Employees, vendors, customers, shoppers

For many businesses, core processes involve decisions involving the key asset of their workforce, as well as contracted workers. 

In optimization applications, people are usually governed by multiple overlapping sets of costs and rules--these represent both challenges and opportunities.  The challenges are to find the best solutions that follow all of the rules.  The opportunities are to try different combinations in different circumstances that follow the rules and maximize the formal objective function, which is typically highest productivity and lowest cost.

At Princeton Consultants we group these costs and rules as follows: physical, regulatory, contractual, marketplace, policy and practical.

  • Regulatory constraints include laws governing overtime, maximum work hours, and other factors -- e.g. the U.S. Department of Transportation specifies maximum continuous and weekly hours driving for commercial truck drivers.  Sometimes multiple jurisdictions apply:  for example, at the airline a pilot flying from the U.S. to Europe  moves from rules of the Federal Aviation Administration to those of the European Aviation Safety Agency. For the biotech manufacturer, where personnel is specialized and highly paid, leaders can answer strategic questions such as “How do I optimize operator shifts to maximize throughput and minimize overtime?”
  • Contractual terms include employment and labor agreements.  For the service network company, executive management employed optimization to generate and evaluate recommendations for maximum revenue and profit strategic options, given a portfolio of different business units, each with different work rules.
  • Marketplace and Policy rules and constraints include internal rules on how assignments are made – whether they are tasks, accounts or territories. The 2020 U.S. Census will be conducted by more than 400,000 temporary workers called “enumerators,” who will work for several weeks with variable daily and weekly schedules. At the e-commerce trailblazer, operations executives were forced to painstakingly manage and monitor the model because it too often could not find adequate solutions and, when it could, the average run time of 30-50 hours jeopardized production deadlines.
  • Practical rules capture important real-world observations that relate to the fact that people are individuals and not machines.  People who have to navigate a rule – on land or in the air or sea – find that their efficiency improves as they run the same route.  Consequently, the optimization model should have a tendency to favor assigning people to repeating routes.  On the other hand, merely assigning the same route to the same pilot or driver might not always be the most efficient. For the regional agribusiness, workers at the same level and even pay attain different levels of productivity at different tasks. As a result, the optimizer can experiment with People assignments to gauge task / person efficiencies to find the best pairings.