Hyperconnected system of agile control of goods flows by double digital in connection with the implementation of an autonomous light train

Type de recrutement
IMT Mines Albi
Fin de l'affichage


Supply Chain Management, Logistics, Physical Internet, Train, Design, Simulation, Assessment, Hyperconnectivity, Digital Twin.



The Industrial Engineering Centre of the IMT Mines Albi engineering school (Albi, France):

The Physical Internet Center at the University of Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, USA):


Management Team:

Thesis supervisors:

  • Prof. Matthieu LAURAS (IMT Mines Albi)
  • Prof. Benoit MONTREUIL (Georgia Tech)


  • Prof. Frederick BENABEN (IMT Mines Albi)
  • Dr. Eva PETITDEMANGE (IMT Mines Albi)



The thesis will be located in Albi (IMT Mines Albi). Stays in Atlanta (USA) will also be planned (Georgia Tech). The periods will be defined with the person who will be recruited.



3-year fixed-term contract (10/2022 to 09/2025), Training through Research Contract. Executive status.

Remuneration: ~ 1 679€ net/month + ~ 150 to 250 €/month for teaching activities.



Applications (CV, covering letter, transcript of marks from the Master's degree, and any document that could help to assess the candidate's level and motivations) should be sent by email to before 30 June 2022. Shortlisted candidates will have the opportunity to present their motivations orally during an interview to be scheduled at the end of July 2022.

For more information, please contact




The ECOTRAIN project is a system of autonomous light rail shuttles powered by batteries and allowing automated traffic without drivers. Two types of shuttles will be developed on a common technical basis, "micro freight" and "passenger". The objective is to develop an autonomous 30-seat rail-guided shuttle, with both passenger and freight versions, with a breakthrough compared to the existing system (weight, rapid automation, vehicle versatility), with a lower operating cost due to the automation of the service (without a driver). Given its low axle load, the ultralight vehicle proposed by ECOTRAIN will be compatible with infrastructures (rails) that are currently disused or little used. It is likely to improve the potential overall cost balance of investment and "standard" equipment for the territory's fine service lines. Several hundred ECOTRAIN lines (less than 50 km) are envisaged in France alone within ten years.


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The France 2030 Programme has decided to support a first wave of funding for the ECOTRAIN initiative aimed at developing a first prototype of rolling stock and investigating the organisational schemes associated with the project (pre- and post-routing modalities, activity planning principles and tools, etc.). The present PhD project focuses on this last ambition of the project. This project presents a certain number of constraints to be respected: they are single-track shuttles over short distances (1), autonomous requiring to be recharged (2) with a recharging centre on each line which will have to be located, and finally an open line (3), which means that when an obstacle is encountered it is the train that stops and not the reverse.


The main limitation of this study is the overall management of the freight logistics chain. There is no technology comparable to autonomous micro-freight in the world, and the overall optimization of freight management has never been studied in rural areas. The research work on the Physical Internet will serve as a starting point for removing this important barrier.


With regard to the uses associated with the autonomous light train solution proposed in the framework of the project

ECOTRAIN, the project aims to position itself within the dynamics of the Physical Internet. The Physical Internet was born in order to satisfy the growing requirements in terms of environment and performance of services. Indeed, the current logistics system presents dysfunctions that are harmful to the environment and tend to compromise the objectives of the Paris agreements (Ballot, 2014). Before it is too late, the Physical Internet has been designed to offer a chance for logistics services to be more resilient, efficient, sustainable and adaptable for its users by changing the way physical objects transit through the network (Montreuil et al., 2012).


In practice, the Physical Internet is an innovative concept of interconnected logistics networks capitalizing on the ability to share resources and information (Montreuil et al., 2012). The definition of the Physical Internet is "The Physical Internet is a global logistics system built from the interconnection of logistics networks through a standardized set of collaboration protocols, modular containers and intelligent interfaces for increased efficiency and sustainability" (Ballot, 2014). The Physical Internet proposes a rethinking of the fundamentals of logistics. The term "interconnection" thus refers to the close and intensive connection between actors and network components. From a practical point of view, the intended interconnection is to be achieved through the encapsulation of goods in smart modular containers and through the use of open and shared logistics and production facilities (Ballot et al., 2014). It has been shown that the more interconnected the logistics, transport and production networks are the more options there are to seize opportunities and counteract the risks and disruptions experienced. In the field of logistics several works have demonstrated this interest for both freight and inventory management, including the resilience of these solutions (Yang et al., 2017) and (Kim, 2021). However, no publication has yet addressed the issue of transposing these principles to transport problems in "rural" areas (most of the applications of the Physical Internet concern densely populated urban centres), nor to light rail-type transport modes.


