Describe the five essential features of the queuing system
Thrifty Car Rental has become one of the U.S. southwest’s major rental agencies, even though it competes with several national firms. It definitely is the largest regional company, with offices and outlets in 19 cities and five states, and it primarily operates off-site from the airport terminals of those major cities. Thrifty’s rental fleet consists almost entirely of fuel-efficient compact and subcompact automobiles. Its clientele utilizes these vehicles for tourism and business purposes, obtaining service at any location with or without prior arrangements. Thrifty does lose customers on occasion when the desired vehicles are unavailable at a given location, but this “stockout” situation occurs less than 10 percent of the time.The service counter where customers are processed by Thrifty’s personnel has a simple design. In the “old days,” it varied only in the number of cubbyholes that keep various forms within easy reach of the servers. Today, the cubbies and forms have given way to computer terminals for more streamlined service. The number of servers varies with the size of the local market and the level of demand at specific times. In smaller markets, Thrifty may need three people at one time behind the counter, but in the largest markets, this number could be as high as eight when demand is heaviest. Usually, these peakdemand times reflect the airport’s inbound-outbound flight schedule; as they occur, one or more attendants may deal exclusively with clients who have made prior arrangements to pick up a vehicle or with those who are returning vehicles. When this situation exists, these attendants hang appropriate messages above their chosen stations to indicate their special service functions to clientele. Because the speed of customer service is an important factor in maintaining Thrifty’s competitive edge, management and service personnel have worked very hard to ensure that each client is processed without unnecessary delay.
Another important factor in Thrifty’s competitive stance is the ability to turn incoming vehicles around and quickly prepare them for new clients. The following steps are necessary to process a vehicle from incoming delivery to outgoing delivery: (1) confirmation of odometer reading, (2) refueling and confirmation of fuel charge, (3) visual damage inspection, (4) priority assessment, (5) interior cleaning, (6) maintenance assessment, (7) maintenance and check-out, (8) exterior cleaning and polishing, (9) refueling and lot storage, and (10) delivery to customer.
When a client returns a vehicle to any location, one of Thrifty’s crew will confirm the odometer reading, drive about 200 meters to the service lot, and confirm any fuel charge necessary to refill the car’s tank. In some cases, the crew member may be able to process all this information on a handheld computer, and the customer can be on her or his way without having to queue up in the office. In less streamlined locations, the crew member will relay the information to all attendants immediately so that the client may complete payment inside and be released as soon as possible. (If the crew member notices any interior or exterior damage to the vehicle, the attendant will notify the manager on duty; the client must clarify his or her responsibility in the circumstances and may be delayed while this is occurring.) After the damage-inspection step, the fleet supervisor assigns a priority status to incoming cars on the basis of the company’s known (i.e., certain) demand and reserve policy (for walk-up clients): high-priority treatment for cars that are needed within the next six-hour period, and normal treatment for everything else. High-priority vehicles get preferential treatment for servicing.
After the vehicle’s interior is cleaned thoroughly and sprayed with a mild air freshener, a mechanic examines the vehicle’s maintenance record, gives the vehicle a test drive, and notes on a form any maintenance actions he or she deems necessary. Thrifty has certain policies covering periodic normal maintenance, such as oil and filter changes, tire rotation and balancing, lubrication, coolant replacement, and engine tuneups. Major special maintenance actions, such as brake repair, transmission repair or adjustment, or air-conditioning and heating repair, are performed as needed.
Typically, a garage in Thrifty’s system has a standard sideby-side, three-bay design: two bays always are used for normal maintenance, and the third is used for either normal or special maintenance. About 20 percent of the time is spent on special maintenance in this third bay. In general, Thrifty uses a team of five mechanics for its garages: one master mechanic (who is the garage manager), two journeymen mechanics, and two apprentices. The apprentices who are responsible for all normal maintenance tasks except the engine tune-up are stationed to service every vehicle in each outside bay, and alternate on vehicles in the middle bay. The journeyman mechanics are responsible for all other maintenance, and they also alternate on servicing vehicles in the middle bay.
After servicing, the vehicle is moved outside to the car wash area, and a team of two people washes, rinses, and buffs the exterior to ensure a good appearance. Because part of the rinse cycle contains a wax-type liquid compound, the vehicle usually does not require a time-consuming wax job. From this point, the vehicle’s fuel tank again is topped off, and the vehicle is placed in the lot for storage. When the vehicle is called for by an attendant, a driver will take it to the rental area for the client.
On the basis of your experience and the description of Thrifty’s operations, describe the five essential features of the queuing systems at the customer counter, the garage, and the car wash.