This work addresses the real-life scheduling problem of a Scottish company that must produce daily schedules for the catching and transportation of large numbers of live chickens. The problem is complex and highly constrained. We show that it can be successfully solved by division into two subproblems and solving each using a separate genetic algorithm (GA). We address the problem of whether this produces locally optimal solutions and how to overcome this. We extend the traditional approach of evolving a “permutation + schedule builder” by concentrating on evolving the schedule builder itself. This results in a unique schedule builder being built for each daily scheduling problem, each individually tailored to deal with the particular features of that problem. This results in a robust, fast, and flexible system that can cope with most of the circumstances imaginable at the factory. We also compare the performance of a GA approach to several other evolutionary methods and show that population-based methods are superior to both hill-climbing and simulated annealing in the quality of solutions produced. Population-based methods also have the distinct advantage of producing multiple, equally fit solutions, which is of particular importance when considering the practical aspects of the problem.

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