The second key aspect of the Physical Internet is the desire to open up logistics networks and share assets. Today, companies form private and relatively stable networks that own their own warehouses and vehicles in general. The Physical Internet breaks with this logic and assumes that assets should be shared between all users of this new network and used according to need (which is the case of the ECOTRAIN project).


The idea is no longer simply to optimize a logistics system in relation to a real or assumed demand, but rather to develop reaction and pro-action capacities based on the dynamics of detection and adaptation to observed and potential events. This approach relies in particular on the ability to identify in real time the production capacities of a network of active or potential partners on the one hand, and to generate and evaluate significant sets of scenarios enabling the activation, on demand, of adapted and robust organisational solutions on the other.


It should be noted that such a paradigm shift in logistics will require major transformations at various levels. First of all, it will be necessary to develop adapted information systems using advanced technologies to enable the interconnection of actors, increased and standardized information sharing and massive data storage. The impacts will not only be on the logistical operation, but also on the way objects are designed, produced and delivered (Montreuil et al., 2010). Then, it will be necessary to make the actors accept to evolve towards this new mode of operation and to engage efforts in this direction. The expected investments will be mainly financial and time-related (Grest et al., 2019) and will also require a good organization at different scales. In this respect, the ALICE (Alliance for Logistics Innovation through Collaboration in Europe) grouping has recently published a roadmap formulating the important steps and associated prerequisites for the implementation of the Physical Internet by 2030 (ALICE-ETP, 2020).



The objective of this PhD thesis is to help pilot the operations of the ECOTRAIN ecosystem by providing real-time monitoring indicators that allow the detection of possible disturbances or drifts in order to adapt quickly. The creation of a digital duplicate of our system will serve as a steering tool to measure the divergence between the expected and the actual. This will be referred to as reactive management. The project will propose two deliverables for this purpose: "Process Monitoring" and "Process Adaptation". This task is in line with the traditional flow supervision approaches encountered in the world of operations management but in a context specific to autonomous trains.


6 main tasks are expected in this doctoral thesis:

  • Definition and development of mechanisms allowing to capture events of follow-up of the execution of the processes on the one hand, and of the situation of the environment in which the process runs on the other hand.
  • Definition of a digital duplicate of the system.
  • Definition and development of mechanisms to measure, in real time, the existing divergence between a model of the expected situation (double numerical) and a model of the observed situation (measurement of reality).
  • Definition and development of dynamic adaptation mechanisms to suggest changes in the steering process according to the state of the situation, the alerts observed and the projections established.
  • Definition of use cases in connection with LA POSTE.
  • Experimentation on use cases, evaluation in connection with LA POSTE.


The thesis project plans to undertake a major R&D effort to design, test and adapt appropriate responses. With a view to rapid dissemination of the technologies developed and the creation of technological and commercial outlets, this R&D approach will be based on the provision of a dedicated pilot site (Albi - Puygouzon) to conduct all the tests required to implement this innovation.


Research team:

The Industrial Engineering Centre of IMT Mines Albi is a human-sized, friendly, competent and ambitious team, open to the international scene, and in permanent contact with the reality of the field. With nearly 2M€ of annual contractual activity, 1 industrial chair and 6 public-private Joint Research Laboratories, the Industrial Engineering Centre develops applied research activities that are definitely oriented towards the needs of the business world. The team also displays a proven scientific excellence with more than 70 annual publications in international conferences and scientific journals of rank A, and numerous international academic partnerships with renowned universities such as Beijing Jiaotong University (China), Polytechnique Montreal (Canada), Penn State University (United States), TU Delft (The Netherlands) or Georgia Institute of Technology (United States) via the SIReN International Associated Laboratory.


Profile of the candidate:

Master's degree in engineering, science or management with proven knowledge in one or more of the following areas: industrial engineering, logistics network management, data science, applied mathematics, simulation models, decision support systems, business intelligence.


A good level of English is required as well as good writing skills in French and English. An interest in computer programming is preferable.