algorithm, we derive several parti
ular strategies from it. The
ompu-

tational results indi
ate interesting performan
e gains for the sequential versions of our strategies, when
ompared

to a dire
t appli
ation of the simplex on the multilayer network representation. They also suggest that one or

another of the strategies is parti
ularly well-suited to a spe
i
stru
ture of the network, or when there are spe
ial

substitution rules.

The paper is organized as follows. In se
tion 2, we brie
y present the main elements and
hara
teristi
s of the

allo
ation of empty
ontainers and we give an insight into the deterministi
, dynami
, multi
ommodity model of

Craini
, Gendreau and Dejax [15℄, putting a spe
ial emphasis on the asso
iated network representation. In se
tion

3, we examine standard algorithms to deal with the minimum
ost, generalized network
ow problem, after whi
h

we present our de
omposition algorithm, and, from the generi
s
heme proposed, we develop three parti
ular

strategies. We present, in se
tion 4, a
omprehensive
omputational study and we analyze results obtained with

sequential and parallel versions of our strategies on problems with various sizes and stru
tures. Finally, in se
tion

5, we give a summary of our
ontributions and some
on
luding remarks.

2 Problem
ontext

2.1 Problem des
ription

harge, on a national or a ontinental s ale, the distribution of goods to their ustomers. Those lients, for the

purpose of their industrial and ommer ial a tivities, ask for imported goods that arrive to harbors loaded in

ontainers. The latter must be transported toward ustomers, unloaded and sent ba k to their port of origin, or

to one of the ompany's warehouses in expe tation of future demand. On the other hand, ustomers have their

own export needs, for whi h they require empty ontainers. In that ase, ontainers have to be sent from a depot,

loaded with the orresponding goods and routed toward an embarking port.

In order to operate,
ontainer transportation
ompanies rely on existing infrastru
ture, where harbors play the

role of input/output points for the land distribution system, while the depots ll the fun
tionalities of
ontainer

storage,
lassi
ation,
onsolidation and distribution. Transportation links, whi
h in the land
ontext typi
ally

are roads, railways and
uvial navigation lines linking harbors, inland depots and
ustomers,
omplete the dis-

tribution network. The range of all the possible
ontainer movements is wide,
omplex, and
ontext dependent,

parti
ularly of ea
h
ompany's spe
i
ommer
ial pra
ti
es. A detailed review of those movements, for whi
h

we refer the reader to spe
ialized
ase studies (Stean [38℄), is
ertainly beyond the s
ope of this paper. We

have though to make a
lear distin
tion between the e
onomi
ally protable, loaded movements taking pla
e in

response to ee
tive requests and the empty movements resulting from the repositioning of unloaded
ontainers,

from balan
ing traÆ
between regional depots, as well as from other
onsiderations su
h as routing damaged

ontainers to repair areas, renting
ontainers from partners or introdu
ing new ones in the system. Noti
e that

those empty movements indu
e
osts and no dire
t prot, yet they remain largely unavoidable in any operational

distribution system.

Some aspe
ts of the problem are of high importan
e and need to be pointed out. The temporal
hara
teristi
s

of the problem in
lude the dynami
nature of
ustomers supply and demand requests, delays in ports and depots,

possible delivery windows for demand
ustomers and
u
tuating availabilities of empty
ontainers at depots. As

for the multi
ommodity nature of the allo
ation, it follows from the need to deal with goods of various nature

and requirements of transporters (size and maximal weight of tru
ks, for example) and from the obligation to

a
hieve some se
urity standards for the transportation of spe
ial material (parti
ularly of dangerous nature). A

representative example of an heterogeneous
ontainer
eet was reported by Dejax, Craini
and Delorme [19℄, in

the
ase of a major European maritime transportation
ompany, that uses more than a dozen of
ontainer types,

with dierent sizes and fun
tionalities. Finally, it is a
ommonpla
e pra
ti
e, wherever it is possible and justied

by
ost and availability
onsiderations, to substitute a
ategory of
ontainers to another (for example, two 20 feet

ontainers for a single 40 feet one). Obviously, this is an interesting feature that aims to in
rease the
exibility

3

in the way
ompanies rea
t to their
ustomers requests, while oering, often, the best
ost ee
tive alternative

available. Unfortunately, as we shall see further on, substitution is also a main fa
tor in the overall
omplexity of

the problem.

The deterministi
, dynami
multi
ommodity model proposed by Craini
, Gendreau and Dejax [15℄ pro
eeds

by dis
retizing the planning horizon into n time periods. For ea
h
ommodity type and time period, the strate-

gi
/ta
ti
al plan identies sets of a
tive
ustomers and depots, and spe
ies preferred servi
e asso
iations be-

tween
ustomers and depots together with the asso
iated delivery windows. Fore
asts and known values of

supply/demand are beforehand fed to a sto
hasti
operational module that gives the
orresponding distribu-

tions. General balan
ing requirements, substitution rules, tari poli
ies and
apa
ities are also spe
ied by the

strategi
/ta
ti
al plan. The problem's de
ision variables
orrespond to the magnitude of
ontainer allo
ation and

pi
k-up movements, sto
k levels at the
ompany's warehouses, interdepot balan
ing
ows, volumes of
ontainers

allo
ated as substitutes, and those of
ontainers a
quired from the outside and introdu
ed into the system. Mild

assumptions (Craini
and al. [15℄) lead to
onsider linear
ost fun
tions that depend only on their
orresponding

ow volumes.

