Article

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

ABSTRACT

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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    • "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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    • "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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