When Does Forced Idle Time Improve Performance in Polling Models?

Sarkar and Zangwill (1991) showed by numerical examples that reduction in setup times can, surprisingly, actually increase work in process in some cyclic production systems (that is, reduction in switchover times can increase waiting times in some polling models). We present, for polling models with exhaustive and gated service disciplines, some explicit formulas that provide additional insight and characterization of this anomaly. More specifically, we show that, for both of these models, there exist simple formulas that define for each queue a critical value z* of the mean total setup time z per cycle such that, if z < z*, then the expected waiting time at that queue will be minimized if the server is forced to idle for a constant length of time z* - z every cycle; also, for the symmetric polling model, we give a simple explicit formula for the expected waiting time.