Estimating performance in a robotic mobile fulfillment system
De Koster, M.B.M.
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This paper models Robotic Mobile Fulfillment Systems and analyzes their performance. A Robotic Mobile Fulfillment System is an automated, parts-to-picker storage system where robots bring pods with products to a workstation. It is especially suited for e-commerce distribution centers with large assortments of small products, and with strong demand fluctuations. Its most important feature is the ability to automatically sort inventory and to adapt the warehouse layout in a short period of time. Queueing network models are developed for both single-line and multi-line orders, to analytically estimate maximum order throughput, average order cycle time, and robot utilization. These models can be used to quickly evaluate different warehouse layouts, or robot zoning strategies. Two main contributions are that the models include accurate driving behavior of robots and multi-line orders. The results show that: (1) the analytical models accurately estimate robot utilization, workstation utilization, and order cycle time, (2) maximum order throughput is quite insensitive to the length-to-width ratio of the storage area and (3) maximum order throughput is affected by the location of the workstations around the storage area.
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