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Master of Agribusiness

Optimized Staffing Between Product Lines for a Technical Support Center

John Locklear, Blue Grass, IA, defended his thesis, “Optimized Staffing Between Product Lines for a Technical Support Center” on March 28. He works in Customer and Product Support for John Deere Harvester Works. Locklear was a spring 2018 graduate from Kansas State University with a Master of Agribusiness (MAB) degree.

In today’s business market, technical support for products post-sale is a growing trend. Many Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) provide technical support for their products through their dealer channels to resolve complex product issues. One of the issues faced by Original Equipment Manufacturers is how to staff their technical support departments due to a variety of factors such as product type, product complexity and production volume. Some Original Equipment Manufacturers may also share technical support specialists across multiple product platforms to encourage collaboration and as client needs change over time.

“The purpose of this thesis is to better understand how to efficiently or optimally allocate resources, specially labor, between platforms to meet an Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) client’s technical needs” Locklear said.

By developing optimization models for multiple product platforms, Locklear created statistically significant coefficients for time periods that contain the platform’s highest workload. The outputs of these models create a programming optimization model to determine necessary staff levels throughout the year. This information can be used by technical support managers to plan technical support staffing in an efficient and streamlined way and allows for optimal sharing between product platforms. 

Dr. Jason Bergtold, Professor, and Locklear’s thesis advisor, said, “John presents an innovative approach for meeting staffing needs for technical support departments to meet the service needs for different types of products. John did an amazing job showing how staffing needs change for technical support in agriculture as the growing seasons change, resulting in changes in equipment use and call volume.”

The full thesis publication can be found online on Kansas State University’s Research Exchange at http://hdl.handle.net/2097/38782.