A Multi-Agent Pickup and Delivery System for Automated Stores with Batched Tasks
Abstract: Throughout today’s society, increasingly more areas are being automated. Grocery stores however have been the same for years. Only recently, self-checkout counters and online shopping have been utilised in this business area. This thesis aims to take it to the next step by introducing automated grocery stores using a multi-agent system. Orders will be given to the system, and on a small area, multiple agents will pick the products in a time-efficient way and deliver them to the customer. This can both increase the throughput but also decrease the food waste and energy consumption of grocery stores. This thesis investigates already existing solutions for the multi-agent pickup and delivery problem. It extends these to the important case of batched tasks in order to improve the customer experience. Batches of tasks represent shopping carts, where fast completion of whole batches gives greater customer satisfaction. This notion is not mentioned in related work, where completion of single tasks is the main goal. Because of this, the existing solution does not accommodate the need of batches or the importance of completing whole batches fast and in somewhat linear order. For this purpose, a new metric called batch ordering weighted error (BOWE) was created that takes these factors into consideration. Using BOWE, one existing algorithm has been extended into prioritizing completing whole batches and is now called B-PIBT. This new algorithm has significantly improved BOWE and even batch service time for the algorithm in key cases and is now superior in comparison to the other state-of-the-art algorithms.
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