Sym-NCO: Leveraging Symmetricity for Neural Combinatorial Optimization

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Minsu Kim, Junyoung Park, Jinkyoo Park


Deep reinforcement learning (DRL)-based combinatorial optimization (CO) methods (i.e., DRL-NCO) have shown significant merit over the conventional CO solvers as DRL-NCO is capable of learning CO solvers less relying on problem-specific expert domain knowledge (heuristic method) and supervised labeled data (supervised learning method). This paper presents a novel training scheme, Sym-NCO, which is a regularizer-based training scheme that leverages universal symmetricities in various CO problems and solutions. Leveraging symmetricities such as rotational and reflectional invariance can greatly improve the generalization capability of DRL-NCO because it allows the learned solver to exploit the commonly shared symmetricities in the same CO problem class. Our experimental results verify that our Sym-NCO greatly improves the performance of DRL-NCO methods in four CO tasks, including the traveling salesman problem (TSP), capacitated vehicle routing problem (CVRP), prize collecting TSP (PCTSP), and orienteering problem (OP), without utilizing problem-specific expert domain knowledge. Remarkably, Sym-NCO outperformed not only the existing DRL-NCO methods but also a competitive conventional solver, the iterative local search (ILS), in PCTSP at 240$\times$ faster speed. Our source code is available at