Optimal Workforce Mix in Service Systems with Two Types of Customers

Kettering University, Flint, Michigan, United States
Production and Operations Management (Impact Factor: 1.44). 01/2009; 14(2):218 - 231. DOI: 10.1111/j.1937-5956.2005.tb00020.x


We consider a service system with two types of customers. In such an environment, the servers can either be specialists (or dedicated) who serve a specific customer type, or generalists (or flexible) who serve either type of customers. Cross-trained workers are more flexible and help reduce system delay, but also contribute to increased service costs and reduced service efficiency. Our objective is to provide insights into the choice of an optimal workforce mix of flexible and dedicated servers. We assume Poisson arrivals and exponential service times, and use matrix-analytic methods to investigate the impact of various system parameters such as the number of servers, server utilization, and server efficiency on the choice of server mix. We develop guidelines for managers that would help them to decide whether they should be either at one of the extremes, i.e., total flexibility or total specialization, or some combination. If it is the latter, we offer an analytical tool to optimize the server mix.

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    • "In addition, with multiple tasks, flexible workers do not gain as much experience as their specialized counterparts in a particular task, and this lack of experience negatively impacts service quality (Pinker and Shumsky 2000). Overall, " although cross-training increases server flexibility and improves responsiveness, it also increases the service costs and may reduce service efficiency " (Chakravarthy and Agnihothri 2005, p. 218). "
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    ABSTRACT: Many of today's service companies operate in a technology-oriented and knowledge-intensive environment while recruiting and training individuals from an increasingly diverse population. One of the resulting challenges for these service companies is ensuring strategic alignment between their two key resources-technology and workforce-through the resource planning and allocation processes. The traditional hierarchical decision approach to resource planning and allocation considers only technology planning as a strategic-level decision, with workforce recruiting and training planning as a subsequent tactical-level decision. However, two other decision approaches-joint and integrated-elevate workforce planning to the same strategic level as technology planning. Thus, we investigate the impact of strategically aligning technology and workforce decisions through the comparison of joint and integrated models to each other and to a baseline hierarchical model in terms of total cost. Numerical experiments are conducted to characterize key features of solutions provided by these approaches under conditions typically found in this type of service company. Our results show that the integrated model has the lowest cost across all conditions. This is because the integrated approach maintains a small but skilled workforce that can operate new and more advanced technology with higher capacity. However, the cost performance of the joint model is very close to the integrated model under a number of conditions and is easier to implement computationally and managerially, making it a good choice in many environments. Managerial insights derived from this study can serve as a valuable guide for choosing the proper decision approach for technology-oriented and knowledge-intensive service companies.
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    • "Sometimes, it is necessary first to scale a database of activity processing times and, from this data set, workforce scaling and allocation can be performed. Accordingly, any information on the workforce that is to conduct the activities should have some of the following attributes (Naveh et al., 2007; Gresh et al., 2007; Hu et al., 2007; Chakravarthy and Agnihothri, 2005; Easton and Rossini, 1997): "
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    ABSTRACT: Building on a study of quantitative and qualitative approaches to workforce planning, a structure and a set of steps are proposed for conducting workforce planning projects in organizations. This approach contemplates four styles of governance applicable to a workforce planning project and the combinations (centralized or decentralized) to be used in the process of reaching decisions in the various difference organizational units. Its structure also comprises the sequencing necessary for workforce planning, as well as the various elements that make up each of the steps. Lastly, its application leads to the systematic construction of an information base that can contribute to enhancing the assertiveness of workforce planning decision making.
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    • "When there are only two skill types, technicians are either dedicated or cross-trained. Shumsky (1999), Agnihothri (2000), and Chakravarthy and Agnihothri (2003) used analytical queueing models while Agnihothri et al. (2003) used simulation to study such systems with queueing delays . In comparison, our paper studies three skill types, efficiency in secondary skills, and mismatch. "
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    ABSTRACT: To be cost-effective, field service managers must balance the high cost of machine downtime with the high cost of cross-training technicians in multiple skills. We study a field service system with three job types requiring three different skills. Each server has a primary skill, the cost of which is considered sunk, and up to two secondary skills, which is a managerial decision. We model two important characteristics that distinguish field services: server–job mismatch and the ratio of travel time to service time. We use a queueing framework and simulation to study three cross-training decisions: the number of servers cross-trained in secondary skills, the number of secondary skills each server should have, and the efficiency in each secondary skill. We find that complete cross-training is cost-effective in some field service situations. Typically, efficiency in secondary skills must be close to 100%, but when the probability of mismatch is high and the ratio of travel time to service time is high, efficiency in secondary skills must be less than 100%.
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