Algorithms for On-line Order Batching in an Order-Picking Warehouse
In manual order picking systems, order pickers walk or ride through a distribution warehouse in order to collect items required by (internal or external) customers. Order batching consists of combining these - indivisible - customer orders into picking orders. With respect to order batching, two problem types can be distinguished: In off-line (static) batching all customer orders are known in advance. In on-line (dynamic) batching customer orders become available dynamically over time. This report considers an on-line order batching problem in which the total completion time of all customer orders arriving within a certain time period has to be minimized. The author shows how heuristic approaches for the off-line order batching can be modified in order to deal with the on-line situation. A competitive analysis shows that every on-line algorithm for this problem is at least 2-competitive. Moreover, this bound is tight if an optimal batching algorithm is used. The proposed algorithms are evaluated in a series of extensive numerical experiments. It is demonstrated that the choice of an appropriate batching method can lead to a substantial reduction of the completion time of a set of customer orders.
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