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Lespay, H., & Suchan, K. (2021). A case study of consistent vehicle routing problem with time windows. Int. Trans. Oper. Res., 28, 1135–1163.
Abstract: We develop a heuristic for the consistent vehicle routing problem with time windows (ConVRPTW), which is motivated by a real-world application at a food company's distribution center. Besides standard VRPTW restrictions, ConVRPTW assigns each customer just one driver to fulfill his or her orders during the whole multiperiod planning horizon. For each driver and period, a route is sought to serve all their customers with positive demand. For each customer, the number of periods between consecutive orders and the ordered quantities is highly irregular. This causes difficulties in the daily routing, negatively impacting the service level of the company. Similar problems have been studied as ConVRP, where the number of drivers is fixeda priori, and only the total travel time is minimized. Moreover, the clients present no time window constraints, but the visits should be scheduled with a small arrival time variation. In our model, the objective is to minimize the number of drivers. We impose hard time windows but do not consider time consistency in more detail. We compare solutions given by the heuristic with solutions of a mixed-integer linear programming model on a set of small artificial instances and solutions used by the food company on real-world instances. The results show the effectiveness of the heuristic. For the company, we obtain significant improvements in the routing plans, with a lower number of vehicles and a higher rate of orders delivered within the prescribed time window.