Year of Publication

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Agriculture; Engineering

Department

Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Joseph Dvorak

Abstract

Agricultural producers consider utilizing multiple machines to reduce field completion times for improving effective field capacity. Using a number of smaller machines rather than a single big machine also has benefits such as sustainability via less compaction risk, redundancy in the event of an equipment failure, and more flexibility in machinery management. However, machinery management is complicated due to logistics issues.

In this work, the allocation and ordering of field paths among a number of available machines have been transformed into a solvable Vehicle Routing Problem (VRP). A basic heuristic algorithm (a modified form of the Clarke-Wright algorithm) and a meta-heuristic algorithm, Tabu Search, were employed to solve the VRP. The solution considered optimization of field completion time as well as improving the field efficiency. Both techniques were evaluated through computer simulations with 2, 3, 5, or 10 vehicles working simultaneously to complete the same operation. Furthermore, the parameters of the VRP were changed into a dynamic, multi-depot representation to enable the re-route of vehicles while the operation is ongoing.

The results proved both the Clarke-Wright and Tabu Search algorithms always generated feasible solutions. The Tabu Search solutions outperformed the solutions provided by the Clarke-Wright algorithm. As the number of the vehicles increased, or the field shape became more complex, the Tabu Search generated better results in terms of reducing the field completion times. With 10 vehicles working together in a real-world field, the benefit provided by the Tabu Search over the Modified Clarke-Wright solution was 32% reduction in completion time. In addition, changes in the parameters of the VRP resulted in a Dynamic, Multi-Depot VRP (DMDVRP) to reset the routes allocated to each vehicle even as the operation was in progress. In all the scenarios tested, the DMDVRP was able to produce new optimized routes, but the impact of these routes varied for each scenario.

The ability of this optimization procedure to reduce field work times were verified through real-world experiments using three tractors during a rotary mowing operation. The time to complete the field work was reduced by 17.3% and the total operating time for all tractors was reduced by 11.5%.

The task of a single large machine was also simulated as a task for 2 or 3 smaller machines through computer simulations. Results revealed up to 11% reduction in completion time using three smaller machines. This time reduction improved the effective field capacity.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2017.510

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