Neural Approximate Dynamic Programming for the Ultra-fast Order Dispatching Problem

Same-Day Delivery (SDD) services aim to maximize the fulfillment of online orders while minimizing delivery delays but are beset by operational uncertainties such as those in order volumes and courier planning.
Our work aims to enhance the operational efficiency of SDD by focusing on the ultra-fast Order Dispatching Problem (ODP), which involves matching and dispatching orders to couriers within a centralized warehouse setting, and completing the delivery within a strict timeline (e.g., within minutes).
We introduce important extensions to ultra-fast ODP such as order batching and explicit courier assignments to provide a more realistic representation of dispatching operations and improve delivery efficiency. As a solution method, we primarily focus on NeurADP, a methodology that combines Approximate Dynamic Programming (ADP) and Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL), and our work constitutes the first application of NeurADP outside of the ride-pool matching problem. NeurADP is particularly suitable for ultra-fast ODP as it addresses complex one-to-many matching and routing intricacies through a neural network-based VFA that captures high-dimensional problem dynamics without requiring manual feature engineering as in generic ADP methods.
We test our proposed approach using four distinct realistic datasets tailored for ODP and compare the performance of NeurADP against myopic and DRL baselines by also making use of non-trivial bounds to assess the quality of the policies.
Our numerical results indicate that the inclusion of order batching and courier queues enhances the efficiency of delivery operations and that NeurADP significantly outperforms other methods. Detailed sensitivity analysis with important parameters confirms the robustness of NeurADP under different scenarios, including variations in courier numbers, spatial setup, vehicle capacity, and permitted delay time.



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