The model has an underlying network stru
ture that
an easily be identied. Consider the three-dimensional

network G = (V; A) illustrated in gure 1, with axes X , Y and Z representing respe
tively the time, spa
e and

ommodity dimensions. We give a brief des
ription of the sets of verti
es and links. Generally speaking, the

set of verti
es V = fipt ; spt ; j pt ; j 0pt ; hpt ; h0pt ; ; g
an be seen as a repli
ation of physi
al network stru
ture,

representing physi
al
ustomers, ports and inland depots, for every time period and
ontainer type for whi
h

those
ustomers, ports and inland depots are a
tive, along with additional nodes for modeling purposes. More

pre
isely :

- ipt and spt represent respe
tively a demand and a supply request from
ustomer i of
ontainers of type p,

during the time period t.

- hpt and j pt are asso
iated to the empty
ontainer storage fun
tionality of, respe
tively, the physi
al port h

and the physi
al inland depot j , for the
ontainer
ategory p and the time period t.

- h0pt and j 0pt are also asso
iated respe
tively to the port h and the inland depot j , but, rather than lling

a physi
al storage fun
tionality, they represent the allo
ation aspe
t. The distin
tion made here between

that
ategory of nodes and the previous ones is in fa
t a
onvenient way to model the possibility to repla
e

ontainers of type p by equivalent
ontainers of other types.

- represents the super-sour
e of new
ontainers introdu
ed in the system.

- is a \dummy" node
apturing the unsatised export demand at ports.

The set of links A
an be subdivided in several
ategories of ar
s representing either real or symboli
ontainer

movements:

- new
ontainers movements (; j pt ) and (; hpt );

- unsatised export demand at port
aptured by the dummy node , (; hpt );

- allo
ation movements (j 0pt ; ip(t+ji ) ) and (h0pt ; ip(t+hi ) ) (where ji is the transit time between port j and

ustomer i) and pi
k-up ones (spt ; j p(t+sj ) ) and (spt ; hp(t+sh ) );

- holding links of the kind (j pt ; j p(t+1) ) representing the inventories of empty
ontainers of type p, at a depot

j , at the end of the period t;

- the links (j pt ; j 0pt ) representing the volume of empty
ontainers of type p to be allo
ated during a period t

by a depot j ;

4

Z : commodities

Commodity r

jr(t-1)

j’r(t-1)

hpt h’pt

Substitution factors

a Apr

Y : space rp

Commodity p Substitution

links

α

β ip(t-2) ip(t-1)

spt

β Insatisfied export demand Inland depot Port Demand customer Supply customer

- interdepot balan ing movements (j pt ; k p(t+jk ) ).

In the orresponding mathemati al model, several ategories of onstraints are onsidered:

- Customer demand:

The demand of a ustomer must be satised by depots that ould serve him within the request time window.

These onstraints orrespond in the network representation to ow onservation at nodes ipt .

- Customer supply:

Unloaded ontainers that be ome available at a ustomer lo ation have to be moved to assigned depots.

Similarly to demand, this ategory of onstraints orrespond to ow onservation at nodes spt in the network

representation.

- Sto ks at nonport depots:

At the end of a time period, the sto k of empty ontainers at nonport depots is the dieren e between

the volume input during the period (empty ontainers pi ked up, re eived balan ing volume, new on-

tainers brought from outside the system and the sto k available at the beginning of the period) and the

volume output, made of empty ontainers allo ated to ustomers or moved to other depots. In the network

representation, these onstraints orrespond to ow onservation at nodes j pt .

5

- Sto
ks at ports:

These
onstraints are similar to those of sto
ks at inland depots ex
ept that they
onsider in addition the

export and import a
tivities of ports. They
orrespond similarly to
ow
onservation at nodes hpt in the

network representation.

- Availability of empty
ontainers for allo
ation at depots:

These
onstraints represent the balan
e at depots between the volume of empty
ontainers meant to be

allo
ated to
ustomers and the volume of empty
ontainers a
tually allo
ated. They are asso
iated in the

network representation with
ow
onservation at nodes j 0pt and h0pt .

- Upper and lower bounds on volumes of
ow on interdepot balan
ing links (j pt ; k p(t+jk ) ).

- Upper bounds on the substitution
ow over links (j rt ; j 0pt ).

- Non-negativity of
ow variables.

The
ompa
tness of this representation has the advantage that all the expli
it
onstraints of the algebrai

formulation redu
e to the underlying
ow
onservation,
apa
ity and non-negativity
onstraints. Thus, eÆ
ient

network optimization algorithms
an be applied to solve the problem. Moreover, a network formulation is a more

onvenient way to display the dynami
nature of the problem, as well as the parti
ular stru
ture indu
ed by the

substitution property, and makes it possible to design more spe
ialized resolution te
hniques.

