A Decision Support System for Dynamic Integrated Project Scheduling and Equipment Operation Planning
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Common practice in scheduling under limited resource availability is to first schedule activities with the assumption of unlimited resources, and then assign required resources to activities until available resources are exhausted. The process of matching a feasible resource plan with a feasible schedule is called resource allocation. Then, to avoid sharp fluctuations in the resource profile, further adjustments are applied to both schedule and resource allocation plan within the limits of feasibility constraints. This process is referred to as resource leveling in the literature. Combination of these three stages constitutes the standard approach of top-down scheduling. In contrast, when scarce and/or expensive resource is to be scheduled, first a feasible and economical resource usage plan is established and then activities are scheduled accordingly. This practice is referred to as bottom-up scheduling in the literature. Several algorithms are developed and implemented in various commercial scheduling software packages to schedule based on either of these approaches. However, in reality resource loaded scheduling problems are somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum. Additionally, application of either of these conventional approaches results in just a feasible resource loaded schedule which is not necessarily the cost optimal solution. In order to find the cost optimal solution, activity scheduling and resource allocation problems should be considered jointly. In other words, these two individual problems should be formulated and solved as an integrated optimization problem. In this research, a novel integrated optimization model is proposed for solving the resource loaded scheduling problems with concentration on construction heavy equipment being the targeted resource type. Assumptions regarding this particular type of resource along with other practical assumptions are provided for the model through inputs and constraints. The objective function is to minimize the fraction of the execution cost of resource loaded schedule which varies based on the selected solution and thus, considered to be the model's decision making criterion. This fraction of cost which hereafter is referred to as operation cost, encompasses four components namely schedule delay cost, shipping, rental and ownership costs for equipment.