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Animate the assembly of an object

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Which general techniques could be used to simulate the assembly of an object, subject to some constraints. For example, the output node of the object could be a merge, and I want to only consider the inputs of that last merge as individual elements to animate.

It could look like this: sort the building blocks according to Y, then find a plane which best approximates the object to have it lay flat on its successor (according to the order of assembly). For example to simulate the parts being delivered on a a pallet. At this point I know there would be some 2d packing involved. The assembly doesn't need to be physical plausible. Or maybe the order of assembly could be encoded in the merge graph.

Could you point me to something less advanced to get me started on traversing a geometry graph (if that's one way to do it...) ?

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