Snowplow Operations and Resource Management - FY04NATSRL
Martha Wilson, Former University Researcher, UMD-Industrial Engineering
Snowplow operations must consider a multitude of variables in order to effectively deploy the snowplows and provide an acceptable level of service to the motoring public. The specific operations, timing, and treatment applications will vary according to the weather, the road condition, characteristics of the specific route, traffic, and driver experience. Snowplow operations are fairly complex, requiring that the supervisors make decisions to deploy plows based on the weather forecast, and adjust route assignments in response to vehicle and personnel availability. Supervisors may need to split shifts, extend shift lengths, and halt plowing when plowing becomes ineffective and drivers become fatigued. Capturing the decision rules used by the supervisors and drivers in order to construct a simulation model is a challenging task due to sparse data, and the reliance on management reports and expert opinion.
The primary objective of this study is to help supervisors make decisions regarding the management of snowplow operations by providing the capability to run "what-if" scenarios. Simulation of snowplow operations requires that the interrelationships between many variables be captured in order to represent the actual system. These variables and relationships are not easily obtained from existing data, making it difficult to develop clean analytical solutions. The lack of data also creates challenges for simulation, although expert opinion may be used when data is not available. The second objective of this study is to assess the tradeoffs associated with policy decisions made by the State of Minnesota in light of the budget crisis. It could also be used to assess the impact of less equipment and shorter shifts. Along these same lines, this study will also assess the impact of performance metrics on system performance by looking not only at the traditional measures, but also at costs of material, labor, and equipment. A final objective is to develop an interfac