The remark that the problem redu es to a minimum ost, generalized network ow problem, a well-studied

subje t, is fundamental to develop basi resolution strategies. Histori ally, the rst signi ant ontributions to

the area are the original adaptation by Dantzig [17℄ of the simplex method to networks with gains and the

primal-dual method of Jewell [25℄. Together with those basi algorithms, a ow augmentation, dual algorithm

was suggested by Jensen and Bhaumik [24℄, and Bertsekas and Tseng [4℄ designed an eÆ ient relaxation approa h

to the problem. In parallel with these advan es, resear hers also a knowledged the importan e of using eÆ ient

data stru tures in their implementations, parti ularly of the simplex method (see for example Glover, Klingman,

and Stutz [22℄, Barr, Glover, and Klingman [3℄, and Brown and M Bride [7℄).

A dire
t appli
ation of basi
minimum
ost
ow algorithms to our spe
i
allo
ation problem presents, however,

a serious short
oming, as it takes into a
ount neither the dynami
multiperiod stru
ture, nor the disposition

of spe
ial substitution ar
s between the network layers representing the dierent
ommodities. Con
erning this

last property, it is important to note that if it were not for those substitution ar
s, the whole problem would

de
ompose into a set of smaller single
ommodity, pure minimum
ost network
ow problems, whi
h are simpler

to solve. This fundamental remark suggests naturally a de
omposition s
heme, whose presentation is the subje
t

of the remainder of the present se
tion.

Let G = (V; A) represent the network formulation of se
tion 2. A denotes the generalized node-ar
in
iden
e

matrix of G, x the
ow ve
tor, b the supply ve
tor, and
the unit
ost ve
tor. Over G, the minimum
ost
ow

problem P
an be stated as follows:

Min
x

Ax = b

xa 0; a 2 S (1)

x 2 X

6

where S A is the set of substitution ar
indexes. We assume that all the other
ow variables non-negativity

onstraints, as well as the
apa
ity restri
tions are integrated into a feasibility set X .

Let R be a subset of S and P R the restri
ted problem where substitution
ow values for ar
s a 2 R are

restri
ted to 0:

Min
x

Ax = b

xa 0; a 2 S R (2)

xa = 0; a 2 R

x 2 X

The algorithm may then be stated as follows:

Initial solution

R = S . Initially, the
ow over all the substitution ar
s is restri
ted to 0.

Main loop

Step 2 If R = ;, then P R = P is infeasible, stop.

Else, hoose V R, set R = R V and return to step 1.

Step 3 Identify a minimum ost ow xR for the restri ted problem, as well as optimal dual pri es

yR . If the primal-dual solution (xR ; yR ) satises the omplementarity sla kness onditions for P ,

i.e. a = a yi + a yj 0; 8a = (i; j ), where a is the multiplier of ar a, then (xR ; y R ) is also

an optimal primal-dual solution for P ; stop. Else, let I S R be the set of onstraints for whi h

the onditions above are not satised.

Step 4 Choose V R, ontaining at least one element of I , set R = R V and return to step 1.

The algorithm is a straightforward adaptation of the lassi al restri tion framework (Lasdon [27℄). Some sim-

pli ations have been done. Thus, for example, the a y li property of dynami networks dismisses the ase where

P , or one of the restri ted problems P R , is unbounded. The approa h is quite intuitive and well-suited to deal

with the additional omplexity of substitution links: re all the multilayer stru ture of the network representation

and that the problem de omposes into independent subproblems provided that all substitution links are \ ut".

In the algorithm, this orresponds to the initial statement R = S and the onsideration of the restri ted problem

P R with the additional onstraints xa = 0; a 2 R. Moreover, to pro eed from the subproblems ba k to the

original problem requires the substitution links to be re-established, whi h is a hieved through the relaxation of

some of the additional onstraints in steps 2 and 4 of the algorithm ( hoosing V R and setting R = R V ).

The algorithm de
omposes into two distin
t phases. During a preliminary phase, a restri
tion of the substi-

tution
ow to 0 is done and the restri
ted problem P R (whi
h redu
es here to jPj minimum
ost, pure network

ow subproblems, where P is the set of
ommodity indexes) is solved. The remainder of the algorithm may be

viewed as a re-optimization phase. Indeed, whenever a restri
ted problem P R is solved at the step 1 of the se
ond

phase, solutions must be stored in order to serve as \good" starting solutions when solving P R after relaxation

R = R V is done.

The algorithm is generi
sin
e the
hoi
e of the set V of
onstraints xa = 0; a 2 R to be relaxed is arbitrary.

To make the algorithm take better a
ount of the multi
ommodity aspe
t of the problem, we
onsider alternative

7

hoi
es of V that identify substitution ar
s by their origin and destination
ommodities. A possible s
heme of

hoosing the set V is as follows:

Initialization

Let p = jPj be the number of
ommodities and Q1 = f1g, Q2 = f2g, : : :, Qp = fpg an initial

subdivision of P into single
ommodities.

Let q = p be the number of
urrent
ommodity sets.

Set R = S .

Main loop

While q 6= 1

Choose an arbitrary number l, 2 l q and l sets from Q1 = f1g, Q2 = f2g, : : :, Qq = fq g.

