Making practice perfect in performing arts


Picture source:

A scheduling problem at The Juilliard School is solved with industrial and systems engineering

The world-renowned performing arts institution recently has pioneered a revolutionary real-time reservation system for the practice spaces that are used by its music students. With a 20-to-3 ratio of students to rooms, finding a practice room has been a challenging task. With this new system, students are now able to see which practice rooms are available and have the convenience of signing in to a room via a nearby kiosk.

To exacerbate the problem further, when students found a room, they often would place their belongings inside to occupy the room and then walk out for extended periods of time. This not only led to underutilization, it created opportunities for theft.

A reservation system would be the answer, but for Juilliard’s purposes, reservation system would not work for two reasons. First, there would be no guarantee that the students would show up for their reservations. And second, there would be no telling how long a student would utilize a room.

The Juilliard School needed to design a real-time reservation system from the ground up that would adapt to student behavior by giving them the opportunity to reserve a room for immediate use, allowing them to release the room when they were finished practicing.

A systems solution

Students now can scan their ID card at a kiosk to see a list of available rooms. Wireless locks on each room communicate with the reservation system in real time. Students can click on “i” to a see a picture of the interior of a room or click “Reserve.” Once reserve clicked, student has five minutes to scan her ID at the lock (only her ID will unlock the door), enter the room, close the door and press the “Occupancy Button.” This control limits the time a room is unoccupied if a student does not honor a reservation. It also prevents a student from outsmarting the system into thinking the room is occupied when it is vacant.

There is no time limit for how long students have the room or how many breaks they can take as long as they don’t leave the room vacant for longer than 15 minutes at a time. Whenever a student exits, an internal timer is triggered. After a 15-minute vacancy, student would be signed out involuntarily.

The system also communicates with students via text message upon reservation, when a student has been signed out involuntarily, and when a student has five minutes to return to a room, so  personal belongings are now protected.