MHI’s CICMHE Members Research

The mission of the College Industry Council on Material Handling Education (CICMHE) is to increase awareness, understanding, exploration, and development of material handling and logistics through fostering and nurturing high value projects and events.

Take a look at some of the exciting research being done by MHI’s CICMHE Members solving challenges that will benefit the Material Handling Industry using the latest technology and thought leadership.

Drone Supply for Improving Rural Healthcare

Alice E. Smith, Ph.D., P.E.
Joe W. Forehand/Accenture Distinguished Professor
Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering
Auburn University

Auburn University has partnered with Toyota Material Handling North America to develop the models, algorithms, and computational tools necessary to optimally and dynamically dispatch, route, and schedule transports of medicines, samples, and medical supplies to vulnerable populations in a rural setting in real time using a coordinated fleet that includes both trucks and drones. The project considers dispatching a truck with some orders and letting a heavy-duty drone leave the depot later to rendezvous with the truck mid-route to re-supply it. This approach avoids direct interaction between the drone and the customer. Hence, it allows the company to customize the truck and drone, and train its personnel to meet any requirements of the payload transfer, making it more feasible to implement in a practical setting. We will be conducting field trials for a proof of concept over the coming year.

Using Industry 4.0 Digital Twins to Model Human Labor in Smart Material Handling Systems

PI: Dr. Jesus A. Jiménez, Ph. D.
Ingram School of Engineering
Texas State University-San Marc,

This project seeks to develop a “digital twin” of human material handling operators. Digital twins provide testing and optimization capabilities of industry 4.0 options. Using motion capture cameras and biometric sensors, data will be collected on a variety of human material handling processes. The data will then be analyzed by using data mining algorithms to produce performance-related metrics of the material handling operator’s productivity and fatigue levels. With this data, optimal work plans will be produced. Using Augmented Reality, the optimal work plans will be sent to the operator as feedback so that the operator can improve productivity. This research project will enable a material handling company to test different Industry 4.0 options and see how these options affect human motion operations. This project is made possible by Toyota Material Handling North America/ Richmond through the Toyota Material Handling North America University Research Program.

Co-PIs: Dr. Semih Aslan,, Dr. Damian Valles,, Dr. George Koutitas,, Dr. Francis A. Méndez Mediavilla,, and Dr. David Wierschem,

Warehouse Benchmarking

Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Industrial and Systems Engineering
Texas A&M University

Warehouses are a substantial component of logistic operations and an important contributor to speed and cost in supply chains. While there are widely accepted benchmarks for individual warehouse functions such as order picking, little is known about the overall technical efficiency of warehouses. Lacking a general understanding of warehouse technical efficiency and the associated causal factors limits industry’s ability to identify the best opportunities for improving warehouse performance. My research program addresses this gap by developing both methodology for assessing warehouse technical efficiency based on empirical data integrating several statistical approaches and the new results derived from applying the method to a large sample of warehouses. The self-reported nature of attributes and performance data makes the use of statistical methods for rectifying data, validating models, and identifying key factors affecting efficient performance particularly appropriate.

Cybersecurity and its impact on material handling and logistics

Dr. MD Sarder
Professor and Chair of Engineering Technologies
Bowling Green State University

Cybersecurity breach poses a dynamic challenge to businesses and threatens their smooth operations and competitive advantage. Despite widespread attention to the dangers of cyberattacks, many companies are not well equipped to address the issue. Some industries are more vulnerable to cyberattacks that others, but none is spared from potential attacks including material handling and logistics. Businesses need to be strategic in cyber defense and create a resilient system that minimizes the impact of cyberattacks. This project mainly focused on challenges faced by cybersecurity and how businesses, especially the material handling and logistics should do to address those challenges.

Dr. MD Sarder, a CICMHE member, is a professor and chair of Engineering Technologies at Bowling Green State University. He has extensive research experiences in various areas of industrial & systems engineering predominantly in logistics transportation and supply chain management. He was awarded more than $2.5M funding from various agencies including NSF and U.S. Department of Transportation.

Human-Centered Material Handling Equipment of the Future

Pls: Tone Lerher PhD & Fabio Sgarbossa

Tone Lerher PhD
Professor of Logistics Engineering and Structures of Material Handling Systems
University of Maribor, Slovenia

Fabio Sgarbossa
Professor of Industrial Logistics, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Despite the opportunities that automation of industrial systems offers, many companies still rely on human work in many areas. In material handling equipment the consequences of using new advanced technologies (Industry 4.0) is allowing the development of smarter production systems with assistive solutions for the operators (i.e. customized and flexible production systems, mobile robots for assisting the order pickers, collaborative robots, augmented reality, wearable devices…).

The research project on NTNU and University of Maribor aims on the integration of the new advanced technologies and human factors (Figure 1) in the development of innovative and smart material handling equipment.

First, innovative warehousing solutions are modelled and simulated, where new technologies, like collaborative and mobile robots, support the warehousing operations and the intralogistics systems in production area.

Secondly, the impact of human factors in the design of MHE is extensively investigated and new design guidelines and management practices, considering physical and cognitive aspects, and in particular the workforce ageing.

Finally, innovative approaches are developed for the integration of human factors and new technologies in material handling and logistics systems to create human-centered MHE of the future. Here the interaction between human and machine/technology is studied and modelled.

This research project can support the material handling industry in creating new smart logistics systems selecting the right technology and placing the human in the center of the design process, with the objective to fully meet the increasing trend in speed, reliability and flexibility of their services.

This project is based on a strong collaboration between NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway) and University of Maribor (Maribor, Slovenia) and their two laboratories: Logistics 4.0 Lab at NTNU and Laboratory for Logistics Systems at University of Maribor.