Stochastic hub and spoke networks
Transportation systems such as mail, freight, passenger and even telecommunication systems most often employ a hub and spoke network structure since correctly designed they give a strong balance between high service quality and low costs resulting in an economically competitive operation. In addition, consumers are increasingly demanding fast and reliable transportation services, with services such as next day deliveries and fast business and pleasure trips becoming highly sought after. This makes finding an efficient design of a hub and spoke network of the utmost importance for any competing transportation company. However real life situations are complicated, dynamic and often require responses to many different fixed and random events. Therefore modeling the question of what is an optimal hub and spoke network structure and finding an optimal solution is very difficult. Due to this, many researchers and practitioners alike make several assumptions and simplifications on the behavior of such systems to allow mathematical models to be formulated and solved optimally or near optimally within a practical timeframe. Some assumptions and simplifications can however result in practically poor network design solutions being found. This thesis contributes to the research of hub and spoke networks by introducing new stochastic models and fast solution algorithms to help bridge the gap between theoretical solutions and designs that are useful in practice. Three main contributions are made in the thesis. First, in Chapter 2, a new formulation and solution algorithms are proposed to find exact solutions to a stochastic p-hub center problem. The stochastic p-hub center problem is about finding a network structure, where travel times on links are stochastic, which minimizes the longest path in the network to give fast delivery guarantees which will hold for some given probability. Second, in Chapter 3, the stochastic p-hub center problem is looked at using a new methodological approach which gives more realistic solutions to the network structures when applied to real life situations. In addition a new service model is proposed where volume of flow is also accounted for when considering the stochastic nature of travel times on links. Third, in Chapter 4, stochastic volume is considered to account for capacity constraints at hubs and, de facto, reduce the costs embedded in excessive hub volumes. Numerical experiments and results are conducted and reported for all models in all chapters which demonstrate the efficiency of the new proposed approaches.