Improving the Utilization of Front-Line Service Delivery System Personnel

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There are two types of work typically performed in services which differ in the degree of control management has over when the work must be done. Serving customers, an activity that can occur only when customers are in the system is, by its nature, uncontrollable work. In contrast, the execution of controllable work does not require the presence of customers, and is work over which management has some degree of temporal control. This paper presents two integer programming models for optimally scheduling controllable work simultaneously with shifts. One model explicitly defines variables for the times at which controllable work may be started, while the other uses implicit modeling to reduce the number of variables. In an initial experiment of 864 test problems, the latter model yielded optimal solutions in approximately 81 percent of the time required by the former model. To evaluate the impact on customer service of having front-line employees perform controllable work, a second experiment was conducted simulating 5,832 service delivery systems. The results show that controllable work offers a useful means of improving labor utilization. Perhaps more important, it was found that having front-line employees perform controllable work did not degrade the desired level of customer service.

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linear programming; manpower planning; service operations management; simulation
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Required Publisher Statement: © Wiley. Final version published as: Thompson, G. M. (1992). Improving the utilization of front-line service delivery system personnel. Decision Sciences, 23(5), 1072-1098. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
*This paper was a finalist for the 1993 First Annual “Best Paper of the Year” given by the David Eccles School of Business.
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