Cost modelling of onboard cobot-supported item sorting in a picking system
Journal article, 2021

For manual picking processes in warehouses and assembly line feeding, collaborative robots–cobots–hold a potential to support operators and, thereby, enhance performance. However, studies focused on the economic aspects of cobot applications have been scarce. The present paper aims at modelling a new picking system, in which human operators collaborate with cobots during picking (or kitting) activities. It is considered the case of having a cobot on board of the picking trolley or cart, working in parallel with the picker by performing sorting of the picked items. The paper focuses on the economic aspects of this application and presents a model of the relative cost difference between a manual and a cobot-supported process, accounting for the costs associated with operators, equipment, and quality. The relative cost difference is analysed in a numerical example. The findings suggest that the decision to use a cobot sorting mode is robust when there is considerable sorting work to carry out, for example, when there are higher yearly order volumes to handle, and when higher order commonality among orders processed as a batch can be achieved. Future research should focus on implementation challenges and safety issues associated with cobot-supported picking processes.

materials handling

collaborative robots

cost analysis


Order picking methods

kit preparation


Patrik Fager

Chalmers, Industrial and Materials Science, Production Systems

Fabio Sgarbossa

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Martina Calzavara

University of Padua

International Journal of Production Research

0020-7543 (ISSN) 1366-588X (eISSN)

Vol. 59 11 3269-3284

Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics

Other Mechanical Engineering

Computer Systems



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