US RE42001 E1 Abstract A computer system and a method is disclosed for determining a travel scheme minimizingwhich minimizes travel costs for an organization, where the organization expects to purchase travel trips for a plurality of travelers for a plurality of travel links. Each travel link comprises a travel origin and a travel destination, and is served by at least one of the carriers. The system comprises a data input device for receiving travel information relating to the carriers and the links, a data storage device for storing the travel information received by the data input device, a processor, and a data output device. From the travel information, the system constructs an objective function representing a travel cost to the organization to purchase travel trips for the plurality of travelers for the plurality of predetermined links, and a set of constraints comprising restrictions relating to the objective function. The constraints are applied to the objective function to determine a solution of the objective function that satisfies the constraints and that minimizes the travel costs of the organization, and a data output device then generates a report representative of the solution. The travel information comprises travel cost information for each link for each carrier serving the link, demand and supply information pertaining to a projected demand for each link and a projected supply for each carrier, and carrier goal information pertaining to any predetermined goal the organization may have with respect to any of the carriers.
Claims(125) 1. In a computer system having a data input device, a data storage device, and a processor, a method for determining a travel scheme for minimizing travel costs for an organization, where the organization expects to purchase travel trips for a plurality of travelers for a plurality of predetermined travel links, each travel link comprising a travel origin and a travel destination, each travel link being served by at least one of a plurality of travel carriers, the method comprising the steps of:
obtaining travel information relating to the carriers and the links via the data input device;
storing the travel information via the data storage device;
constructing an objective function from the travel information via the processor, the objective function representing a travel cost to the organization to purchase travel trips for the plurality of travelers for the plurality of predetermined links;
constructing a set of constraints from the travel information via the processor, the constraints comprising restrictions relating to the objective function;
applying the constraints to the objective function via the processor to determine a solution of the objective function that satisfies the constraints and that minimizes the travel costs of the organization; and
applying the solution as the travel scheme for minimizing travel costs by purchasing travel trips in accordance with the solution; and
generating output report data representative of the solution. 2. The computer system of
obtaining travel cost information for each link for each carrier serving the link;
obtaining demand and supply information pertaining to a projected demand for each link and a projected supply for each carrier; and
obtaining carrier goal information pertaining to any predetermined goal the organization has with respect to any of the carriers.
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18. A method for determining a travel scheme for minimizing travel costs for an organization, where the organization expects to purchase travel trips for a plurality of travelers for a plurality of predetermined travel links, each travel link comprising a travel origin and a travel destination, each travel link being served by at least one of a plurality of travel carriers, the method comprising the steps of:
obtaining travel information relating to the carriers and the links;
constructing an objective function from the travel information, the objective function representing a travel cost to the organization to purchase travel trips for the plurality of travelers for the plurality of predetermined links;
constructing a set of constraints from the travel information, the constraints comprising restrictions relating to the objective function;
applying the constraints to the objective function to determine a solution of the objective function that satisfies the constraints and that minimizes the travel costs of the organization; and
applying the solution as the travel scheme for minimizing travel costs by purchasing travel trips in accordance with the solution; and,
generating output report data representative of the solution. 19. The method of
obtaining travel cost information for each link for each carrier serving the link;
obtaining demand and-supply information pertaining to a projected demand for each link and a projected supply for each carrier; and
obtaining carrier goal information pertaining to any predetermined goal the organization has with respect to any of the carriers.
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35. A computer system for determining a travel scheme for minimizing travel costs for an organization, where the organization expects to purchase travel trips for a plurality of travelers for a plurality of predetermined travel links, each travel link comprising a travel origin and a travel destination, each travel link being served by at least one of a plurality of travel carriers, the system comprising:
a data input device for receiving travel information relating to the carriers and the links;
a data storage device for storing the travel information received by the data input device;
a programmed processor for constructing an objective function from the travel information, the objective function representing a travel cost to the organization to purchase travel trips for the plurality of travelers for the plurality of predetermined links; and
a programmed processor for constructing a set of constraints from the travel information, the constraints comprising restrictions relating to the objective function;
the processor for applying the constraints to the objective function to determine a solution of the objective function that satisfies the constraints and that minimizes the travel costs the organization;
the solution for being applied as the travel scheme for minimizing travel costs by purchasing travel trips in accordance with the solution, and generating output report data representative of the solution.
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54. A method for determining an optimum travel scheme for minimizing travel costs for an organization traveling a plurality of travel links being served by a plurality of travel carriers by selectively allocating travel trips on each link to the carriers serving the link, comprising the steps of:
(a) determining travel information representative of the links and the carriers serving the links;
(b) determining constraints on allocating the trips to the carriers;
(c) prospectively allocating the trips among the carriers in accordance with the travel information and the constraints to provide a travel scheme;
(d) determining a cost of the travel scheme of step (c);
(e) ascertaining whether any of the travel information or constraints have changed;
(f) ifwhen any of the travel information or constraints have changed, then repeating steps (c), (d), and (e) until the optimum travel scheme minimizing the travel costs in accordance with the travel information and the constraints is determined; and
(g) applying the optimum travel scheme to minimize travel costs by purchasing travel trips in accordance with such optimum travel scheme; and,
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h) generating output report data representative of the optimum travel scheme. 55. The method of
obtaining travel cost information for each link for each carrier serving the link;
obtaining demand and supply information pertaining to a projected demand for each link and a projected supply for each carrier; and
obtaining carrier goal information pertaining to any predetermined goal the organization has with respect to any of the carriers.
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71. In a computer system having a data input device, a data storage device, and a processor, a method for determining a travel scheme for minimizing travel costs for an organization, where the organization expects to purchase travel trips for a plurality of travelers for a plurality of predetermined travel links, each travel link comprising a travel origin and a travel destination, each travel link being served by at least one of a plurality of travel carriers, the method comprising:
obtaining travel information relating to the carriers and the links via the data input device; constructing an objective function from the travel information, the objective function representing a travel cost to purchase travel trips for the plurality of travelers for the plurality of predetermined links; constructing a set of constraints from the travel information via the processor, the constraints comprising restrictions relating to the objective function; applying the constraints to the objective function to determine a solution of the objective function that satisfies the constraints and that minimizes the travel costs; applying the solution as the travel scheme for minimizing travel costs by purchasing travel trips in accordance with the solution; and generating output report data representative of the solution. 72. The computer system of
obtaining travel cost information for each link for each carrier serving the link; 73. The computer system of
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88. A method for determining a travel scheme for minimizing travel costs for a plurality of travelers for a plurality of predetermined travel links, each travel link comprising a travel origin and a travel destination, each travel link being served by at least one of a plurality of travel carriers, the method comprising:
constructing, by a computer, an objective function from travel information, wherein the travel information relates to the carriers and the links, and wherein the objective function represents a travel cost to purchase travel trips for the plurality of travelers for the plurality of predetermined links; constructing, by the computer, a set of constraints from the travel information, the constraints comprising restrictions relating to the objective function; applying, by the computer, the constraints to the objective function to determine a solution of the objective function that satisfies the constraints and that minimizes the travel costs; applying, by the computer, the solution as the travel scheme for minimizing travel costs by purchasing travel trips in accordance with the solution; generating, by the computer, a report representative of the solution. 89. The method of
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105. A computer system for determining a travel scheme for minimizing travel costs for an organization, where the organization expects to purchase travel trips for a plurality of travelers for a plurality of predetermined travel links, each travel link comprising a travel origin and a travel destination, each travel link being served by at least one of a plurality of travel carriers, the system comprising:
a data input device for receiving travel information relating to the carriers and the links a data storage device for storing the travel information received by the data input device; a programmed processor for constructing an objective function from the travel information, the objective function representing a travel cost to the organization to purchase travel trips for the plurality of travelers for the plurality of predetermined links; a programmed processor for constructing a set of constraints from the travel information, the constraints comprising restrictions relating to the objective function; a processor for applying the constraints to the objective function to determine a solution of the objective function that satisfies the constraints and that minimizes the travel costs the organization; a programmed processor for applying the solution as the travel scheme for minimizing travel costs by purchasing travel trips in accordance with the solution; and a data output device for applying the solution to generate a report representative of the solution. 106. The computer system of
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stop voyages available, the number of connecting voyages available, any expected transfer delays, the percentage of total voyages the carrier provides for the link, and a combination thereof. 123. The computer system of
