SmartPort thesis award for RSM master graduate

Daphne van Hal, a recent MSc Supply Chain Management graduate from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), won the SmartPort Thesis Award at the Rotterdam Harbour Event 2017. The jury was impressed with her thesis, which explored automated mixed-case roll cage stacking for rapid retail store replenishment.

The SmartPort thesis award is handed out yearly at the Rotterdam Harbour Event, organised by education and knowledge institute STC-Group, for the best master thesis that relates to ‘smart ports’. A jury consisting of six professors from Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam nominate the three best theses. The winner is then selected by the SmartPort board. Not only academic quality, but also relevance and applicability are main criteria.

RSM master graduate Daphne van Hal won the award with her thesis The Pursuit of Automation: An Evaluation of the Effects of Automatically Stacked Roll Containers on their Utilisation and Replenishment Times of Grocery Retail Stores. Her thesis supervisors were Prof. René de Koster and Dr Niels Agatz.

Optimal trade-offs

Prof. De Koster explains Van Hal’s thesis: orders are picked more and more by robots in retail warehouses. Robots also stack the roll cages by which stores are replenished. The objective of such a stacking is to minimise the time needed for replenishment in the retail store. However, mixed-case stacking is very complex (like solving a 3D Tetris puzzle in real time) and trade-offs exist as better store stacks lead to poorly filled roll cages and hence more roll cages have to be transported with higher cost.

Van Hal investigated an optimal trade-off between these objectives for a leading Dutch retail chain by detailed simulation of the resulting store replenishment process for a large number of roll-cage stacking scenarios. The results are expected to be implemented by the retailer in the roll cage stacking process.

Two RSM nominees

The RSM master graduate is now a process engineer at Vanderlande in which she is responsible for the continuous improvement of the hardware and software of the baggage handling systems at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

The three finalists for the SmartPort Scriptieprijs 2017 were Daphne van Hal and Julia Stelzig, who both graduated from RSM’s MSc Supply Chain Management programme in 2016, and Maurits van Tol from Delft University of Technology.

Julia Stelzig’s thesis focused on the optimisation of truck scheduling and truck to dock door assignment at large cross-docks of a major Dutch retailer. Stelzig’s solution was implemented at one of the cross-docks. She is currently a consultant at 4flow in Munich, Germany.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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