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Automated Material Handling Systems: a Guideline for Future Research

Wenquan Dong
PhD Candidate
Department of Industrial and System Engineering
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Friday, March 12, 2021, 3:30-4:20pm


Automated material handling systems, such as automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), are widely accepted by warehouse managers due to the advantages of full automation. Since its first introduction in the 1950s, AS/RS has gone through many alterations to improve its performance and fit different settings, and numerous (more than 20) AS/RS are currently available for companies to consider. The investment and design of an AS/RS are expensive and irreversible. Therefore, picking the right AS/RS system best suited for their situation becomes one of the utmost important questions at the initial design stage for warehouse managers. It is necessary for having a decision support tool to choose the right system, decide the right configuration, and operation strategies to fit the specific needs and constraints of different companies. However, until now, there are applicable guidance, models, and tools for this critical decision making in both the academic community and industry, which has become a barrier for businesses adopting automated warehousing systems. Aiming at providing a framework of AS/RS selection and design, this research first focuses on the design and operation problems of the most popular AS/RS (i.e., 2D AS/RS, Crane-based 3D AS/RS, and SBS/RS). Based on the outcomes, an optimization model considering the hardware cost and throughput capacity is developed for the warehouse design with 2D AS/RS and 3D AS/RS as candidates. This research is expected to provide a guideline for future research on the selection and design of the other AS/RS.


Wenquan Dong is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Industrial and System Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Wenquan Dong received his Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management in the College of Business at Hohai University, Nanjing, China, in 2016. His current research mainly focuses on the design and operation of smart warehouse systems through optimization. He has also worked on the design of the last-mile delivery system with drones and automated battery swapping and charging stations, focusing on facilities locations, drones route, and numbers of drones and batteries needed. Further, he also works together with Oak Ridge National Laboratory on the assessment of the food loss and waste generation and energy consumption of the U.S. food system at the national- and state-level. He has published papers at Annals of Operations Research, Journal of Cleaner Production, Computers & Operations Research, Computers & Industrial Engineering, etc.