This paper addresses the problem of minimizing the number of moves to unload a set of boxes off a gravity conveyor by a forklift. If the input data is known in advance, the problem is efficiently solvable with a dynamic programming approach. However, this method is rarely applicable in practice for two reasons. First, the problem generally occurs in a real-time environment where the input data is revealed over time. Second, computing devices are in most cases not available in forklifts for decision making. Online approaches that can easily be applied by human operators are therefore sought in practice.
With this in mind, we first propose some intuitive approaches and analyze their performance through an extensive experimental study. The results show that these approaches are quite inefficient as they are on average between 14.7% and 59.3% above the optimum. A less intuitive but still simple approach is then designed that consistently produces good results with an average gap of 6.1% to the optimum.
Published March 2016 , 15 pages