4OR
, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 43-66

A simulated annealing hyper-heuristic methodology for flexible decision support

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Abstract

Most of the current search techniques represent approaches that are largely adapted for specific search problems. There are many real-world scenarios where the development of such bespoke systems is entirely appropriate. However, there are other situations where it would be beneficial to have methodologies which are generally applicable to more problems. One of our motivating goals for investigating hyper-heuristic methodologies is to provide a more general search framework that can be easily and automatically employed on a broader range of problems than is currently possible. In this paper, we investigate a simulated annealing hyper-heuristic methodology which operates on a search space of heuristics and which employs a stochastic heuristic selection strategy and a short-term memory. The generality and performance of the proposed algorithm is demonstrated over a large number of benchmark datasets drawn from two very different and difficult problems, namely; course timetabling and bin packing. The contribution of this paper is to present a method which can be readily (and automatically) applied to different problems whilst still being able to produce results on benchmark problems which are competitive with bespoke human designed tailor made algorithms for those problems.