PhD graduate wins honourary mention 2017 Informs TSL Dissertation Prize

PhD graduate Jelmer van der Gaast from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) won the prestigious INFORMS TSL 2017 Dissertation Prize ‘Honourable Mention’ for his PhD thesis Stochastic Models for Order Picking Systems from 2016. The award ceremony took place at the INFORMS Annual Meeting in Houston, USA in October 2017.

The prestigious TSL dissertation prize is the highest recognition within the Transportation and Logistics Section, which is the largest section of INFORMS, the leading international association for operations research and analytics professionals. The INFORMS TSL Dissertation Prize has been won by top researchers since 1970.

Stochastic Models for Order Picking Systems

Van der Gaast’s PhD thesis, Stochastic Models for Order Picking Systems, investigates order picking systems that can be found in warehouses and fulfilment centers, and describes methods to model and handle the inherent uncertainty in such systems. In his thesis, he develops new methods for the analysis and design of zone picking systems and milkrun picking systems. Zone picking systems are used in many different warehouses for picking customer orders. The analysis and design is complicated due to congestion effects on the conveyors and interactions between workers in the zones and the automated system. Traditionally, such system are analysed using simulation. Van der Gaast developed a very fast analytical method which can be used to design the system yielding optimal performance (throughput and order throughput times). In addition he developed analytical tools for the analysis of milkrun-order picking systems, as used by many ecommerce retailers. These systems are shown to have superior performance compared to traditional batch picking. In particular, he developed a method to determine very accurately the throughput time of an entire order. Van der Gaast defended his thesis in September 2016.

Widely applicable research results

The thesis is about order picking systems that can be found in any warehouse and fulfilment center, describing methods to model and handle the inherent uncertainty in such systems. Studying these popular order picking systems, Van der Gaast came up with novel theoretical insights and conclusions with clear practical implications. These insights have led to implementations in practice. The results he obtained are widely applicable in the world of warehousing, and the methods he employed pave the way for more stochastic research in the academic field of warehouse management as a whole.

Watch Van der Gaast’s research on RSM Discovery: More efficient order picking for the online shopping rush.

Jelmer van der Gaast

Jelmer van der Gaast completed his master degree in econometrics and management science with distinction from Erasmus University Rotterdam in 2010. He joined the Management of Technology & Innovation group at the university the next year.

Van der Gaast’s research interests include: warehouse operations, stochastic processes, and queueing theory. His research findings have been presented in many international conferences including INFORMS Annual Meeting, European Conference on Operational Research, SMMSO Conference on Stochastic Models of Manufacturing and Service Operations, and International Material Handling Research Colloquium.

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

Alumni , Companies , Doctoral Programme , Faculty & Research , Homepage , In the spotlight , International , Newsroom , Technology and operations management , China