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Title: Metaheuristics for solving real world employee rostering and shift scheduling problems
Author: Reid, Kenneth Neil
ISNI:       0000 0004 8502 7252
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2019
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Optimising resources and making considerate decisions are central concerns in any responsible organisation aiming to succeed in efficiently achieving their goals. Careful use of resources can have positive outcomes in the form of fiscal savings, improved service levels, better quality products, improved awareness of diminishing returns and general output efficiency, regardless of field. Operational research techniques are advanced analytical tools used to improve managerial decision-making. There have been a variety of case studies where operational research techniques have been successfully applied to save millions of pounds. Operational research techniques have been successfully applied to a multitude of fields, including agriculture, policing, defence, conservation, air traffic control, and many more. In particular, management of resources in the form of employees is a challenging problem --- but one with the potential for huge improvements in efficiency. The problem this thesis tackles can be divided into two sub-problems; the personalised shift scheduling & employee rostering problem, and the roster pattern problem. The personalised shift scheduling & employee rostering problem involves the direct scheduling of employees to hours and days of week. This allows the creation of schedules which are tailored to individuals and allows a fine level over control over the results, but with at the cost of a large and challenging search space. The roster pattern problem instead takes existing patterns employees currently work, and uses these as a pool of potential schedules to be used. This reduces the search space but minimises the number of changes to existing employee schedules, which is preferable for personnel satisfaction. Existing research has shown that a variety of algorithms suit different problems and hybrid methods are found to typically outperform standalone ones in real-world contexts. Several algorithmic approaches for solving variations of the employee scheduling problem are considered in this thesis. Initially a VNS approach was used with a Metropolis-Hastings acceptance criterion. The second approach utilises ER&SR controlled by the EMCAC, which has only been used in the field of exam timetabling, and has not before been used within the domain of employee scheduling and rostering. ER&SR was then hybridised with our initial approach, producing ER&SR with VNS. Finally, ER&SR was hybridised into a matheuristic with Integer Programming and compared to the hybrid's individual components. A contribution of this thesis is evidence that the algorithm ER&SR has merit outside of the original sub-field of exam scheduling, and can be applied to shift scheduling and employee rostering. Further, ER&SR was hybridised and schedules produced by the hybridisations were found to be of higher quality than the standalone algorithm. In the literature review it was found that hybrid algorithms have become more popular in real-world problems in recent years, and this body of work has explored and continued this trend. Problem formulations in this thesis provide insight into creating constraints which satisfy the need for minimising employee dissatisfaction, particularly in regards to abrupt change. The research presented in this thesis has positively impacted a multinational and multibillion dollar field service operations company. This has been achieved by implementing a variety of techniques, including metaheuristics and a matheuristic, to schedule shifts and roster employees over a period of several months. This thesis showcases the research outputs by this project, and highlights the real-world impact of this research.
Supervisor: Li, Jingpeng ; Brownlee, Alexander Sponsor: British Telecommunications ; DAASE
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: metaheuristic ; scheduling ; Metaheuristics ; Operations research ; Employees--Workload--Management ; Flextime