A Study on Various Operations Management, Decision-Making and Control Problems in a Kiva-Like Picking System

Project Details


In recent years, due to the popularization of the Internet, e-commerce has become more and more popular. We have seen many successful and failed e-commerce cases. Research shows that e-commerce has many success factors and good logistics service is one of them. In the early days, e-commerce companies could save on brick and mortar store costs as their competitive advantages. Today, as e-commerce becoming more mature, the performance of e-commerce companies has also relied much on the quality of their logistics service. In other words, e-commerce companies cannot succeed without providing good logistics service to their customers. Amazon, the global e-commerce leader, knows this well. In 2014, it unveiled its eighth-generation logistics center which used Kiva robots to improve order-picking operations to meet the sales season at the end of that year. Kiva picking systems drastically change the traditional picking method. In the traditional picking system, the shelves are fixed and pickers approach the shelves for picking. However, in a Kiva picking system, shelves are removable. Kiva robots carry shelves to pickers for picking. Since the Kiva picking system was used by Amazon, several companies in China began to imitate and gradually develop similar systems that have been successfully used by several well-known Chinese e-retailers. Due to the success of its Kiva picking systems, Amazon has significantly increased the number of Kiva robots. Similar to the “Industry 4.0’s intelligent and automated manufacturing” in the manufacturing industry, using Kiva robots for picking operations will be an important milestone for the logistics industry toward the "Logistics 4.0’s intelligent and automated logistics center." However, the success of Kiva picking systems is not solely due to the innovation of hardware devices, equally important are the solutions to operations management, decision-making and control problems within the system, as the resolution of these problems greatly affect the system’s performance. The purpose of this study is to explore a Kiva-like picking system to understand what operations management, decision-making and control problems exist in the system; then we study these problems and propose solutions for them; and finally we build simulation models and conduct simulation experiments to compare the proposed solutions. This study plans to explore possible operations management, decision-making and control problems for a Kiva-like picking system and proposed solutions for them in three years. This study hopes that the research results will have substantive applicability, thus when developing methods, this study will pay attention to the feasibility and effectiveness of methods in the actual environment. Although, at present, domestic companies have not yet used or developed any Kiva-like picking systems, it is believed that Kiva-like picking systems will be one of the future mainstreams of intelligent and automated logistics centers. It is also believed the results of this research project will benefit domestic companies in their future adoption or development of Kiva-like picking systems.
Effective start/end date1/08/1831/07/19

UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


  • Kiva Robot
  • Picking System
  • Operations Management
  • Decision-Making and Control Problems
  • Simulation Experiment


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