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Good OM Reading: Analytics at Disney World

October 5, 2012

Here in the tourist mecca of Orlando, Disney World reigns as king. With 60,000 employees (called “cast members”), Disney is a driving force not just in our economy, but in the use of operations management tools. Analytics (Sept.-Oct. 2012) has a great piece on the careful planning guests don’t see taking place “behind the scenes” to run the operation smoothly. The article examines the role analytics plays in ensuring the guest experience is maximized. It makes a nice supplement to our text coverage of Disney in both the forecasting (Ch.4) and waiting line (Module D) chapters.

The authors write: “Forecasting serves as the analytical foundation for operations planning at the Resort. It all starts with the park attendance forecast, which lays out the expected attendance at each park. These predictions are strongly considered when setting park hours and performing other strategic planning. More granular forecasts are required for each individual area, such as guest arrivals at the hotel front desks. The company recently launched a new labor demand planning system, which generates forecasts for every 15-minute period at many locations throughout the property, including park entry turnstiles, quick-service restaurants and merchandise locations. These forecasts help the resort plan labor effectively to ensure guest service standards are met”.

Another innovative way the resort uses forecasting is for attraction wait times. The most popular attractions use Disney’s FASTPASS system – a unique virtual queueing system that allows guests to receive a ticket with a designated 1-hour window of time when they can return and skip the regular line. From a central command center underneath the Magic Kingdom, forecasting models are executed every 5-10 minutes to project the return patterns of FASTPASS guests based on entertainment schedules and the number of FASTPASS tickets that have been distributed. The forecasts are posted at the front of the attractions to help guests choose whether to enter the line, take a FASTPASS ticket or return to the attraction later in the day. These wait times are also available on Disney’s Mobile Magic smart phone app, which shares real-time information about the parks throughout the day.

I think your students may also enjoy reading this down-to-earth article.

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