The BlackBox optimizer is a Windows service that provides an easy-to-integrate load optimization capabilities to developers of other software or web sites. Its main application areas are Cartonization (box selection for orders in efullfilment), and Mixed Palletization using robotics.

The most important element of Cartonization is the optimized selection of the cartons/boxes, order after order. Leave this to BlackBox!

 

Here are some special features of BlackBox in Cartonization mode:[list_checkmark][list_item]Apply one of several carton selection rules, including ‘minimum overall cost'[/list_item][list_item]Optionally keep order items together where possible[/list_item][list_item]Pack boxes in picking sequence[/list_item][list_item]Apply combinability rules to items[/list_item][list_item]Determine if ‘own box’ items need to get added to a carton, or not[/list_item][/list_checkmark]

 

The system offers several modes of operation for Mixed Palletization:[list_checkmark][list_item] Single product[/list_item][list_item]Mixed[/list_item][list_item]Mixed in layers[/list_item][/list_checkmark]

The pallet build can be fine-tuned through option settings for:[list_checkmark][list_item]Load in layers[/list_item][list_item]Load in layers as long as a certain layer footprint utilization is reached[/list_item][list_item]Switch to partial layers as long as those can be ‘filled’ well enough[/list_item][list_item]Switch to true 3D stacking when (partial) layers are no longer possible[/list_item][list_item]Spread the boxes to obtain more stable loads[/list_item][list_item]Alternately rotate layers 180 degrees[/list_item][list_item]Allow mixing boxes within layers[/list_item][/list_checkmark]

 

The BlackBox provides its loading, cartonization, and palletization capabilities in a no-frills application or Windows service.

File mode – the BlackBox constantly monitors a nominated directory. This can be local or on a remote server via a shared network drive. Any load/order file placed in this directory is automatically detected and processed by the BlackBox. To increase throughput it is perfectly feasible to launch a number of BlackBox processes and direct them all to monitor the same directory. File locking and synchronization is automatically handled by the BlackBoxes themselves. On completion of processing, the BlackBox writes an output file to another nominated directory. Large files or slow servers are handled by an additional semaphore file which indicates to the caller that the file has been completely written. In addition, the BlackBox can also generate graphical load plans for each load (JPG, PNG, PDF), optionally stepped, or can trigger load plan generation only if the resulting load exceeds some pre-defined level of complexity. Input and output files may be CSV or XML.

TCP sockets – the BlackBox can act as a TCP server, meaning that it will accept connections from external sources that are able to transmit and receive via that protocol. Clients have two choices as to how the optimization is performed. 1) Synchronous calls: data is transmitted and the client is blocked by the BlackBox until the load is completed, and the data is returned immediately. 2) Asynchronous calls: data is transmitted and the BlackBox frees the client connection immediately. Optimization continues on the V, and the client re-connects later to collect the results. Both approaches can be used simultaneously.

SOAP – when combined with the BlackBox Gateway product, the BlackBox can also act as a SOAP server. This allows developers to instantly provide optimization services via a web-server (we host, or you host).As in the case of the TCP sockets approach, optimization can be performed synchronously or asynchronously.

 

All of the above processing can be taking place simultaneously thanks to the BlackBox’s multi-threaded design. In addition, the system provides a client queue so that an unlimited number of incoming connections can be made and data transmitted in a timely manner. Clients are processed by the next available thread within the BlackBox. Threads are configurable to allow the system to be tuned for the specific environment in which it is to be used. This also means that an extremely large and complex loading problem will not block other incoming loads.

The exe can also be setup as a Windows service, and is able to load balance over multiple servers to provide unlimited scalability. Integration time can be measured in just days, as can ROI. Please also refer to our whitepaper for an introductory discussion of the capabilities of MagicLogic’s BlackBox optimizer.

Contact us if you want to discuss your plans, or if you want to set up a trial version. Keep in mind that our Cube-IQ software can be used to assess what BlackBox can do for you. The two systems provide the same functionality. Cube-IQ offers a User Interface, but is not suitable for automation. This is what BlackBox will do perfectly.