Augusta State University professors study mechanics of waiting in line

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Waiting in line is a necessary evil in the shopping season, but two Augusta State University professors spent months trying to figure out how to cut wait times down.

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Customers wait in line with after-Christmas purchases, exchanges and returns at the Belk in North Augusta.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Customers wait in line with after-Christmas purchases, exchanges and returns at the Belk in North Augusta.

Todd Schultz and Jim Grayson worked together on an 18-month study that tested the standard formula that is taught in business schools.

Integrated into their MBA classes, the new formula by the business professors will be used to help operations and logistics managers estimate wait times for customers.

“The formulas are really good for predicting what’s going to happen over the long term,” Grayson said.

They spent 100 hours developing the formulas, not by standing in a retail store with a clipboard, but through a computer simulator.

The bottom line, Schultz said, was that they found a wide error for the standard formulas used to estimate wait times.

“We wanted to remove as much error as we could from these equations to provide a more accurate wait time and more practical guidance for business owners,” he said.

When to open or close a checkout line cannot necessarily be automated.

“There are times during the day when businesses are extremely busy or very slow,” Grayson said. “If business owners don’t take these factors into consideration, they can cause waiting line issues for their customers which could ultimately have an effect on their sales.”

Students in Grayson and Schultz’s classes are often future or current business owners, and the findings will help them teach in a more practical way.

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scgator
1042
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scgator 12/29/11 - 07:37 am
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I wonder how much taxpayer

I wonder how much taxpayer money was spent for this piece of trash study; this is liberalism at its best. EVERYBODY knows that in order to improve customer service, all you have to do is be considerate and appreciative of your customer base. What has ruined business in this country are the mid level management "bonus plans"......we will pay you a perk, if you keep costs below a certain threshold; incentives detract from business functions and never increase productivity. We don't need a wasted survey to know this. And certainly do not need an analysis of MBA procedures and policies to combat it. SIMPLY give people good customer service and let your reputation for such, increase and build your business future; I am speaking from experience, I have been in management meetings before when the company VP would say things like......if we can get the labor force to step up and we meet our goals this month, then EVERYONE in this meeting will get one month's salary as a bonus............the results, increased work load with less people in order to meet the numbers. The losers........employees and or course customer service. If you overwork or understaff, you will always get the same results. You do not need to be a college professor to figure this one out.....except for the fact that your advice is only given credence if you have an MBA behind. Common sense could NEVER be considered as valid in the business world.

Riverman1
84020
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Riverman1 12/29/11 - 08:24 am
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When I was working on a grad

When I was working on a grad degree about 20 years ago we had a few days studying queuing. There are a couple of formulas to use and with computers, it should take about 10 minutes to determine the effects of ANYTHING on the line. If the wait times are longer, adjust accordingly. My goodness, an 18 month study? Sounds like a government job.

scgator
1042
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scgator 12/29/11 - 08:28 am
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Good thoughts Riverman1

Good thoughts Riverman1

justthefacts
21896
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justthefacts 12/29/11 - 10:06 am
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"What has ruined business in

"What has ruined business in this country are the mid level management "bonus plans"......we will pay you a perk, if you keep costs below a certain threshold; incentives detract from business functions and never increase productivity". Not sure about that statement scgator. To state something so absolutely is dangerous. I am pretty sure I could argue effectively that incentives do drive productivity.

belle
307
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belle 12/29/11 - 10:07 am
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I am hoping this was another
Unpublished

I am hoping this was another poorly written article and does not reflect the actual study. I can see how such a study would be invaluable to business students if you are looking indepth at all causes for lines. This would include customer service, job attitude, software, special occasions, product placement......etc. As it is worded in this article, it would appear a pretty useless study.

GaStang22
910
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GaStang22 12/29/11 - 07:03 pm
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One thing that would help is
Unpublished

One thing that would help is places like walmart that have only a couple lines open for 100 customers checking out, but have 25 employees standing around yaking.....it is simple, someone do their job and open more lanes!!! No special study needed, just common sense which is what most managers around here lack. I mean when an item is out of stock, they are ignorant enough to say.... we dont sell much of it. Well ever thought its because ITS NEVER HERE???? Order more!! Why do the customers have to explain to a manager especially one who claims to have been doing it for years, if it is sold out within 2 days you're not ordering enough??? Why do people have to get ugly and start complaining before more lanes are opened?? And they usually open another after the lines have died down!! Obviously most manager positions at most retail and grocers around here have absolutely no standards or requirements for the position other than willing to take the job!! lol

scgator
1042
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scgator 12/30/11 - 01:03 am
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"justthefacts"...I have seen

"justthefacts"...I have seen it over and over in my career in manufacturing; supervisors and middle level management are promised incentives to get record setting production out of hourly workers. While it is true that incentives increase production somewhat. The issue is that the bottom level worker is often mistreated, and/or put in situations that ignore standard company policy that jeopardizes safety. I used to be maintenance supervisor at a plastics plant that routinely denied "breaks" to the machine operators, and the excuse was "we have to make production, we don't have time for breaks". In this plant, the production supervisors were promised 5% bonus if they made production goals. This is all well and good, except all 31 machines in this plant operated at 400 degrees in order to process the plastic. Some of the operators were middle age AND diabetic; so you can imagine the results. On more than one occasion we had EMT's at the plant. I, myself being diabetic understood the dangers and I would go around and let the operators know that if they felt like they "really" needed a break, that I had the authority to shut the machine down for 15 or 20 minutes for a "maintenance issue"; and I instructed them to go and wait in the A/C break room until I got their machine back up. This same company modified a band saw in such a way that the emergency stop button was moved up on the top of the saw almost 7'-00" above floor level; one night on third shift an operator cut two fingers off because he could not reach the emergency stop. I personally dismantled the saw and threw it in the dumpster so that it could not do this to another employee. It cost me my job, but, OH WELL...........I had another job the next week.

grouse
1635
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grouse 12/31/11 - 05:00 pm
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0
I hope they use the knowledge
Unpublished

I hope they use the knowledge they've gained to eliminate the long lines at ASU's bookstore and cafeteria!

Asitisinaug
3
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Asitisinaug 12/31/11 - 05:51 pm
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0
Good info Riverman. Without

Good info Riverman.

Without the studies, I can tell you that so many people who become supervisors or managers think they are now to good to help their employees acheive their goals or even help the customers.

While waiting in a long line at a local grocer store with only 2 lines open and over 20 customers in line, obviously getting frustrated, I observerd 3 people talking & laughing in the managers cage. I got out of line, went and asked them what it would take for someone to come out and open another line and actually help the customers and all three simply stared dumfounded. Eventually, one of them got on the PA and called someome else up to work - the height of laziness. These poor excuses of managers are all over the place and are clueless about true customer service.

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 12/31/11 - 05:54 pm
0
0
This is too funny----months

This is too funny----months to figure how to handle long lines at register....unbelievable.....I could advise them in 10 seconds...Duh----If more than3 in line open another register..having happy- helpful cashiers will work wonders for lines ---I know some would wait longer for a friendly cashier...I have seenitB4...:)

seenitB4
87304
Points
seenitB4 12/31/11 - 05:57 pm
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0
10 minutes for Riverman---10

10 minutes for Riverman---10 seconds for me...heheh..:)

& I didn't get the grad degree..:)

Riverman1
84020
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Riverman1 12/31/11 - 06:04 pm
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SeenItB4 said, "10 minutes

SeenItB4 said, "10 minutes for Riverman---10 seconds for me...heheh..:)"

What are we talking about here? I'm going to print that out and save it. Heh.

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