124. An article of manufacture for use in a computer system having a data input device, a data storage device, and a processor, the article of manufacture comprising a computer readable medium holding computer executable instructions for performing a method for determining a travel scheme for minimizing travel costs for an organization, where the organization expects to purchase travel trips for a plurality of travelers for a plurality of predetermined travel links, each travel link comprising a travel origin and a travel destination, each travel link being served by at least one of a plurality of travel carriers, the method comprising the steps of:
obtaining travel information relating to the carriers and the links via the data input device; storing the travel information via the data storage device; constructing an objective function from the travel information via the processor, the objective function representing a travel cost to the organization to purchase travel trips for the plurality of travelers for the plurality of predetermined links; applying the constraints to the objective function via the processor to determine a solution of the objective function that satisfies the constraints and that minimizes the travel costs of the organization; and applying the solution as the travel scheme for minimizing travel costs by purchasing travel trips in accordance with the solution and for generating a report representative of the solution. 125. An article of manufacture for determining a travel scheme for minimizing travel costs for an organization, where the organization expects to purchase travel trips for a plurality of travelers for a plurality of predetermined travel links, each travel link comprising a travel origin and a travel destination, each travel link being served by at least one of a plurality of travel carriers, the article of manufacture comprising a computer-
readable medium holding computer-executable instructions for performing a method comprising the steps of: obtaining travel information relating to the carriers and the links; constructing an objective function from the travel information, the objective function representing a travel cost to the organization to purchase travel trips for the plurality of travelers for the plurality of predetermined links; constructing a set of constraints from the travel information, the constraints comprising restrictions relating to the objective function; applying the constraints to the objective function to determine a solution of the objective function that satisfies the constraints and that minimizes the travel costs of the organization; and Description The present invention relates to a computer system and a method for determining the distribution of transportation carrier support that will result in the lowest total travel cost for an organization. More particularly, the invention relates to a computer system and method for developing a model to represent an organization's travel requirements in order to maximize and leverage benefits obtained from individual transportation carriers. Typically, a larger size organization will tend to purchase a significant amount of travel services from a number of travel carriers. For example, a large corporation having a headquarters office and several far-flung divisional offices, manufacturing plants, and the like may be expected to have its employees and/or representatives travel therebetween as well as to other locations in the ordinary course of business. Such an organization typically negotiates special incentive arrangements with one or more travel carriers in order to obtain a discount for supporting the travel carriers. Nevertheless, a particular incentive arrangement may actually cost the organization more money than is being saved, for any of several reasons. For example, the organization may take advantage of a particular incentive arrangement by using a particular travel carrier to travel between a location A and a location B. However, in doing so, the organization may have to suffer the fact that the travel carrier does not provide fast and/or frequent service between the two locations. Alternatively, the travel carrier may not provide added benefits that another travel carrier offers for traveling between the two locations. Still further, in supporting the one carrier, another less costly alternative may be ignored. Inevitably, the lack of an organized travel scheme causes the organization to incur significant additional total travel costs. Thus, it would be highly advantageous to have a system and method for organizing a coherent travel scheme based on the organization's travel demands, the negotiated travel incentives the organization has with particular travel carriers, and the service each travel carrier provides between particular travel locations, as well as several other factors, in order to minimize the total travel cost incurred by the organization. The present invention is directed to a computer system and a method for determining a travel scheme for minimizing travel costs for an organization, where the organization expects to purchase travel trips for a plurality of travelers for a plurality of predetermined travel links. Each travel link comprises a travel origin and a travel destination, and is served by at least one of a plurality of travel carriers. The system comprises a data input device for receiving travel information relating to the carriers and the links, a data storage device for storing the travel information received by the data input device, a processor, and a data output device. The system constructs an objective function and a set of constraints from the travel information. The objective function represents a travel cost to the organization to purchase travel trips for the plurality of travelers for the plurality of predetermined links, and the constraints comprise restrictions relating to the objective function. The constraints are applied to the objective function to determine a solution of the objective function that satisfies the constraints and that minimizes the travel costs of the organization. The data output device then generates a report representative of the solution. Preferably, the travel information comprises travel cost information for each link for each carrier serving the link, demand and supply information pertaining to a projected demand for each link and a projected supply for each carrier, and carrier goal information pertaining to any predetermined goal the organization may have with respect to any of the carriers. From the travel cost information for each link for each carrier serving the link, a weighted value representing an actual cost to the organization for traveling the link using the carrier is determined. Preferably, the objective function comprises the sum of a travel cost for each link, the travel cost for each link comprises the sum of a travel cost for each carrier serving the link, and the travel cost for each carrier serving the link comprises the weighted value representing the actual cost to the organization for traveling the link using the carrier multiplied by a variable representing a number of trips to be purchased from the carrier for the link. Preferably, the constraints are derived from the demand and supply information and the carrier goal information. Also preferably, the constraints comprise link demand constraints, carrier supply constraints, and carrier goal constraints. The link demand constraints require that for each link the sum of the variables representing the number of trips to be purchased from all carriers for the link be equal to the projected demand for the link. The carrier supply constraints require that for a particular carrier the sum of the variables representing the number of trips to be purchased from the carrier for all links be in a predetermined range. Each carrier goal constraint requires that the goal the organization has with respect to a particular carrier be accomplished. Preferably, the information is organized in the form of a matrix or table, where each of the plurality of links is laid out in a first direction, each of the plurality of carriers is laid out in a second direction, and each carrier serving a particular link is designated by a cell having information pertaining thereto. Also preferably, the link demand information is organized according to each link and the carrier supply information and the carrier goal information is organized according to each carrier. Preferably, linear programming is implemented to apply the constraints to the objective function to determine the solution. Information from the solution may be communicated from the computer system to point of sale terminals for use in setting travel arrangements. The computer system and method are preferably employed by a travel agency to provide a travel optimization service to an organization. The fee for the service may comprise a portion of the savings realized to the organization by employing the travel optimization service. The foregoing summary, as well as the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment of the invention, will be better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there is shown in the drawings an embodiment which is presently preferred. It should be understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown. In the drawings: Certain terminology may be used in the following description for convenience only and is not limiting. The words “right”, “left”, “upper” and “lower” designate directions in the drawings to which reference is made. The words “inwardly” and “outwardly” are further directions toward and away from, respectively, the geometric center of the Referenced element. The terminology includes the words above specifically mentioned, derivatives thereof, and words of similar import. Referring to the drawings in detail, wherein like numerals are used to indicate like elements throughout, there is shown in As seen in As should be recognized, the term “travel service” refers to airline travel if the travel provider is an airline, rail travel if the travel provider is a railroad line, and the like. As may be expected, though, the large majority of travel service provided will be air travel provided by air carriers. As should also be recognized, and as shown in Referring to Preferably, the data sources Preferably, the data sources As will be recognized, the data sources Preferably, the computer system Travel information received by the processor Preferably, computer system Preferably, the computer system A scanner or a facsimile machine Data can also be received or transmitted from or to a remote location by use of a modem Data may also be exchanged between at least one of the data sources With the computer system As seen in The table of The table as described may have any number of rows Once the structure of the table is defined, the computer system As an example, a weighted value 68 may take into consideration that a carrier charges an actual cost of C for a travel trip on a link, and that a discount of D percent is given to the organization. Thus, the weighted value 68=C* (1−D). If the weighted value 68 also takes into account that the carrier provides an upgrade worth U, then the weighted value 68=C*(1−D)−U. If the weighted value still further takes into account that all voyages on the link require a connection with a connection delay of H hours, and that the value of time is V, then the weighted value 68=C* (1−D)−U+V*H. As may be surmised, the weighted value 68 may take into account all factors that affect the cost of traveling a particular link using a particular carrier. Such factors may include probabilistic factors. Thus, for each carrier serving each link, travel cost information Preferably, the expected fare or fares that the carrier charges for traveling the link are obtained from the CRS With all of the aforementioned factors, as well as others, the computer system Each occupied cell is assigned a variable/designation For each link as represented by a column The demand and supply information From the link demand information and from the determined relative capacities for each carrier serving a link, carrier supply information may be determined. For example, since carrier AA in the table in Alternatively, carrier supply information for a particular carrier may be replaced by carrier goal information Alternatively, the carrier goal information Once a table as seen in For example, and with reference to the table of Since any travel scheme determined must minimize the travel costs for an organization, the objective function as constructed should be minimized. In order to do so, the computer system Thus, each value in the lower-most row representing a passenger demand for a link is used to construct a link demand constraint
(EZE represents Buenos Aires, Argentina). Similarly, each value in the right-most column representing demand and supply information
The values $1600, $1900, $625, $3418, $1750, and $1938 are all assumed to be the actual pre-discounted costs charged by the various carriers for trips in connection with cells x 1, x2, x3, x4, x5, and x6, respectively. Such pre-discounted costs are required in order to determine whether the hurdles 84 have been achieved.
