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Flexible Servers in Understaffed Tandem Lines We study the dynamic assignment of cross-trained servers to stations in understaffed lines
 

Summary: Flexible Servers in Understaffed Tandem Lines
Abstract
We study the dynamic assignment of cross-trained servers to stations in understaffed lines
with finite buffers. Our objective is to maximize the production rate. We identify optimal
server assignment policies for systems with three stations, two servers, different flexibility
structures, and either deterministic service times and arbitrary buffers or exponential service
times and small buffers. We use these policies to develop server assignment heuristics for
Markovian systems with larger buffer sizes that appear to yield near-optimal throughput. In
the deterministic setting, we prove that the best possible production rate with full server
flexibility and infinite buffers can be attained with partial flexibility and zero buffers, and we
identify the critical skills required to achieve this goal. We then present numerical results
showing that these critical skills, employed with an effective server assignment policy, also
yield near-optimal throughput in the Markovian setting, even for small buffer sizes. Thus
our results suggest that partial flexibility is sufficient for near-optimal performance, and that
flexibility structures that are effective for deterministic and infinite-buffered systems are also
likely to perform well for finite-buffered stochastic systems.
Keywords: Throughput maximization, finite buffers, partial and full server flexibility, tandem
production systems, line balancing.
1 Introduction
We consider a production line with N > 2 stations and M 2 flexible servers. We assume that

  

Source: Ayhan, Hayriye - School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

 

Collections: Engineering