One of the most involved problems in Operations Research is to find the shortest path connecting a set of given points. In the classic Traveling Salesman Problem, a salesman has to visit each of a set number of locations (may be shops, cities or countries and a combination of these) and then return. Similarly, in a Vehicle Routing Problem, a fleet of vehicles has to make deliveries or pick-ups from a set of customer locations. The objective in either case could be to create a schedule that minimizes the total cost of travel. Such real world problems are subject to many conflicting constraints making them very complex to solve.
Travel Route Optimization (TRO) is one way by which such problems may be solved. Given a set of locations to be visited, TRO can generate a route that results in the optimization of a business objective, subject to a set of constraints.
Objectives in a TRO problem may include one or a combination of
Constraints in a TRO problem depend upon the specific business situation. For instance, the Medical Representatives are supposed to visit the doctors only during specified visiting hours. The constraints in a TRO problem may include one or more of
Applications where TRO is/may be used include
TRO solutions can be interfaced with GPS/GIS systems for adaptive and real time scheduling.
Requirements of a good TRO solution include
Modeling solutions based on optimization techniques like TRO have been gaining wide acceptance to support decision making in today's businesses. However, effective modeling solutions deliver much more than a powerful optimization engine.
Formal modeling of complex decision making tasks creates multiple advantages. Check out our next issue 'Why Model' for the benefits of formally modeled solutions.
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