Revisiting local branching with a machine learning lens

Finding high-quality solutions to mixed-integer linear programming problems (MILPs) is of great importance for many practical applications. In this respect, the refinement heuristic local branching (LB) has been proposed to produce improving solutions and has been highly influential for the development of local search methods in MILP. The algorithm iteratively explores a sequence of solution neighborhoods defined by the so-called local branching constraint, namely, a linear inequality limiting the distance from a reference solution. For a LB algorithm, the choice of the neighborhood size is critical to performance. In this work, we study the relation between the size of the search neighborhood and the behavior of the underlying LB algorithm, and we devise a leaning based framework for predicting the best size for the specific instance to be solved. Furthermore, we have also investigated the relation between the time limit for exploring the LB neighborhood and the actual performance of LB scheme, and devised a strategy for adapting the time limit. We computationally show that the neighborhood size and time limit can indeed be learned, leading to improved performances and that the overall algorithm generalizes well both with respect to the instance size and, remarkably, across instances.


Polytechnique Montreal, August 2022.



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