Essays in Operations Management
This dissertation consists of three main chapters, each focusing on operational problems that arise in surgical suites’ operations, agricultural operations in developing economies, and operations in the on-demand economy, respectively. In Chapter 2, we study the stochastic, single-machine earliness/tardiness problem (SET), with the sequence of processing of the jobs and their due-dates as decisions and the objective of minimizing the sum of the expected earliness and tardiness costs over all the jobs. We show that the Shortest-Variance-First (SVF) rule is optimal under the assumption of dilation ordering of the processing durations. Since convex ordering implies dilation ordering (under finite means), the SVF sequence is also optimal under convex ordering of the processing durations. In Chapter 3, we consider a governmental scheme, viz., the Guaranteed Support Price (GSP) scheme, that several developing countries have adopted to support their farmers and underprivileged population. Through this scheme, the government, operating under a budget, procures a crop from farmers at a guaranteed (and attractive) price, announced ahead of the selling season, and then distributes the procured amount to the underprivileged segment of the population at a subsidized price. We offer analytically-supported insights on fundamental operational decisions of the GSP scheme. In Chapter 4, we explore problems related to workforce management in the emerging on-demand economy. A fundamental challenge for on-demand platforms (e.g., Uber, InstaCart) is to ensure that independent workers, who are not directly under the platform’s control, are available at the right time and locations to serve consumers at short notice. We study the role of surge pricing, worker incentives and information sharing to effectively manage these platforms.