Flexibility and complexity in periodic distribution problems

Peter Francis, Karen Smilowitz*, Michal Tzur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


In this paper, we explore trade-offs between operational flexibility and operational complexity in periodic distribution problems. We consider the gains from operational flexibility in terms of vehicle routing costs and customer service benefits, as well as the costs of operational complexity in terms of modeling, solution methods, and implementation challenges for drivers and customers. The period vehicle routing problem (PVRP) is a variation of the classic vehicle routing problem in which delivery routes are constructed for a period of time; the PVRP with service choice (PVRP-SC) extends the PVRP to allow service (visit) frequency to become a decision of the model. For the periodic distribution problems represented by PVRP and PVRP-SC, we introduce operational flexibility levers and a set of quantitative measures to evaluate the trade-offs between flexibility and complexity. We develop a Tabu Search heuristic to incorporate a range of operational flexibility options. We analyze the potential value and theincreased operational complexity of the flexibility levers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-150
Number of pages15
JournalNaval Research Logistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007


  • Operational complexity
  • Period vehicle routing problem
  • Tabu Search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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