Networked Businesses in Warehouse Management Systems

Towards integrating Virtual Reality and optimisation techniques in a new generation of Networked businesses in Warehouse Management Systems under constraints.

Do you ever give much thought to the packing of groceries when you go food shopping? You probably think enough about it to avoid putting the pastries in the bag first and then piling heavy milk cartons on top of them! But scale the task up a million times to an industrial level and it’s easy to appreciate that there’s a lot to be saved with packing optimization.

In manufacturing, it is not unusual for components to be transported from a warehouse to a factory, where they are assembled into products. The components must be packed in containers and vehicles in such a way that packing and unpacking is convenient, transportation is safe and a minimal number of containers and vehicles are used. Moreover, components cannot be packed arbitrarily – heavy parts must not be placed on top of fragile ones, piles must be stable, etc. Packing rules and guidelines are typically written as natural language statements, if they exist at all. If they were instead available in machine-readable form, written in a formal language, it would allow the development of a range of useful software for verification, generation and visualization of packing plans.

The NET-WMS project addresses all of these issues. In this project, we take a constraint programming based approach to handling optimization as well as rule compliance in packing problems. The project is co-funded by the European Commission. It develops interactive optimization tools that will form the basis for a new generation of warehouse management systems. The project, which started in 2006, has come up with a number of interesting results.The project is managed by the European Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) and the project consortium includes four research institutes, three technology companies, and two car manufacturers (Peugeot and Fiat).


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