Mattias Ohlsson, Carsten Peterson and Bo Söderberg
An Efficient Mean Field Approach to the Set Covering Problem
European Journal of Operations Research 133, 583-595 (2001)

A mean field feedback artificial neural network algorithm is developed and explored for the set covering problem. A convenient encoding of the inequality constraints is achieved by means of a multilinear penalty function. An approximate energy minimum is obtained by iterating a set of mean field equations, in combination with annealing. The approach is numerically tested against a set of publicly available test problems with sizes ranging up to 5x103 rows and 106 columns. When comparing the performance with exact results for sizes where these are available, the approach yields results within a few percent from the optimal solutions. Comparisons with other approximate methods also come out well, in particular given the very low CPU consumption required -- typically a few seconds. Arbitrary problems can be processed using the algorithm via a public domain server.

LU TP 98-29