For a
onvenient presentation, denote the
hosen sets Q1 , Q2 , : : :, Ql .

Let Sl+ (resp. Sl ) represent substitution ar
s having their origin (resp. destination)
ommodity

in one of the subsets Q1 , Q2 , : : :, Ql .

Set V = Sl+

SS and R = R V.

l

Sl Qi .

i=1

the urrent ommodity sets.

Let us examine this s
heme in more detail. During the initialization phase, the sets Qi , 1 i p
orrespond

to the p subproblems that
ompose P R , the rst restri
ted problem met in the generi
algorithm, and, in relation

S

with the network representation in Figure 1, are asso
iated with single-
ommodity layers of the network. The

key operation of the main loop is the fusion Q1 = li=1 Qi that join together the l
hosen
ommodity sets into a

single one, ensuring that all the substitution links, previously
ut by the restri
tion, and that have both ends into

the subnetworks represented by Qi , 1 i p will be re-established simultaneously. The pro
ess of su
essive

fusions in the main loop
ontinues until there is just one
ommodity set left, (q = 1), meaning that we are ba
k

to the original network.

A rooted n-ary tree, 2 n jPj, provides a
onvenient representation for the general fusion s
heme. Let

nodes represent sets Qi of
ommodity indexes. The root will thus denote the original network, leafs will be

asso
iated with initial single-
ommodity index sets, and every internal node will be the out
ome of the fusion the

ommodity index sets of its
hildren. It is easy to see that even if the s
heme we presented is more spe
i
than

an arbitrary
hoi
e of V , it is also generi
, sin
e every valid tree with the properties above represents a parti
ular

fusion strategy. Among all the possibilities, the simplest one is to
onsider a p-ary tree, p = jPj, whi
h mean

that all the substitution links will be re-established in one iteration, leading to what we
all global fusion (Figure 2).

Global fusion, making use of jPj-ary trees, is an \extremal" strategy. Other strategies that share this property

are fusions with binary trees, whi
h we denote by progressive fusions, where only two subnetworks are brought

together at ea
h step of the main loop of the fusion s
heme. Progressive fusions form a large family of strategies

and balan
e of
orresponding trees
ould then be used to distinguish more spe
ial
ases. For instan
e, the rst

strategy represented in Figure 3, that we
all one-step progressive fusion, makes use of a
ompletely unbalan
ed

tree and adds at ea
h step of the fusion pro
ess a single layer of the network to a
ontinuously growing subnetwork.

As for the se
ond strategy,
alled binary progressive fusion, and represented in Figure 3, it exploits in an opposite

fashion an essentially
omplete binary tree.

8

Subnetworks

Commodity 1 Commodity 2 Commodity p

Fusion

Global network

Commodities 1+2

Sub-

networks

Commodities 1+2+3

Global network

Sub-

networks

Global network

9

4 Experimental results

In this se
tion we report
omputational experien
e of implementations of a number of versions of our algorithm,

and
ompare them to those of a dire
t appli
ation of a generalized minimum
ost
ow algorithm. Through this

experimentation, we intend to answer the following main questions:

How do CPU times of the sequential versions of our strategies
ompare with those of a \brute-for
e"

appli
ation of the network-simplex algorithm?

How does the eÆ
ien
y of our strategies vary when applied to problems with spe
ial stru
ture (parti
ular

substitution properties, for instan
e)?

What is the parallelization potential of our strategies?

The main motivation behind the random generation of test problems is to
over the widest possible range of

situations. Although using a standard random network generator was possible, we have
hosen to develop our

ustom network generation pro
edures for the purpose of generating networks with spe
ial stru
tures, as well as

of being able to ne-tune their
hara
teristi
s. Important parameters
ontrolled by the generator
an be
lassied

into three
ategories: general parameters asso
iated with physi
al distribution networks (length of the horizon,

number of
ommodities,
ustomers, and depots), parameters related to the allo
ation, pi
k-up, and substitution

a
tivities, whi
h have dire
t impli
ation on the expanded three-dimensional network density, and nally, param-

eters
ontrolling the stru
ture of substitution links within the network.

Algorithmi
issues of our study
onsist of the de
omposition s
hemes and the minimum
ost
ow algorithm

for generalized network used to solve problems P R we en
ounter in the generi
algorithm of se
tion 3. For the

former, the global fusion, as well as the one-step and the binary progressive fusions have been
oded. Con
erning

the generalized minimum
ost
ow algorithm, the family of simplex based algorithms is, for all pra
ti
al purposes,

a very interesting
hoi
e, espe
ially when implemented with eÆ
ient data stru
tures and
areful
y
le-preventing

rules. Thus, the strongly
onvergent simplex for generalized networks of Elam, Glover and Klingman [20℄ was the

basis of our implementation.

The network generator, the simplex algorithm and the de
omposition strategies have been implemented in

C++, on SUN Ultra Spar
workstations equipped with 32 MB of RAM and
ompiled with SUN's standard C++

ompiler, using default options. The Network File Format (NFF) library (http://www.
rt.umontreal.
a/~lab

sit/DOC-NFF) has been used for the representation and handling of network
omponents.

