Yard crane and AGV scheduling in automated container terminal: A multi-robot task allocation framework

Xuchao Chen, Shiwei He, Yongxiang Zhang, Lu (Carol) Tong, Pan Shang, Xuesong Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


The efficiency of automated container terminals primarily depends on the synchronization of automated-guided vehicles (AGVs) and automated cranes. Accordingly, we study the integrated rail-mounted yard crane and AGV scheduling problem as a multi-robot coordination and scheduling problem in this paper. Based on a discretized virtualized network, we propose a multi-commodity network flow model with two sets of flow balance constraints for cranes and AGVs. In addition, two side constraints are introduced to deal with inter-robot constraints to reflect the complex interactions among terminal agents accurately. The Alternating Direction Method of Multipliers (ADMM) method is adopted in this study as a market-driven approach to dualize the hard side constraints; therefore, the original problem is decomposed into a set of crane-specific and vehicle-specific subtasks. The cost-effective solutions can be obtained by iteratively adjusting both the primal and dual costs of each subtask. We also compare the computational performance of the proposed solution framework with that of the resource-constrained project scheduling problem (RCPSP) model using commercial solvers. Comparison results indicate that our proposed approach could efficiently find solutions within 2% optimality gaps. Illustrative and real-world instances show that the proposed approach effectively serves the accurate coordination of AGVs and cranes in automated terminals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-271
Number of pages31
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
StatePublished - May 2020


  • ADMM
  • Automated container hub
  • Crane scheduling
  • Multi-robot system
  • Rolling horizon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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