Optimal Shipping Decisions in an Airfreight Forwarding Network
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This thesis explores three consolidation problems derived from the daily operations of major international airfreight forwarders. First, we study the freight forwarder's unsplittable shipment planning problem in an airfreight forwarding network where a set of cargo shipments have to be transported to given destinations. We provide mixed integer programming formulations that use piecewise-linear cargo rates and account for volume and weight constraints, flight departure/arrival times, as well as shipment-ready times. After exploring the solution of such models using CPLEX, we devise two solution methodologies to handle large problem sizes. The first is based on Lagrangian relaxation, where the problems decompose into a set of knapsack problems and a set of network flow problems. The second is a local branching heuristic that combines branching ideas and local search. The two approaches show promising results in providing good quality heuristic solutions within reasonable computational times, for difficult and large shipment consolidation problems. Second, we further explore the freight forwarder's shipment planning problem with a different type of discount structure - the system-wide discount. The forwarder's cost associated with one flight depends not only on the quantity of freight assigned to that flight, but also on the total freight assigned to other flights operated by the same carrier. We propose a multi-commodity flow formulation that takes shipment volume and over-declaration into account, and solve it through a Lagrangian relaxation approach. We also model the "double-discount" scheme that incorporates both the common flight-leg discount (the one used in the unsplittable shipment problem) and the system-wide discount offered by cargo airlines. Finally, we focus on palletized loading using unit loading devices (ULDs) with pivots, which is different from what we assumed in the previous two research problems. In the international air cargo business, shipments are usually consolidated into containers; those are the ULDs. A ULD is charged depending on whether the total weight exceeds a certain threshold, called the pivot weight. Shipments are charged the under-pivot rate up to the pivot weight. Additional weight is charged at the over-pivot rate. This scheme is adopted for safety reasons to avoid the ULD overloading. We propose three solution methodologies for the air-cargo consolidation problem under the pivot-weight (ACPW), namely: an exact solution approach based on branch-and-price, a best fit decreasing loading heuristic, and an extended local branching. We found superior computational performance with a combination of the multi-level variables and a relaxation-induced neighborhood search for local branching.