Scalable Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning for Warehouse Logistics with Robotic and Human Co-Workers

This project leverages advances in multi-agent reinforcement learning (MARL) to improve the efficiency and flexibility of order-picking systems for commercial warehouses. We envision a warehouse of the future in which dozens of mobile robots and human pickers work together to collect and deliver items within the warehouse. The fundamental problem we tackle, called the order-picking problem, is how these worker agents must coordinate their movement and actions in the warehouse to maximise performance (e.g. order throughput) under given resource constraints. Established industry methods using heuristic approaches require large engineering efforts to optimise for innately variable warehouse configurations. In contrast, the MARL framework can be flexibly applied to any warehouse configuration (e.g. size, layout, number/types of workers, item replenishment frequency) and the agents learn via a process of trial-and-error how to optimally cooperate with one another. This paper details the current status of the R&D effort initiated by Dematic and the University of Edinburgh towards a general-purpose and scalable MARL solution for the order-picking problem in realistic warehouses.

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