Workforce Scheduling with Order-Picking Assignments in Distribution Facilities
Scheduling the availability of order pickers is crucial for effective operations in a distribution facility with manual order pickers. When order-picking activities can only be performed in specific time windows, it is essential to jointly solve the order picker shift scheduling problem and the order picker planning problem of assigning and sequencing individual orders to order pickers. This requires decisions regarding the number of order pickers to schedule, shift start and end times, break times, as well as the assignment and timing of order-picking activities. We call this the order picker scheduling problem and present two formulations. A branch-and-price algorithm and a metaheuristic are developed to solve the problem. Numerical experiments illustrate that the metaheuristic finds near-optimal solutions at 80% shorter computation times. A case study at the largest supermarket chain in The Netherlands shows the applicability of the solution approach in a real-life business application. In particular, different shift structures are analyzed, and it is concluded that the retailer can increase the minimum compensated duration for employed workers from six hours to seven or eight hours while reducing the average labor cost with up to 5% savings when a 15-minute flexibility is implemented in the scheduling of break times.