Combining cost-based and rule-based knowledge in complex resource allocation problems

Arun Marar, Warren B. Powell, Sanjeev Kulkarni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


A major challenge in the formulation of optimization models for large-scale, complex operational problems is that some data are impossible or uneconomical to collect, producing a cost model that suffers from incomplete information. As a result, even an optimal solution may be "wrong" in the sense that it is solving the wrong problem. In many operational settings, knowledgeable experts will already know, at least approximately, how a model should behave, and can express this knowledge in the form of low dimensional patterns: "high powered locomotives should pull intermodal trains" (because they need to move quickly) or "loaded C-141s should not be flown into Saudi Arabia" (for maintenance reasons). Unlike the literature on inverse optimization which uses observed actions to train the parameters of a cost model, we used exogenous patterns to guide the behavior of a model using a proximal point term that penalizes deviations from these patterns. Under the assumption that the patterns are derived from rational behaviors, we establish the conditions under which incorporating patterns will reduce actual costs rather than just the engineered costs. The effectiveness of the approach is demonstrated in a controlled, laboratory setting using data from a major railroad.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-172
Number of pages14
JournalIIE Transactions (Institute of Industrial Engineers)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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