A Hierarchical Reinforcement Learning Based Optimization Framework for Large-scale Dynamic Pickup and Delivery Problems

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Yi Ma, Xiaotian Hao, Jianye Hao, Jiawen Lu, Xing Liu, Tong Xialiang, Mingxuan Yuan, Zhigang Li, Jie Tang, Zhaopeng Meng


The Dynamic Pickup and Delivery Problem (DPDP) is an essential problem in the logistics domain, which is NP-hard. The objective is to dynamically schedule vehicles among multiple sites to serve the online generated orders such that the overall transportation cost could be minimized. The critical challenge of DPDP is the orders are not known a priori, i.e., the orders are dynamically generated in real-time. To address this problem, existing methods partition the overall DPDP into fixed-size sub-problems by caching online generated orders and solve each sub-problem, or on this basis to utilize the predicted future orders to optimize each sub-problem further. However, the solution quality and efficiency of these methods are unsatisfactory, especially when the problem scale is very large. In this paper, we propose a novel hierarchical optimization framework to better solve large-scale DPDPs. Specifically, we design an upper-level agent to dynamically partition the DPDP into a series of sub-problems with different scales to optimize vehicles routes towards globally better solutions. Besides, a lower-level agent is designed to efficiently solve each sub-problem by incorporating the strengths of classical operational research-based methods with reinforcement learning-based policies. To verify the effectiveness of the proposed framework, real historical data is collected from the order dispatching system of Huawei Supply Chain Business Unit and used to build a functional simulator. Extensive offline simulation and online testing conducted on the industrial order dispatching system justify the superior performance of our framework over existing baselines.