OM in the News: Can You Help TSA Shorten Security Queues?
In anticipation that more fliers will be eager to pay for expedited checkpoint screening, the Transportation Security Administration has promised to award $15,000 in cash prizes to whomever can design a faster waiting line system, reports Nextgov (July 18, 2014). The competition is on InnoCentive, a website for crowdsourcing solutions to problems, which enables individuals and teams to submit proposals. “There is a guaranteed award,” the contest overview states. “The total payout will be $15,000, with at least one award being no smaller than $5,000.”
The challenge aims to solve expected problems with TSA PreCheck, a program where passengers who undergo a background check and pay $85 get access to fast lanes that don’t require removing shoes, coats, liquids and laptops. “Current queue layouts at TSA Pre✓ airports will need to adapt to support the increasing population of TSA Pre✓ passengers,” the competition states. “TSA is looking for the Next Generation Checkpoint Queue Design Model to apply a scientific and simulation modeling approach to meet queue design and configuration needs of the dynamic security screening environment with TSA Pre✓.” TSA also is asking for approaches that would help speed standard, “free” waiting lines.
Competitors must supply a proposal that considers physical logistics, peak hours and staffing schedules, among other constraints. The “line” extends from the point where a passenger joins the end of the queue to the metal detector or body scan machine. Wait times cannot be more than 5 minutes for PreCheck and 10 minutes for standard lines. Also, the model should enable TSA to apply a “Computer Aided Design drawing to define the physical space available for queuing.”
Competitors are required to provide an animation of a computer screen that shows passengers flowing through lines. It must display real-time reporting during the animation, and allow a user to pause a simulation run when necessary for analysis or evaluation. What a great example of a complex, real-world queuing problem to ask your students to discuss!
Classroom discussion questions:
1. Why is TSA turning to crowdsourcing?
2. What ideas do you have for speeding the lines?