In Table 1, we present a rst set of randomly generated problems of small size and very general stru
ture,

intended to make preliminary observations. For ea
h instan
e, the numbers of time periods,
ommodities, depots,

and
ustomers, as well as the total numbers of nodes and ar
s, and substitution links, are reported.

Problem of time periods of ommodities of of substitution

(ports, depots, ustomers) (nodes, links) links

S1R00 7 3 (5, 5, 10) (436, 1000) 8

S1R01 7 3 (5, 10, 20) (488, 1390) 9

S1R02 7 3 (10, 10, 20) (556, 1518) 8

S1R03 7 3 (10, 20, 20) (695, 1693) 12

S1R04 7 3 (15, 20, 40) (910, 1921) 12

S1R05 7 3 (20, 30, 70) (1097, 2164) 19

On the instan
es of this rst set, we applied a basi
strategy that
onsists of dire
tly using the network

simplex algorithm, without any de
omposition eort. For
omparison purposes, we also tested global and one-

10

step progressive fusion methods. The
orresponding number of pivots and CPU time are reported in Table

2.

Problem Nbr. pivots CPU (s) Nbr. pivots CPU (s) Nbr. pivots CPU (s)

S1R00 372 1.32 365 0.54 365 0.54

S1R01 514 2.55 500 1.11 500 1.12

S1R02 552 3.03 539 1.06 539 1.06

S1R03 605 3.57 602 1.39 602 1.36

S1R04 956 6.39 944 2.72 944 2.59

S1R05 992 7.26 981 2.81 981 2.73

To further rene the analysis, we detail in Tables 3 and 4 the number of pivots and the CPU time for every

subproblem for the rst phase of the de
omposition (before the fusion pro
ess is started), and the se
ond phase

(after the fusion). In terms of CPU time, the results reported in Table 2 indi
ate that the fusion strategies are

on average about 2:5 times faster than the basi
method, and that this ratio tends to in
rease with the size of

the problems. The details in Tables 3 and 4 suggest that this gain is mostly a
onsequen
e of the de
omposition

s
heme that redu
es the whole problem, during the rst phase, to smaller subproblems, for whi
h the unit pivoting

time is mu
h smaller. For example, in the
ase of problem S1R00, 108 pivots were performed by the global fusion

in 0.1 se
onds for the rst
ommodity subnetwork while 43 pivots after the fusion of the subnetworks required

0.18 se
onds. The same observation also tends to indi
ate that progressive fusion strategies perform better than

global fusion. For a se
ond set of medium size problems (Table 5), the results reported in Table 6 show indeed a

noti
eable superiority of progressive fusion strategies.

Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s)

108 0.10 118 0.13 162 0.32

Phase 1 101 0.12 190 0.39 187 0.33

113 0.14 130 0.23 164 0.26

Phase 2: fusion 43 0.18 62 0.36 26 0.15

Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s)

184 0.41 302 0.65 253 0.52

Phase 1 172 0.30 243 0.52 326 0.77

205 0.40 273 0.63 334 0.97

Phase 2: fusion 41 0.28 126 0.92 68 0.55

11

S1R00 S1R01 S1R02

Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s)

108 0.10 118 0.13 162 0.32

Phase 1 101 0.12 190 0.39 187 0.33

113 0.14 130 0.23 164 0.26

Phase 2 fusion 1 0 0.00 0 0.00 11 0.40

fusion 2 43 0.17 62 0.36 15 0.10

Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s)

184 0.41 302 0.65 253 0.52

Phase 1 172 0.30 243 0.52 326 0.77

205 0.40 273 0.63 334 0.97

Phase 2 fusion 1 0 0.00 60 0.28 25 0.12

fusion 2 41 0.27 66 0.49 43 0.36

Problem of time periods of ommodities of of substitution

(ports, depots, ustomers) (nodes, links) links

S2R00 7 8 (20, 50, 100) (3674, 6288) 56

S2R01 7 8 (20, 50, 150) (3630, 6418) 75

S2R02 7 8 (20, 50, 200) (3902, 7162) 81

S2R03 7 8 (40, 50, 200) (5463, 8270) 114

S2R04 7 8 (50, 100, 300) (7635, 10430) 148

Problem fusion fusion

Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s)

S2R00 3360 71.13 3328 11.13 3328 10.87 3328 10.90

S2R01 3515 76.82 3486 15.45 3487 14.27 3482 12.87

S2R02 3885 95.19 3763 18.84 3763 17.84 3789 16.91

S2R03 5121 143.14 5083 28.49 5082 26.31 5068 24.61

S2R04 6717 238.79 6677 34.62 6677 33.40 6681 33.12

Another interesting out
ome of the experiment is the behavior of the de
omposition strategies in response to

stru
tural
hanges within the network, spe
ially when its density is modied. We address this issue by means

of two additional series of test problems. The rst one, S3 (Table 7), is
omposed of problems with a general

stru
ture, but whose
orresponding networks are denser, in
omparison with series S2 problems, due to more

intense a
tivities by
ustomers and depots. Alternatively, the higher density of the set S4 networks (Table 8)

follows from more important substitution a
tivities at depots.

