Has it ever happened to you that your customers have to wait a long time in endless lines to purchase a product from your business? Or maybe it has happened to you, as a customer that the customer service managers are not able to minimize your waiting time?
Queuing theory is a branch of mathematics that studies how lines are formed, how they work, and why they go wrong. It deals with examining all the components of waiting in line, including the arrival process, the service process, the number of servers, the space in the system, and the number of customers that can be people, network packets, cars, or anything else.
Real-life applications of queuing theory cover a wide range of businesses. Their findings can be used to provide faster customer service, increase traffic flow, improve order shipments from a warehouse, or design data networks and call centers.
As a branch of operations research, queuing theory can help inform business decisions on how to build more efficient and profitable workflow systems.
Origins of the queuing theory
The origin of queuing theory dates back to the early 20th century in a study of the Copenhagen telephone exchange by Agner Krarup Erlang, a Danish engineer, statistician, and mathematician. His work led to Erlang's theory of efficient networks and the field of telephone network analysis.
Until today, the fundamental unit of telecommunications traffic in voice systems is called "erlang".
In the early 20th century, Erlang was head of a technical laboratory at the Copenhagen Telephone Co. His extensive studies of waiting times in automated telephone services and his proposals for more efficient networks were widely adopted by telephone companies.
What are the basic elements of the queuing theory?
A study of a line using the queuing theory would break it down into six elements: the arrival process, the service, and departure process, the number of servers available, the discipline of the queue (such as first-in, first-out), queue capacity, and numbers served. Creating a model of the entire process from beginning to end allows the cause(s) of the congestion to be identified and addressed.
What does it mean to be queued?
Americans line up for service (except New Yorkers, who line up "online"). British also queue. The word "queue" comes from an old French noun for an animal's tail.
The computer age has introduced a new use. An email provider may indicate that your message has been "queued". This means that there is a delay in delivery, but it will be sent as soon as possible.
How does the queuing theory work?
Queues can occur when resources are limited. Some queues are tolerable in any business, as the complete absence of a queue would suggest costly excess capacity.
Queuing theory aims to design balanced systems that serve customers quickly and efficiently, but do not cost too much to be sustainable.
At its most basic level, queuing theory involves an analysis of arrivals at a facility, such as a bank or fast food restaurant, and an analysis of the processes currently in place to serve them. The result is a set of conclusions that aim to identify any flaws in the system and suggest how they can be improved.
The parameters of a queue
In queuing theory, the process under study is divided into six different parameters. These include the arrival process, the service, and departure process, the number of servers, the discipline of the queue (such as first-in, first-out), the capacity of the queue, and the size of the customer population.
How is the queuing theory used?
Queuing theory is used to identify and correct bottlenecks in a process. The queue can be made up of people, things, or information. In any case, they are forced to wait for the service. That's inefficient, bad for business, and annoying (when the queue is made up of people).
In this sense, queuing theory is used to analyze the existing process and draw alternatives with a better result.
Advantages of the queuing theory
Queuing theory as an operations management technique is commonly used to determine and optimize staffing needs, scheduling, and inventory to improve overall customer service. Six Sigma professionals often use it to improve processes.
The psychology of queues
Queuing psychology is related to the queuing theory. This is the queuing component that deals with the natural irritation felt by many people who are forced to queue for service, whether they are waiting to pay at the grocery store or waiting for a website to load.
A callback option while you wait to speak to a customer representative on the phone is an example of a solution to customer impatience. A more antiquated example is the system used by many delicatessens, which issue customer service numbers to allow people to track their progress at the front of the queue.
The queuing theory is useful, if not so urgent, in guiding the logistics of many companies. The operations department of a delivery company, for example, is likely to use queuing theory to help smooth out problems in their systems for moving packages from a warehouse to a customer.
In this case, the "line" under study is made up of boxes of merchandise waiting to be delivered to customers.
In short, by applying the queuing theory to your business, you can develop more efficient systems, processes, pricing mechanisms, staffing solutions, and arrival management strategies to reduce customer waiting times and, in turn, increase the number of customers you can serve and provide an optimized service.