Solving the tool switching problem with memetic algorithms

Jhon Edgar Amaya, Carlos Cotta and Antonio J. Fernández-Leiva


The tool switching problem (ToSP) is well known in the domain of flexible manufacturing systems. Given a reconfigurable machine, the ToSP amounts to scheduling a collection of jobs on this machine (each of them requiring a different set of tools to be completed), as well as the tools to be loaded/unloaded at each step to process these jobs, such that the total number of tool switches is minimized. Different exact and heuristic methods have been defined to deal with this problem. In this work, we focus on memetic approaches to this problem. To this end, we have considered a number of variants of three different local search techniques (hill climbing, tabu search, and simulated annealing), and embedded them in a permutational evolutionary algorithm. It is shown that the memetic algorithm endowed with steepest ascent hill climbing search yields the best results, performing synergistically better than its stand-alone constituents, and providing better results than the rest of the algorithms (including those returned by an effective ad hoc beam search heuristic defined in the literature for this problem).

(Received October 02 2009)
(Accepted April 07 2011)

Correspondence: Reprint requests to: Carlos Cotta, Departamento Lenguajes y Ciencias de la Computación, ETSI Informática, University of Málaga, Campus de Teatinos, 29071, Málaga, Spain. E-mail: