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Crowdsourcing solutions to 2D irregular strip packing problems from Internet workers

Annamalai Vasantha, Gokula Vijayumar and Jagadeesan, Ananda Prasanna and Corney, Jonathan Roy and Lynn, Andrew and Agarwal, Anupam (2015) Crowdsourcing solutions to 2D irregular strip packing problems from Internet workers. International Journal of Production Research, 54 (14). pp. 4104-4125. ISSN 0020-7543

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Many industrial processes require the nesting of 2D profiles prior to the cutting, or stamping, of components from raw sheet material. Despite decades of sustained academic effort algorithmic solutions are still sub-optimal and produce results that can frequently be improved by manual inspection. However the Internet offers the prospect of novel ‘human-in-the-loop’ approaches to nesting problems, that uses online workers to produce packing efficiencies beyond the reach of current CAM packages. To investigate the feasibility of such an approach this paper reports on the speed and efficiency of online workers engaged in the interactive nesting of six standard benchmark datasets. To ensure the results accurately characterise the diverse educational and social backgrounds of the many different labour forces available online, the study has been conducted with subjects based in both Indian IT service (i.e. Rural BPOs) centres and a network of homeworkers in northern Scotland. The results (i.e. time and packing efficiency) of the human workers are contrasted with both the baseline performance of a commercial CAM package and recent research results. The paper concludes that online workers could consistently achieve packing efficiencies roughly 4% higher than the commercial based-line established by the project. Beyond characterizing the abilities of online workers to nest components, the results also make a contribution to the development of algorithmic solutions by reporting new solutions to the benchmark problems and demonstrating methods for assessing the packing strategy employed by the best workers.