To Wave or Not to Wave? Order Release Policies for Warehouses with an Automated Sorter
71 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2008
Date Written: September 8, 2008
Wave-based release policies are prevalent in warehouses with an automated sorter, and take different forms depending on how much waves overlap and whether the sorter is split for operating purposes. Waveless release is emerging as an alternative policy adopted by an increasing number of firms. While that new policy presents several advantages relative to waves, it also involves the possibility of gridlock at the sorter. In collaboration with a large US online retailer and using an extensive dataset of detailed flow information, we first develop a model with validated predictive accuracy for its warehouses operating under a waveless release policy. We then use that model to compute operational guidelines for dynamically controlling the main parameter of its waveless policy, with the goal of maximizing throughput while keeping the risk of gridlock under a specified threshold. Secondly, we leverage that model and dataset to perform through simulation a performance comparison of wave-based and waveless policies in this context. Our waveless policy yields larger or equal throughput than the best performing wave-based policy with a lower gridlock probability in all scenarios considered. Waveless release policies thus appear to merit very serious consideration by practitioners. Facilities using a non-overlapping wave policy should also consider overlapping waves or a split sorter policy.
Keywords: waveless policies
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation