Online Advance Scheduling with Overtime: A Primal-Dual Approach Academic Article uri icon


  • Problem definition: We study a fundamental online resource allocation problem in service operations in which a heterogeneous stream of arrivals that varies in service times and rewards makes service requests from a finite number of servers/providers. This is an online adversarial setting in which nothing more is known about the arrival process of customers. Each server has a finite regular capacity but can be expanded at the expense of overtime cost. Upon arrival of each customer, the system chooses both a server and a time for service over a scheduling horizon subject to capacity constraints. The system seeks easy-to-implement online policies that admit a competitive ratio (CR), guaranteeing the worst-case relative performance. Academic/practical relevance: On the academic side, we propose online algorithms with theoretical CRs for the problem described above. On the practical side, we investigate the real-world applicability of our methods and models on appointment-scheduling data from a partner health system. Methodology: We develop new online primal-dual approaches for making not only a server-date allocation decision for each arriving customer, but also an overtime decision for each server on each day within a horizon. We also derive a competitive analysis to prove a theoretical performance guarantee. Results: Our online policies are (i) robust to future information, (ii) easy-to-implement and extremely efficient to compute, and (iii) admitting a theoretical CR. Comparing our online policy with the optimal offline policy, we obtain a CR that guarantees the worst-case performance of our online policy. Managerial implications: We evaluate the performance of our online algorithms by using real appointment scheduling data from a partner health system. Our results show that the proposed online policies perform much better than their theoretical CR, and outperform the pervasive First-Come-First-Served (FCFS) and nested threshold policies (NTPO) by a large margin.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Keyvanshokooh, E., Shi, C., & Van Oyen, M. P.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Keyvanshokooh, Esmaeil||Shi, Cong||Van Oyen, Mark P

publication date

  • January 2021