Multi-agent-based transport planning in the newspaper industry
In many cases of today's planning tasks, the synchronization of production and distribution is becoming increasingly important in order to minimize costs and to maximize customer satisfaction. This is especially the case if transport schedules are closely connected to production schedules, as it is in the newspaper industry--where perishable goods are distributed immediately after production. In order to achieve the above mentioned competing objectives, a special kind of vehicle routing problem, the vehicle routing problem with time windows and cluster-dependent tour starts (VRPTWCD), has to be solved. Moreover, the varying print and post-processing schedules due to unknown editorial deadlines lead to the need for a dynamic online control of the newspaper production and distribution process. In this contribution, the outlined dynamic transport problem is solved online under consideration of unforeseen changes in production schedules. The solution concept is based on a multi-agent system consisting of, amongst others, several Edition and Vehicle Agents. This system is exemplarily applied to a real life application case of one of the largest German newspaper companies. It is shown that a static (centralized) optimization of the underlying problem would even lead to worse results in comparison to the current situation and that the appliance of the multi-agent system is suitable in the newspaper industry.
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