Tuesday, 11 January 2011

O.R. at the blood donor session

When I taught queue models in O.R. at the university I encouraged students to give blood at the regular donor sessions held on campus. It was a good example of queues in series -- arrive -- register -- health check -- give blood -- refreshments, and I urged the students to observe and consider how the system could be improved.

Yesterday when I gave blood, I arrived before the system had reached a steady state and there was little delay. Wonderful! As I lay on the couch, it was possible to watch the donor next to me and the machinery used to shake the blood. The plastic bags holding the donated blood rested on a tray which was programmed to rock. What was odd was that the rocking was intermittent. Up, down, up, down, pause. Repeat. Someone had designed it so that it rocked twice and then paused. Why? Was this an optimal way of rocking the blood? Someone had designed the mechanism, and that design had involved finding a numerical solution to "Rock N times, at rate R per minute, pause S seconds"

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