Robotic compact storage and retrieval systems (RCSRS) have seen many implementations over the last few years. In such a system, the inventory items are stored in bins, organized in a grid. In each cell of the grid, a certain number of bins are stored on top of each other. Robots with transport and lifting capabilities move on the grid roof to transport bins between manual workstations and storage stacks.We estimate performance and evaluate storage policies of RCSRS, considering both dedicated and shared storage policies coupled with random and zoned storage stacks. Semi-open queuing networks (SOQNs) are built to estimate the system performance, which can handle both immediate and delayed reshuffling processes. We approximate the models by reduced SOQNs with two load-dependent service nodes and use the matrix-geometric method to solve them. Both simulations and a real case are used to validate the analytical models. Assuming a given number of stored products, our models can be used to optimize not only the length-to-width ratio of the system but also the stack height, depending on the storage strategy used. For a given inventory and optimal system configuration, we demonstrate that the dedicated storage policy outperforms the shared storage policy when the objective is to minimize dual command throughput time. However, from a cost perspective, with a maximum dual command throughput time as a constraint, we show that shared storage substantially outperforms dedicated storage. The annualized costs of dedicated storage are up to twice as large as those of shared storage, as a result of the larger number of storage positions required by dedicated storage and the relatively lower filling degree of storage stacks.

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Keywords Compact storage, Material handling, Performance analysis, Queuing networks, Robot technology
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Series ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal Transportation Science
Zou, B, de Koster, M.B.M, & Xu, X. (2018). Operating policies in robotic compact storage and retrieval systems. Transportation Science, 52(4), 788–811. doi:10.1287/trsc.2017.0786