12

Number of Total number Total numbers Total numbers Total number

Problem of time periods of
ommodities of of substitution

(ports, depots,
ustomers) (nodes, links) links

S3R00 7 8 (20, 50, 200) (5618, 17447) 81

S3R01 7 8 (40, 50, 200) (7550, 20790) 114

S3R02 7 8 (40, 50, 200) (10767, 40083) 114

S3R03 7 8 (40, 50, 300) (15630, 69994) 118

Table 7: Series S3 of medium size problems, with dense allo ation a tivities

Problem of time periods of ommodities of of substitution

(ports, depots, ustomers) (nodes, links) links

S4R00 7 8 (40, 50, 200) (5349, 8406) 346

S4R01 7 8 (50, 100, 300) (7607, 10659) 414

S4R02 7 8 (50, 100, 300) (7788, 11243) 620

S4R03 7 8 (50, 100, 300) (7836, 11869) 931

How do global and progressive fusion strategies
ompare to the basi
method is a good indi
ation of their

relative eÆ
ien
y. To do su
h a
omparison, we introdu
e the eÆ
ien
y ratio of the global or progressive fusion

methods as the ratio of the CPU time of the basi
method to the CPU time of the global or progressive fusion

methods on the same problem. Thus greater eÆ
ien
y ratio will indi
ate better eÆ
ien
y for the
orresponding

fusion method. For the S4 series, the average eÆ
ien
y rates
omputed on the basis of CPU times reported in

Table 9 all de
omposition strategies are better than the basi
method, although they were signi
antly lower

than the rates obtained for the S2 series of problems whi
h have similar physi
al
hara
teristi
s (number of time

periods, depots and
ustomers) but are less dense. For example, the global fusion average eÆ
ien
y rate for

problems in the S2 series is of 5.67 (Table 6), while eÆ
ien
y rates for problems in the S3 and S4 series are

respe
tively of 3.22 and 4.12. To understand what happens, let us
ompare the details of the pivoting a
tivity of

global fusion for problems S2R04 and S4R03 (Table 10). The behavior of the rst phase of the global fusion is

quite similar for the two problems. However, after the fusion, only 222 additional pivots are required for S2R04

to a
hieve optimality while one needs 2086 additional pivots for S4R03. Thus, the relative \weight" of the se
ond

phase has the greatest in
uen
e on overall CPU times, sin
e the more we pivot during the se
ond phase, the more

ostly overall these pivots will be.

We
an summarize the
on
lusions of the rst part of the experimentation as follows. For all the test problems

starting from series S2, the global and the progressive fusion methods are at least three times more eÆ
ient than

the basi
method, with a slight edge for progressive fusion methods. The eÆ
ien
y ratio tends to be
ome larger

when networks grow in size. For networks with more intense allo
ation or substitution a
tivities, the superiority

of fusion and progressive fusion strategies is less pronoun
ed.

13

Basi
strategy Global fusion One-step progressive Binary progressive

Problem fusion fusion

Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s)

S3R00 6451 423.51 6094 106.20 6126 104.34 6117 83.71

S3R01 9119 717.97 9098 240.55 9128 198.67 9118 209.50

S3R02 13538 2131.04 13310 791.56 13254 691.29 13576 692.77

S3R03 16198 > 1 hour 15406 887.20 15440 731.95 15418 763.14

S4R00 4954 141.19 4842 28.79 4841 26.42 4841 26.45

S4R01 7580 277.02 7523 62.90 7519 54.16 7531 53.51

S4R02 8065 314.49 7914 79.24 8000 69.22 8058 67.06

S4R03 8808 366.25 8788 114.74 8500 84.86 8642 86.05

S2R04 S4R03

Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s)

884 3.86 931 4.54

781 3.01 819 3.81

842 3.88 871 3.72

Phase 1 933 4.20 937 4.70

806 3.27 772 3.36

767 3.05 815 3.14

690 2.37 743 2.76

752 2.96 814 3.31

Phase 2: fusion 222 8.02 2086 85.40

Table 10: Detailed global fusion for problems S2R04 and S4R03

14

Let us now examine the impa
t of parti
ular substitution s
hemes on pro
edure performan
e. To produ
e those

spe
i
s
hemes, our test problem generation routines use substitution matri
es. We dene a substitution matrix

A as follows. An element [A℄ij of A, if positive, will a
tually designate the fa
tor of substitution of
ommodity j

for
ommodity i, and will denote that substitution is impossible or not allowed if negative.

