How good are you at optimization?
It’s a valid question – and one we’re often asked by prospective customers. Given that the difference between great optimization and good optimization can run to millions in additional savings, prospects naturally want the very best.
So how good are we?
We could, of course, rely on customer case studies to prove our point. We have plenty of those, but they tend to be persuasive rather than conclusive.
Or we could ask ourselves that question and answer it in the only way that counts in the optimization world: We could attempt a new world record.
Optimization experts enjoy pitting their skills against each other, and there are famous academic optimization challenges on the web with recognized benchmarks. As our optimization platform has been implemented at many leading logistics providers, we set our sights on a well-known logistics optimization challenge known as the vehicle routing problem with time windows (Gehring & Homberger’s 1000 customer instance: c1_10_4).
A couple of academics had just set a new world record and published a paper in the Parallel Computing Journal (Mirosław BŁOCHO, Zbigniew J. CZECH, A parallel memetic algorithm for the vehicle routing problem with time windows).
Could we beat it?
The option of locking some of our PhDs in a room, and only releasing them when they’d broken the record and produced another academic paper, wasn’t going to cut it. Contrary to popular belief, optimization experts just wanna have fun. And so we created the optimal environment for us to have truckloads of fun, and launched our first Global Optimization Challenge.
We opened the competition to all Quintiq employees worldwide, and encouraged collaboration by allowing prizes to be shared. As we operate on four continents, our experts met to share insights in a specially created forum. A team was on hand to support requests for changes to our optimization tools, and provide development versions as quickly as possible.
Did we have fun? You bet! At the end of the six short weeks, one of the competitors posted a wistful “I wish it was not closed yet :).”
And the world record? Smashed by a convincing 170 points, thanks to the combined efforts of all the participants. The evidence is right here on SINTEF’s Transportation Optimization Portal.
Shortly afterwards, one of the winners sent this email. It’s reproduced here as a tribute to ‘the Quintiq way’ of commemorating achievements (literally the icing on the cake) and sharing success.
From: Victor Allis
To: Colleagues MY
Date: 11/2/2012 9:08 AM
Subject: Cake Treat
As CEO I would like to encourage you all to break many more World Records and therefore I have invested the prize monies that I won with the Optimization Challenge in treating you all to cake. There will be cake distributed to the pantries from 1.00 pm today. Please feel free to help yourselves. Enjoy!
For technical insights, visit http://www.quintiq.com/optimization-world-records/solving-the-vrptw-method-and-solution.aspx