Material handling optimization in warehousing operations

Authors: Chabot, Thomas
Advisor: Coelho, Leandro C.Renaud, Jacques
Abstract: Distribution and warehousing activities are important pillars to an effective supply chain. They ensure the regulation of the operational flow and the synchronization of all actors in the network. Hence, distribution centers (DCs) act as crossover points between the supply, the production and the demand. The distribution includes a wide range of activities to ensure the integrity of the demand satisfaction. These activities range from the reception and storage of finished or semi-finished products to the preparation of orders and delivery. Distribution has been long seen as an operation with no or low added value; this has changed, and nowadays it is perceived as one of the critical areas for improvement. These activities are responsible for the satisfaction of an evolving market, requiring ever faster and more reliable delivery times, exact orders and highly customized products. This leads to an increased research interest on operations management focused on warehousing. For several years, we have witnessed strong advances in warehousing and order picking operations. The order picking activity is the process of retrieving items within the storage locations for the purpose of fulfilling orders. This problem has long been solved as a variant of the travelling salesman problem, where the order picker moves through aisles. However, modern warehouses with more and more product families may have special characteristics that make conventional methods irrelevant or inefficient. The first part of this thesis presents two practical and challenging material handling problems for the order picking within DCs. Since there are many research axes in the field of warehousing operations, we concentrated our efforts on the order picking problem and the repositioning of the products within the picking area. The order picking problem has been intensively studied in the literature. Our research widens the spectrum of this problem by including a set of characteristics associated with the physical facilities of the picking area and characteristics of the product, such as its weight, volume, category, fragility, etc. This means that a more applied perspective on the reality of operations is used in our algorithms development. The order picking workload is strongly influenced by the positioning of the products. The position of products within the picking area is determined by a storage assignment strategy. Many of these strategies use product sales information in order to facilitate access to the most popular items. In today’s competitive environment, the profitable lifetime of a product can be relatively short. The positioning provided by yesterday’s assignment is likely not the optimal one in the near future. There are several studies measuring the impact of a good reassignment of products on the picking operations. However, they study the difference between the two states of systems on the picking time. It is clear that this brings benefits. However, moving from one position to another is a very workload demanding activity. This constitutes the second part of this thesis which presents interesting advances on the repositioning of products within the picking area. We introduce the repositioning problem as an innovative way of improving performance, in what we call the reassignment problem. More specifically, we study the workload required to move from one setup to the next. This thesis is structured as follows. The introduction presents the characteristics and missions of a distribution system. Chapter 1 presents an overview of the literature on the main functions of a DC and emphasizes on order picking and decisions affecting this operation. Chapter 2 is devoted to the study of a picking problem with narrow aisles facilities and binding material handling equipment. In Chapter 3, we study the picking problem with a set of product features that strongly constrain the picking sequence. Chapter 4 presents a variant of the reassignment problem with a strong and new formulation to solve it. The conclusion follows and summarizes the main contributions of this thesis. Key words: Order-picking, warehousing, routing problems, exact and heuristic algorithms, products reassignment, material handling.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2018
Open Access Date: 29 August 2019
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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