The final results of the VeRoLog Solver Challenge were announced by the jury during the closing ceremony of the Oslo Conference on 25 June. This competition was initiated by PTV Group and the EURO Working Group on Vehicle Routing and Logistics Optimization (VeRoLog). Its aim was to solve a specific transport planning issue by means of Operations Research (OR) methods. 27 teams from 16 countries and five continents participated in the 2014 VeRoLog Challenge. First prize was won by the team of Leuven Catholic University in Belgium. In addition to the VeRoLog trophy, the winning team also received EUR 1,000 in prize money.
The VeRoLog Working Group deals with numerous transport planning and logistics optimisation issues. It consists of 700 members worldwide and is a part of EURO (Association of the European Operational Research Societies). The jury was chaired by Werner Heid, Director Logistics Components, PTV Group. Further members included Dr. Geir Hasle, Chief Research Scientist, SINTEF, and Professor Dr. Daniele Vigo, University of Bologna. The competition saw 27 teams tackle the challenge of solving a specific swap-body vehicle routing problem by ensuring maximum flexibility when using swap bodies. The theme was suggested by PTV Group.
The best ten teams were then invited to the Oslo Conference. The finalists had the opportunity to present their solutions in separate sessions. The members of the winning team, Jan Christiaens, Sam Van Malderen, Túlio Toffolo and Tony Wauters, developed a local search, including several heuristic and learning components. The team led by Juan Jose Miranda Bront, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, took second place and Martin Josef Geiger and Sandra Huber, Helmut Schmidt University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg, won third place.
“We were overwhelmed by the international response to this Challenge and the diversity of approaches. Some teams placed a strong emphasis on the task-specific problem structure in order to create the model and solution based on these specific criteria,” said Heid, chairman of the international jury. The solutions were submitted as executable programs. PTV had created several test instances where these programs were tried and tested as part of the evaluation process. This included the assessment of the performance quality achieved within a given period of time. The total costs for each solution were used as an objective quality assessment feature. The program of the winning team prevailed with a narrow victory over their competitors.
Vigo, the VeRoLog coordinator, says: “We are so very happy with the result. We also owe our success to the entire PTV team who not only initiated this exciting challenge, but also actively supported the execution of the contest. The different test instances are a great gift to the scientific community. They allow users to test and evaluate not only solutions to swap-body vehicle routing problems, but also numerous solutions to similar problems.
The jury firmly believes that these contests are a good way to encourage young scientists to identify and creatively solve real-life problems. Many participants hope that the VeRoLog Solver Challenge will also be held next year. “We’ll think about it,” says Heid.