A rst example of a spe
ial substitution stru
ture is given by the following substitution matri
es:

0 1 0:33 1 1 1 1 1 1

1

BB 3:00 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 CC

BB 1 1 1 0:50 1 1 1 1 CC

=B

B 1 1 2:01 1 1 1 1 1 CC

A1 BB 1 1 1 1 1 0:18 1 1 CC

BB 1 1 1 1 5:54 1 1 1 CC

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0:83 A

1 1 1 1 1 1 1:20 1

and

0 1 0:33 1 1 1 1 1 1

1

BB 3:00 1 1 1 1 1 0:87 1 CC

BB 1 1 1 0:50 1 1 1 1 CC

=B

B 1 1 2:01 1 1 1 1 1 CC

A2 BB 1 1 1 1 1 0:18 1 1 CC

BB 1 1 1 1 5:54 1 1 1 CC

1 1:15 1 1 1 1 1 0:83 A

1 1 1 1 1 1 1:20 1

The matrix A1 has obviously a spe
ial stru
ture: ex
ept for f(2l + 1; 2l + 2) : l 0; 2l + 2 pg pairs of

ommodities, no substitution is allowed. As for the matrix A2 , it dierentiates itself from the f(2l + 1; 2l + 2) :

l 0; 2l + 2 pg stru
ture only by additional substitution possibilities between
ommodities 2 and 7, sin
e [A2 ℄27

is positive. Consequently, networks generated on the basis of the substitution matrix A1 (S5R00 and S5R01,

see Table 11) are readily de
omposed into d p2 e independent subnetworks, while it is very likely, for networks

produ
ed with A2 (S5R02 and S5R03, see Table 11), to have few substitution ar
s linking layers
orresponding

to
ommodities 2 and 7. For these reasons, A1 is said to have a pure f(2l + 1; 2l + 2) : l 0; 2l + 2 pg stru
ture,

while the stru
ture of A2 is said to be non pure.

A similar me
hanism is used to produ
e another set of problems where asso
iations between
ommodities

labeled 1, 2, and 3 are favored. Thus, the matrix A3 , whi
h has a pure stru
ture, is used for the generation of

problems S6R00 and S6R01, and the non pure matrix A4 is invoqued for S6R02 and S6R03, see Table 11.

0 1 1:29 5:51 1 1 1 1 1

1

BB 0:77 1 2:75 1 1 1 1 1 CC

BB 0:18 0:36 1 1 1 1 1 1 CC

=B

B 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 CC

A3 BB 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 CC

BB 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 CC

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 A

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

15

0 1 1:29 5:51 1 1 8:79 1 1

1

BB 0:77 1 2:75 1 1 1 1 1 CC

BB 0:18 0:36 1 1 1 1 1 1 CC

=B

B 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 CC

A4 BB 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 CC

BB 0:11 1 1 1 1 1 1 0:29 CC

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 A

1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

Results obtained for problems S5R02 and S5R03, reported in Table 12, are showing more pronoun
ed gains

in CPU time in favor of the binary progressive fusion. For instan
e, on S5R02, the binary progressive fusion is

18% more eÆ
ient than the one-step progressive fusion, and 23% more on S5R03. Even better ratios (22% on

S5R00 and 37% on S5R01) are observed in the
ase of pure stru
tures. The way the binary fusion pro
eeds helps

explain these gains. Indeed, during the se
ond phase when the fusion pro
ess starts, subnetworks
orresponding

to f(2l + 1; 2l + 2) : l 0; 2l + 2 pg pairs of
ommodities are immediately linked together; after that step,

the remaining part of the pro
ess is virtually useless, sin
e the optimal solution is already found. In other

words, binary progressive fusion is parti
ularly well-adapted to that spe
ial substitution stru
ture. Similarly,

the analysis above illustrates why one-step progressive fusion is better suited for problems S6R00 and S6R01

with pure substitution stru
ture. However, with regard to CPU times for non pure problems S6R02 and S6R03,

binary fusion does surprisingly better, and we might suppose that one-step progressive fusion is more sensitive to

perturbations in the substitution stru
ture.

Problem of time periods of ommodities of of substitution

(ports, depots, ustomers) (nodes, links) links

S5R00 7 8 (50, 100, 300) (7843, 11030) 200

S5R01 7 8 (50, 100, 300) (9831, 23490) 134

S5R02 7 8 (50, 100, 300) (7703, 10743) 150

S5R03 7 8 (50, 100, 300) (9831, 23511) 150

S6R00 7 8 (50, 100, 300) (7559, 10456) 113

S6R01 7 8 (50, 100, 300) (9763, 24381) 131

S6R02 7 8 (50, 100, 300) (7933, 11196) 182

S6R03 7 8 (50, 100, 300) (9588, 24037) 202

Table 11: Series S5 and S6 of medium size problems, with spe i substitution stru tures

Problem fusion fusion

Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s) Pivots CPU (s)

S5R00 7512 283.79 7247 48.87 7247 41.54 7247 34.01

S5R01 9783 1070.64 9714 180.17 9714 152.75 9714 110.91

S5R02 6953 251.87 6841 39.54 6841 37.39 6841 31.68

S5R03 10370 920.14 10287 234.58 10298 193.28 10298 156.16

S6R00 6865 240.59 6715 34.92 6715 29.87 6711 30.85

S6R01 9720 869.60 9546 183.88 9849 129.99 9846 140.44

S6R02 7371 278.66 7187 42.52 7195 37.76 7195 36.49

S6R03 9901 884.80 9594 179.10 9759 147.48 9735 140.13

16

Elementary parallel versions of our strategies have also been implemented and tested (Abra
he [1℄). The parallel

me
hanism is a straightforward,
oarse-grained one: parallel resolution of subproblems en
ountered during the

rst phase of the de
omposition, followed, in the
ase of binary progressive fusion, by a se
ond phase where fusions

and resolutions of subproblems are done in parallel. The
omputational infrastru
ture
onsisted of 16 SUN Ultra

Spar
workstations, inter
onne
ted with the help of PVM software to form a single virtual parallel ma
hine.

