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A queueing model for managing small projects under uncertainties


We consider a situation in which a home improvement project contractor has a team of regular crew members who receive compensation even when they are idle. Because both projects arrivals and the completion time of each project are uncertain, the contractor needs to manage the utilization of his crews carefully. One common approach adopted by many home improvement contractors is to accept multiple projects to keep his crew members busy working on projects to generate positive cash flows. However, this approach has a major drawback because it causes "intentional" (or foreseeable) project delays. Intentional project delays can inflict explicit and implicit costs on the contractor when frustrating customers abandon their projects and/or file complaints or lawsuits. In this paper, we present a queueing model to capture uncertain customer (or project) arrivals and departures, along with the possibility of customer abandonment. Also, associated with each admission policy (i.e., the maximum number of projects that the contractor will accept), we model the underlying tradeoff between accepting too many projects (that can increase customer dissatisfaction) and accepting too few projects (that can reduce crew utilization). We examine this tradeoff analytically so as to determine the optimal admission policy and the optimal number of crew members. We further apply our model to analyze other issues including worker productivity and project pricing. Finally, our model can be extended to allow for multiple classes of projects with different types of crew members.

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