What is Queueing Theory?May 11, 2021
People have been standing in queues since the 12th century. It’s something we’ve just come to accept as part of the retail experience. We stand in line at the grocery store, to buy theater tickets and to get a table at a restaurant. In fact, sociologists have been studying how and why we stand in line almost as long as people have been lining up. We call that queueing theory.
What is queueing theory?
The term queuing theory was formally coined in 1901 by Agner Krarup Erland, a Danish mathematician, statistician, and engineer, published a paper titled “The Theory of Probabilities and Telephone Conversations.” Erland was working for the Copenhagen Telephone Company and was studying how many circuits were needed to provide adequate service for customers, so they wouldn’t have to wait too long for a circuit.
This study by Erland let to queuing theory becoming a formal branch of mathematics “that studies and models the act of waiting in line.” Researchers construct queuing models to predict how long someone will have to wait in line. In 1953, D. G. Kendall proposed the standard system we use today to describe and classify a queuing situation. Using Kendall’s system, we look at six elements of queuing. They are…
- A — The arrival process
- S — The time it takes to get served
- c — The number of servers
- K — The capacity of the queue (may be eliminated if the capacity is unlimited)
- N — The number of possible customers (again, may be eliminated if the possible number is unlimited)
- D — The queueing discipline, such as first-in, first-out
The importance of good queue management
Andreas Hassellof, the CEO of the Swedish retail tech company Ombori maintains that it’s time we revamp the way retailers and consumers think about standing in line. His company’s queue management systems make it possible for consumers to get a “place in line” virtually or by scanning a QR code rather than physically standing in a queue. This not only improves the customer experience, but helps retailers stop missed sales from people who don’t have time to wait in line and helps employees reduce the stress of not knowing which customer is next to serve.
Ombori is an innovative technology company that offers a variety of retail solutions. In addition to providing queue management systems, the Swedish company is the creative force behind such revolutionary in-store technology as a talking mirror that asks shoppers to take a selfie with it and an interactive window display that lets passersby shop without even entering the store. Ombori works with retail partners headquartered all over the globe. We stand in line at the grocery store, to buy theater tickets and to get a table at a restaurant. In fact, sociologists have been studying how and why we stand in line almost as long as people have been lining up. We call that queueing theory.