Finally, carrier supply constraints
(SN represents Sabena Airlines). Although each of the above carrier supply constraints With the link demand constraints Preferably, the table as seen in As may be recognized, linear programming represents a technique for solving multi-variable systems in terms of a set of best values for maximizing or minimizing the system. Essentially, the linear programming allocates the trips to the carriers in accordance with the travel information and the constraints to provide a first test travel scheme, and determines the cost of the first test travel scheme. The trips are then re-allocated to provide a second test travel scheme, and the cost of the second test travel scheme is determined and compared with the cost of the first test travel scheme. The process is repeated until an optimum travel scheme minimizing the travel costs in accordance with the travel information and the constraints is determined. Preferably, the linear programming software determines the solution according to a transportation algorithm. As one skilled in the art will recognize, a transportation algorithm minimizes the cost of a two-dimensional universe, each dimension having a plurality of members, subject to constraints on each of the members of each of the dimensions. More preferably, the spreadsheet is a “LOTUS-123”-type spreadsheet and the linear programming software comprises “WHAT'S BEST!” linear programming software, a product of Lindo Systems, Inc. of Chicago, Ill. Preferably, the solution determined by the linear programming software is organized by the software in a table, as seen in Preferably, the solution also comprises lower and upper limits Once the processor The report may take the form of the table shown in FIG. Once a report has been generated and reviewed, it may be determined that, for a plurality of reasons, a particular value should be changed. For example, a particular carrier goal value may have been set too high or too low, a hurdle It will be realized that several iterations of such a process may be necessary before a travel, scheme is determined wherein the travel costs of the organization are minimized to the greatest extent possible. Once such a travel scheme is determined, the scheme must be implemented in order to realize the benefits thereof. As may be recognized, travel arrangements made in connection with traveling on behalf of the organization may be set via a travel department of the organization, if one exists, or a travel agency of the organization. Accordingly, the implementation of the travel scheme requires that the travel department or travel agency be aware of the travel scheme, or at least the relevant portions of the travel scheme. For example, a travel agency setting travel arrangements for an employee wishing to travel the PHL-BRU link should at least be aware that carriers DA and SN are preferred. Additionally, the agency should be aware whether carriers BA or SN have already supplied the respective preferred number of travel trips 58 or 3, as determined by the solution values 88. As will be recognized, other information may be provided, preferably on a need to know basis. In order that the travel agency be made aware of the necessary information from the travel scheme, the information must be communicated to the agency. Since a travel agency typically accesses travel information from a CRS The computer system and method described above may be employed by a travel agency to provide a travel optimization service to one or more organizations, and the travel agency may charge a fee to each organization for providing the service. As may be recognized, at least a portion of the fee may comprise a portion of the savings realized to the organization by employing the travel optimization service. In the foregoing description, it can be seen that the present invention comprises a new and useful computer system and method for determining a travel scheme that minimizes the travel costs of an organization. It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that changes could be made to the embodiment described above without departing from the broad inventive concepts thereof. It is understood, therefore, that this invention is not limited to the particular embodiment disclosed, but it is intended to cover modifications within the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims. Patent Citations
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