Scheduling software has long been a foundational technology for field service companies allowing them to meet customer demands.
Michael Blumberg, President of the Blumberg Advisory Group lifts the lid on all of the key aspects of this crucial tool…
If you have spent any time in Field Service, you probably understand the importance of managing service delivery functions against key performance indicators (KPIs). Among the most critical KPIs in the Field Service Leaders track are First Time Fix (FTF), Service Level Agreement (SLA) Compliance or Onsite Response Time (ORT), and Mean Time to Repair (MTTR). These KPIs measure the effectiveness of a Field Service Organization (FSOs) in delivering quality service in a timely manner.
The inability to meet KPI targets may result in exponential costs, customer attrition and loss of revenue; whereas the ability to exceed customer expectations can result in customer appreciation followed by an increase in profit margins and sales. To effectively schedule/dispatch the right technician to arrive on time with the right parts and skillset plays a significant role in meeting these outcomes. This is definitely not a small feat for your typical FSO.
Scheduling and dispatching Field Service Engineers (FSE) poses a challenge for most FSOs, particularly those with more than 5 FSEs. The reason behind this is there are many variables and factors involved.
An FSO with only one or two FSEs and a few customers may not perceive scheduling to be a major challenge. The volume of service requests may be relatively low while the options of who, when and where to send them may be rather limited. Scheduling becomes more of a challenge as the volume of service requests (i.e., customers) and the number of FSEs increases.
Adding to this complexity are the business objectives and/or constraints an FSO must optimize to meet its scheduling requirements.
With additional constraints or objectives, the more difficult it becomes to produce a solid schedule. For example, if the objective is to only meet a response time commitment to the customer, then the decision is easy – assign the FSE who can arrive in a timely manner at the customer’s site.
If FTF, MTTR, and/or SLA Compliance targets are also part of the equation, it becomes even more difficult to produce that solid schedule. Adding a profit margin objective, high call volumes, multiple geographies, and a sizable pool of FSEs, the decision becomes even more overwhelming.
The reason why scheduling is so excruciating of a task is that there are numerous factors that an FSO would need to create and evaluate to determine the optimal assignment for each FSE.
This is a time-consuming activity that requires an extensive amount of computational power to achieve. Many companies have suffered from a loss of time and resources in dealing with confusion and potential human error. The solution is Dynamic Scheduling Software.
Dynamic Scheduling Software provides FSOs with the feature-rich functionality that streamlines, automates, and optimizes scheduling decisions.
This technology ensures the FSO sends the assigned technician to the right job having the proper skill set and arriving on time. These applications typically leverage a scheduling engine that optimizes FSE job assignment. Scheduling engines vary in their complexity ranging from those based on business rules to Linear Programming (i.e. goodness of fit) techniques, Operations Research Algorithms (e.g., Quantum Annealing, Genetic Algorithms, etc.), or Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Self-Learning applications.
The complexity of the scheduling problem, number and types of resources involved, duration of tasks, and objectives to be optimized play a role in determining which scheduling engine is most functional.
Critical factors to consider may include whether the scheduling engine can handle:
- multi-day projects or short duration field service visits,
- people and assets (e.g., tools, parts, trucks, equipment) or solely people,
- the number and types of KPIs that are part of the objective, and
- route planning requirements.
In evaluating Dynamic Scheduling Software, FSOs are also advised to consider the following criteria:
- Cloud versus On-Premise Deployment Options
- Speed and Ease of Implementation
- Integration with Back-office Systems
- Availability of Real-time Visibility by the Customer
- FSO Requirements for Best of Breed or Integrated Enterprise Solution
- Total Cost of Ownership
- Return on Investment
- Vendor Industry Knowledge and Experience
There are over a dozen software vendors who offer some form of dynamic scheduling functionality for field service.
Obviously, no two Dynamic Scheduling applications are alike. Each one has their points of differentiation. The best solution is a function of the level of importance the FSO places on each criterion and how each vendor meets these criteria.
Regardless of which vendor is selected, the benefits of Dynamic Scheduling are clear.
In fact, industry benchmarks show that companies who implement these types of solutions can achieve a 20% to 25% improvement in operating efficiency, field service productivity, and utilization. The impact on bottom line profitability and customer satisfaction is substantial. To enable FSOs to provide customers with an Uber-like experience and significant profitability, FSOs should consider deploying Dynamic Scheduling Software as part of their service delivery infrastructure.
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