Stochastic Optimization for Adaptive Labor Staffing in Service Systems
Service systems are labor intensive. Further, the workload tends to vary greatly with time. Adapting the staffing levels to the workloads in such systems is nontrivial due to a large number of parameters and operational variations, but crucial for business objectives such as minimal labor inventory. One of the central challenges is to optimize the staffing while maintaining system steady-state and compliance to aggregate SLA constraints. We formulate this problem as a parametrized constrained Markov process and propose a novel stochastic optimization algorithm for solving it. Our algorithm is a multi-timescale stochastic approximation scheme that incorporates a SPSA based algorithm for ‘primal descent’ and couples it with a ‘dual ascent’ scheme for the Lagrange multipliers. We validate this optimization scheme on five real-life service systems and compare it with a state-of-the-art optimization tool-kit OptQuest. Being two orders of magnitude faster than OptQuest, our scheme is particularly suitable for adaptive labor staffing. Also, we observe that it guarantees convergence and finds better solutions than OptQuest in many cases.
KeywordsService systems labor optimization constrained stochastic optimization
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