Let's say you and your roommate have a little side business baking rhubarb pies at home and selling them on a street corner. Folks love pie, and you're having trouble keeping up with demand. But you can only invest so much money in the business. Where should you put your resources? Should you hire another baker? Buy another stove? Start your own rhubarb farm? You need to make a careful, data-based analysis of these options to figure out where the primary bottleneck is, and thus where you should concentrate your efforts.
CESF Director Dick Larson Featured in Slate Magazine
- Created on Thursday, 14 June 2012 16:25
Queueing Theory: What People Hate Most About Waiting In Line
The Slate Group, LLC, a Division of the Washington Post Company
Posted Friday, June 1, 2012
Business school types have a word for this sort of analysis: operations. Operations determines how products get manufactured and how services get delivered. Improving operations can cut costs, making the things you buy cheaper. It can speed processes, getting those things to you more swiftly. It can eliminate waste, doing a favor to the environment. You can thank (or blame) operations for the manner in which you're admitted into a hospital, screened at an airport, or served at a busy fast-food restaurant.
For the next few weeks, I will be exploring the world of operations management in a series for Slate. It is a world full of ingenuity, practicality, and even beauty. It draws on fields ranging from engineering and math to psychology and sociology. Simply put, operations is the science of making things run better. Once you start thinking like an operations geek, it can transform the way you think about everything, from your workplace to your commute to the way you make a PB&J.
One important and enduring corner of the operations world—the one we'll be exploring today—is queuing theory. Queuing theory is the study of lines. All kinds of lines. The lines at supermarket checkouts, the lines at toll booths, the lines of people on hold waiting for someone, anyone, to pick up at the cable company’s 1-800 number.