Performance opportunity for workforce agility in collaborative and noncollaborative work systems

Mark P.Van Oyen, Esma G.S. Gel, Wallace J. Hopp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


To gain insight into the potential logistical benefits of worker cross-training and agile workforce policies, we study simple models of flexible workers in serial production systems. The primary control issue is how to assign workers to jobs/stations over time. Under assumptions of complete worker flexibility and collaborative work, we prove that a simple expedite policy minimizes along each sample path the cycle time (delay) for each job. Therefore, the expedite policy also minimizes work in process and maximizes throughput along every sample path. We also compute the performance improvement opportunity achievable using flexible workers as opposed to the optimal static allocation of workers. This enables us to examine th e factors that make workforce agility a potentially attractive strategy. We also consider the intuitive analog of the expedite policy for the noncollaborative work environment, which we call the pick-and-run policy; however, we demonstrate by counterexample that it is not always optimal. Finally, we extend some of our insights from the demand-constrained environment to a capacity-constrained environment operating under a CONstant WIP (CONWIP) protocol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-777
Number of pages17
JournalIIE Transactions (Institute of Industrial Engineers)
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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