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A New De

omposition Algorithm for the Deterministi Dynami

Allo ation of Empty Containers
Jawad Abra he
Departement d'informatique et de re her he operationnelle, Universite de Montreal
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

Teodor Gabriel Craini

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

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 de nition 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 e orts 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 e e 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 bene t 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 pro tability 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

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

We are interested in problems en ountered by international maritime transportation ompanies taking in

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 (Ste an [38℄), is ertainly beyond the s ope of this paper. We
have though to make a lear distin tion between the e onomi ally pro table, loaded movements taking pla e in
response to e e 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 pro t, 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 di erent sizes and fun tionalities. Finally, it is a ommonpla e pra ti e, wherever it is possible and justi ed
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

in the way ompanies rea t to their ustomers requests, while o ering, often, the best ost e e tive alternative
available. Unfortunately, as we shall see further on, substitution is also a main fa tor in the overall omplexity of
the problem.

2.2 A deterministi dynami multi ommodity formulation

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 identi es sets of a tive ustomers and depots, and spe i es 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 i ed 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 identi ed. 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 unsatis ed export demand at ports.
The set of links A an be subdivided in several ategories of ar s representing either real or symboli ontainer
- new ontainers movements ( ; j pt ) and ( ; hpt );
- unsatis ed 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 ;

Z : commodities

Commodity r



hpt h’pt

Substitution factors
a Apr
Y : space rp

Commodity p Substitution

jp(t-2) jp(t-1) jpt


j’p(t-2) j’p(t-1) j’pt

β ip(t-2) ip(t-1)

hp(t-1) h’p(t-1) hpt h’pt

t-2 t-1 t X : time

Special vertices α Source of new containers

β Insatisfied export demand Inland depot Port Demand customer Supply customer

Figure 1: An example of a network representation

- substitution links (j rt ; j 0pt );

- 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 satis ed 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
- Sto ks at nonport depots:
At the end of a time period, the sto k of empty ontainers at nonport depots is the di eren 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 .

- 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.

3 A primal de omposition algorithm

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 di erent 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

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 1 Solve P R . If it is infeasible, go to step 2; else go to step 3.

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 ) satis es 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 satis ed.
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

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:

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.

Fusion the l ommodity sets, Q1 =

Sl Qi .

Set q = q l + 1 and for onvenien e again, rearrange the indexes to make Q1 , Q2 , : : :, Qq

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
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.

Commodity 1 Commodity 2 Commodity p


Global network

Figure 2: The global fusion strategy

Commodity 1 Commodity 2 Commodity p

Commodities 1+2

Commodities 1+2+3

Global network

The one-step progressive fusion

Commodity 1 Commodity 2 Commodity 3 Commodity 4 Commodity p

Commodities 1+2 Commodities 3+4 Commodities (p-1)+p


Commodities 1+...+(p/2) Commodities (p/2)+1...p

Global network

The binary progressive fusion

Figure 3: Progressive fusion strategies

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 lassi ed
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.

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
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

Table 1: Series S1 of small size, general stru ture problems

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 e ort. For omparison purposes, we also tested global and one-

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

Basi strategy Global fusion One-step progressive fusion

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

Table 2: Comparative results for S1 series of problems

To further re ne 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.

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 43 0.18 62 0.36 26 0.15

S1R03 S1R04 S1R05

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

Table 3: Detailed global fusion results for S1 series of problems

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

S1R03 S1R04 S1R05

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

Table 4: Detailed one-step progressive fusion results for S1 series of problems

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
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

Table 5: Series S2 of medium size, general stru ture problems

Basi strategy Global fusion One-step progressive Binary progressive

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

Table 6: Comparative results for S2 series of problems

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 modi ed. 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.

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

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
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

Table 8: Series S4 of medium size problems, with dense substitution a tivities

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.

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

Table 9: Results for S3 and S4 series of problems

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

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 de ne 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
BB 3:00 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 CC
BB 1 1 1 0:50 1 1 1 1 CC
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
0 1 0:33 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 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 di erentiates 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
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 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

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

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
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

Basi strategy Global fusion One-step progressive Binary progressive

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

Table 12: Results for S5 and S6 series of problems

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
S (n) = (3)
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.

Global fusion Binary progressive fusion

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

5 Con luding remarks

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

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.

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