SKU assignment to unidirectional picking lines using correlations

  • J Matthews University of Stellenbosch
  • SE Visagie University of Stellenbosch


A real life order picking system consisting of a set of unidirectional picking lines is investigated. Batches of stock keeping units (SKUs) are processed in waves defined as a set of SKUs and their corresponding store requirements. Each wave is processed independently on one of the parallel picking lines as pickers walk in a clockwise direction picking stock. Once all the orders for a wave are completed a new mutually exclusive set of SKUs are brought to the picking line for a new wave. SKUs which differ only in size classification, for example small, medium and large shirts, are grouped together into distributions (DBNs) and must be picked in the same wave. The assignment of DBNs to available picking lines for a single day of picking is considered in this paper.  Different assignments of DBNs to picking lines are evaluated using three measures, namely total walking distance, the number of resulting small cartons and work balance. Several approaches to assign DBNs to picking lines have been investigated in literature. All of these approaches seek to minimise walking distance only and include mathematical formulations and greedy heuristics. Four different correlation measure are introduced in this paper to reduce the number of small cartons produced and reduce walking distance simultaneously. These correlation measures are used in a greedy insertion algorithm.  The correlation measures were compared to historical assignments as well as a greedy approach which is known to  address walking distances effectively. Using correlation measures to assign DBNs to picking lines reduces the total walking distance of pickers by 20% compared to the historical assignments. This is similar to the greedy approach which only considers walking distance as an objective, however, using correlations reduced the number of small cartons produced by the greedy approach.

Author Biographies

J Matthews, University of Stellenbosch
PhD Student
SE Visagie, University of Stellenbosch
Associate Professor of Operations Research
Research Articles