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Imagine a world in which your online orders are processed and packaged by robots. Whether its that candle you bought from a small business or a new gadget you wanted to pick up from Amazon, image if those order didn’t have to go through human processing and how much faster that package could be delivered to you.

“The robotic technology already exists,” said Sharan Srinivas, an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering and the Department of Marketing, as reported on by

“Our goal is to best utilize this technology through efficient planning. To do this, we’re asking questions like ‘given a list of items to pick, how do you optimize the route plan for the human pickers and robots?’ or ‘how many items should a robot pick in a given tour? or ‘in what order should the items be collected for a given robot tour?’ Likewise, we have a similar set of questions for the human worker. The most challenging part is optimizing the collaboration plan between the human pickers and robots.” Srinivas said.

Currently, a lot of human effort and labor costs are involved with fulfilling online orders. To help optimize this process, robotic companies have already developed collaborative robots — also known as cobots or autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) — to work in a warehouse or distribution center. The AMRs are equipped with sensors and cameras to help them navigate around a controlled space like a warehouse. The proposed model will help create faster fulfillment of customer orders by optimizing the key decisions or questions pertaining to collaborative order picking, Srinivas said.

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