Sparse Flexible Design: A Machine Learning Approach
47 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2019
Date Written: May 17, 2019
For a general production network, state-of-the-art methods for constructing sparse flexible designs are heuristic in nature, typically computing a proxy for the quality of unseen networks and using that estimate in a greedy manner to modify a current design. This paper develops two machine learning-based approaches to constructing sparse flexible designs that leverage a neural network to accurately and quickly predict the performance of large numbers of candidate designs. We demonstrate that our heuristics are competitive with existing approaches and produce high-quality solutions for both balanced and unbalanced networks. Finally, we introduce a novel application of process flexibility in healthcare operations to demonstrate the effectiveness of our approach in a large numerical case study. We study the flexibility of linear accelerators that deliver radiation to treat various types of cancer. We demonstrate how clinical constraints can be easily absorbed into the machine learning subroutine and how our sparse flexible treatment networks meet or beat the performance of those designed by state-of-the-art methods.
Keywords: process flexibility, sparse network design, machine learning, neural network, healthcare operations, radiation therapy, optimization, network flow
JEL Classification: C61,L60
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