Non-profit organizations like the Meals on Wheels association of America rely on a volunteer workforce to prepare and deliver meals to approximately one million home-bound citizens nation-wide. At the community level, hundreds of volunteers are routed through rural, sub-urban, and urban sectors daily. These communities can benefit from optimization techniques that effectively route volunteers. Lack of volunteer availability requires Meals on Wheels to maintain a waiting list for people who require meals but cannot be incorporated into the current delivery schedule. The consistency of delivery routes is also of concern, as there are service and operational benefits gained when volunteers develop meaningful relationships with the people they serve. This research focuses on optimizing a Vehicle Routing Problem where efficient routing, meeting all demand, and consistent assignments are valuable. The three competing goals are aggregated into a single weighted function. A Tabu Search heuristic with variable neighborhood structures is then applied to solve the problem. Analysis is presented on each weight's impact on the competing objectives. The Tabu Search heuristic is bench marked against a current leading paper in consistent vehicle routing with comparable results. Finally, a large-scale instance similar in size to those serviced by Meals on Wheels is solved.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Transportation, Automotive--Dispatching; Meals on wheels programs--Management; Business logistics
Department, Program, or Center
Industrial and Systems Engineering (KGCOE)
Gala, Leonardo, "The Vehicle routing problem with a volunteer workforce" (2011). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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