Original Paper

Optimization Letters

, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp 1081-1099

First online:

A time-based pheromone approach for the ant system

  • U. Mahir YildirimAffiliated withFaculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Sabanci University Email author 
  • , Bülent ÇatayAffiliated withFaculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Sabanci University

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The ant system (AS) is a metaheuristic approach originally developed for solving the traveling salesman problem. AS has been successfully applied to various hard combinatorial optimization problems and different variants have been proposed in the literature. In this paper, we introduce a time-based pheromone approach for AS (TbAS). Due to this nature TbAS is applicable to routing problems involving time-windows. The novelty in TbAS is the multi-layer pheromone network structure which implicitly utilizes the service time information associated with the customers as a heuristic information. To investigate the performance of TbAS, we use the well-known vehicle routing problem with time-windows as our testbed and we conduct an extensive computational study using the Solomon (Algorithms for the vehicle routing and scheduling problems with time window constraints 35:254–265, 1987) instances. Our results reveal that the proposed time-based pheromone approach is effective in obtaining good quality solutions.


Ant systems Vehicle routing Time windows Metaheuristics Ant colony optimization