Implementation of Disney’s Operations Command Center to Optimize Queue Times

The impetus was a letter that landed on Joni Newkirk’s desk, then SVP of Business Insight and Improvement for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Sent down the chain from our Chairman’s office, the letter writer was complaining about wait time, but not in the traditional sense. The guest was frustrated that posted wait times were inconsistent. In some cases, the posted wait time was much shorter than the actual wait and the guest and their party grew impatient as would be expected. In other instances, the posted wait time was much longer than the actual wait causing some of their party to forgo the ride, only to discover later that the wait wasn’t bad at all. Over the course of the day, the guest would be bewildered regarding what to expect and posted waits inconsistent with actual waits were a dis-satisfier.

To address inconsistencies and also better leverage resources, the Disney Operations Command Center was formed, led by the Industrial Engineering team within the Business Insight and Improvement division. The theory was that Improving the guest experience by tightening up operations and better managing guest flow would be a win win for both guests and Disney . This effort was a prelude to much of the information now collected through Magic Bands, but prior to the property-wide installation of RFID to enable such an effort.

What started as a manual effort quickly became a technology enabled command center, manned to lend another set of eyes and ears to the front line operations team. Through various technology solutions, the command center could spot potential issues before gridlock occurred. Ongoing monitoring and implementation of countermeasures enabled the Industrial Engineering team to identify enough throughput efficiency to improve average rides per visitor, and save from having to immediately invest in another multi-million dollar ride to increase capacity. The effort was so successful that it caught the attention of a NY Times reporter with an article published in December, 2010.

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