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Tool Billing Policy

This text is copied from an email sent by Brian VanDerElzen to the LNF user community on May 2, 2011


At the beginning of April 2011, the LNF implemented a new billing policy. The reasoning behind this change was to improve the performance of the lab. The previous system was resulting in a great deal of idle time on high demand tooling. This created bottlenecks in the cleanroom that were hindering research and choking off the labs ability to generate adequate revenue. The system, at best, did not encourage conscientious behavior. In many circumstances, customers willing to engage in questionable scheduling practices were able to benefit at the expense of others.

The lab revenue equation must balance. By college mandate, our income must equal our expenses. Facing a significant revenue shortfall for this fiscal year, we were faced with the option of raising prices or making policy changes that increased actual usage and tool availability for our customers. We chose the latter. The objective of the new policy is to distribute the costs of operating the lab in a manner that reflects, as closely as possible, the burden of the work being done to the lab and fellow lab users. In so doing, this should encourage good planning and conscientious scheduling.

We are at the end of the first month of this new billing policy. I am writing to review the effects of this policy and clarify questions that have been asked. Over this first month it is clear that a noteworthy change in scheduling habits has occurred. Hardware that was previously filled 5 to 7 days in advance is now generally available within 24 hours. In March, the aggregate cancellation rate was 21% with some high use tools at around 50%. In April, the aggregate cancellation rate is negligible with high use tooling being less than 10%. These numbers indicate that most customers are paying within a few percent of what they were before while seeing much improved access to hardware and scheduling flexibility.

The system is not perfect yet, but I believe that it is a step in the right direction. If you have ideas on how to make it better, please let us know. If you have additional questions, please send them to me. I will add them to the FAQs and get this posted on our web-site.

The Policy

A 10% booking fee is charged upon reservation of a tool. This booking fee is nonrefundable, but will be held as a deposit and apply to the cost of the reservation if it is used. This replaces the previous $0.50 booking fee that was also nonrefundable, but did not apply to the cost of usage. The intention of this booking fee is to recognize that booked time slots represent an inconvenience to other customers that they must plan around. It should create an impediment to making advanced reservations unless the likelihood of using it is high.

Any reservation not cancelled at least two hours in advance will be charged in its entirety unless it is used by another customer. Actual usage always trumps any reserved time that it overlays for billing purposes. Reservations cancelled more than two hours in advance will incur no charges other than the 10% booking fee.

You may now cancel or modify your reservation up until the start time. You will still be responsible for the associated fees if cancellation or changes are made within two hours of the start time. However, cancelling or modifying to a shorter duration will allow other customers access to the time. If another customer uses the time, you will no longer be responsible for the associated charges.


What if I make a reservation and cancel it a few minutes later? Will I still be charged the booking fee? Currently the answer is yes. However, we are considering alternatives. There seems no reason to penalize scheduling mistakes that are quickly corrected. Also, the inconvenience burden of a booking is related to how far in advance it is made and its duration if cancelled early. An optimal system would recognize this, but is more difficult to implement. We are reviewing options on this and may adjust if a reasonable technical solution is available.

What if I start early and end early? If you start early, this additional time will be added to your reservation. You will be charged until the end of your reservation, even if you finish early, unless another customer uses the remainder of your time.

What if I am unable to use my booked time on one tool due to failure of a previous tool? If you e-mail tool engineers, your charges will be forgiven for all downstream reservations within two hours of the failure.

What if the previous user overlaps my time slot? Provided their slot has not ended, they will get billed for any time overrun. This will override your financial responsibility for this time. If the previous user is still using the tool, but has ended their reservation or you have started yours, communicate the details to ‘Tool Engineers’ through the scheduler and adjustments will be made. If the previous user overruns enough to prevent you from using your time, the cost burden of your time slot will be shifted to that user. Again, you must communicate this to ‘Tool Engineers’ to have the charges manually adjusted.

What if I modify my reservation? Any new time encumbered by the changed reservation is treated as a new reservation. Any time vacated is treated as cancelled. If you have a two hour reservation and you modify it to shift 30 minutes later a 10% booking fee will apply to the new 30 minutes. If the modification is made within two hours of the original start time, you are still responsible for the fees on the first 30 minutes unless another customer uses that time period.