In order to prevent the amount of time allo
ated by the operating system to internal operations other than

omputations (I/O routines, memory a
ess times, et
.) from distorting the results, we have approximated the

omputation time for parallel versions by a sum of CPU time of the master pro
ess (
ontrolling the global fusion

and syn
hronizing the
ommuni
ations), the largest among the CPU times of the slaves, and the
ommuni
ation

time. The relative parallel a
eleration measure (see Bertsekas and Tsitsiklis [5℄ for details) we use is

T

S (n) = (3)

Tn

where n is the number of pro
esses, T is the exe
ution time of the
orresponding sequential version of the algo-

rithm and Tn is the exe
ution time of the parallel version.

Results,
ompiled in Table 13, show similar average a
eleration values for global and binary progressive

fusions, when applied to problems with general stru
tures. On spe
ial substitution stru
tures, the relatively

better performan
e observed is similar to the sequential
ase. The overall average a
eleration values are low and

point to the need, in the future, to fo
us on the design of more sophisti
ated parallel strategies.

Problem Sequential Parallel A eleration Sequential Parallel A eleration

version version version version

S2R00 11.13 4.44 2.51 10.90 4.58 2.38

S2R01 15.45 8.86 1.74 12.87 7.44 1.72

S2R02 18.84 10.55 1.79 16.91 9.88 1.71

S2R03 28.49 15.95 1.78 24.61 13.62 1.80

S2R04 34.62 12.97 2.67 33.12 13.99 2.36

S3R00 106.20 72.79 1.45 83.71 52.39 1.59

S3R01 240.55 187.73 1.28 209.50 159.11 1.32

S3R02 791.56 651.77 1.21 692.77 539.30 1.28

S3R03 887.20 515.13 1.72 763.14 388.30 1.96

S4R00 28.79 14.82 1.94 26.45 16.46 1.60

S4R01 62.90 41.05 1.53 53.51 32.08 1.66

S4R02 79.24 56.06 1.41 67.06 41.73 1.61

S4R03 114.74 90.80 1.26 86.05 59.44 1.44

S5R00 48.87 25.19 1.94 34.01 10.12 3.36

S5R01 180.17 106.55 1.69 110.91 39.20 2.83

S5R02 39.54 17.60 2.24 31.68 11.67 2.71

S5R03 234.58 160.84 1.45 156.16 72.80 2.15

Table 13: Results of sequential and parallel versions of the global fusion and the binary progressive fusion on

series S2, S3, S4 and S5 of problems

In this paper, we have presented a new primal de omposition method to solve a deterministi , dynami , multi-

ommodity model for the allo ation of empty ontainers. The algorithm takes advantage of the spe ial multilayer

stru ture of the asso iated network representation, parti ularly of the existen e of substitution links. Sequential

implementations of global and progressive fusion variants of the algorithm were shown to be several times more

17

eÆ
ient, in terms of CPU times, than a dire
t appli
ation of the network simplex with gains algorithm. We also

noti
ed that eÆ
ien
y rates tend to in
rease when networks grow in size and de
rease with more intense allo
ation

and substitution a
tivities. Tests on problems with spe
ial substitution stru
tures indi
ated that a given variant

of the algorithm may be parti
ularly well-suited to spe
i
substitution rules.

Even if the algorithm was spe
i
ally intended to solve deterministi
, dynami
, and multi
ommodity allo
ation

of empty
ontainers and a
tually took advantage of the
hara
teristi
s of the problem, the ideas behind it may be

used to develop similar de
omposition algorithms for many other problems en
ountered in transportation, e
o-

nomi
s, nan
e, et
., where several
ommodities are handled with interprodu
t transformation possibilities. In

fa
t, every problem that
an be represented by generalized networks with spe
ial augmenting ar
s may potentially

take advantage of the de
omposition algorithm.

Several avenues seem to be interesting theori
al and pra
ti
al extensions of this study. For instan
e, we have

seen that elementary parallel strategies implementing syn
hronous,
oarse-grained parallelism are not enough to

a
hieve satisfying performan
e, sin
e, at a given stage of the algorithm, there are too many idle pro
essors. Asyn-

hronous parallelism and smaller granularity are te
hniques we expe
t to investigate with the hope to improve

our parallel versions. The algorithm
ould also be improved by a
knowledging the multiperiod stru
ture of the

problem, for example by implementing spe
i
forward te
hniques (Aronson and Chen [2℄). Finally, dual de
om-

position, a
hieved by relaxing the
ow
onservation
onstraints at the origin and the destination of substitution

links,
ould be a promising alternative to primal de
omposition.

Referen
es

[1℄ Abra
he, J. Mise au point et implantation d'algorithmes pour l'allo
ation deterministe de
onteneurs vides.

Memoire de ma^trise, Universite de Montreal, 1998.

[2℄ Aronson, J.E. and Chen, B.D. A Forward Network Simplex Algorithm for Solving Multiperiod Network Flow

Problems. Naval Resear
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20

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