Simple Route Planning vs. Schedule Optimization – Which is Right For Your Business?

Jul 20 • Features, Software and Apps, White Papers & eBooks • 795 Views • No Comments on Simple Route Planning vs. Schedule Optimization – Which is Right For Your Business?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Tom Devroy, Product Evangelist for IFS Service Management products outlines the various options available to field service organisations looking to improve their service management delivery…

Want to know more? Tom DeVroy has written a white paper on this project which is available exclusively to fieldservicenews.com subscribers.

The good news is that if you are a field service practitioner then you may well qualify for a complimentary industry practitioner.

The even better news is we will send you a copy of this white paper when you apply as a welcome!

Click here to apply for your complimentary industry subscription to fieldservicenews.com and access the white paper now!

Note: Please do take the time to our T&Cs (available in plain English at fieldservicenews.com/subscribe) and note that this content is sponsored by IFS)

When Winston Churchill said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail,” he wasn’t referring to field service businesses, but it still rings true. Field service organizations understand that efficient route planning is essential to being successful; smart routing is efficient and enables service technicians to become more productive by completing more jobs per day. However, they may be overlooking the added benefits of schedule optimization as an intrinsic part of the solution.

Any organization that needs to manage a mobile workforce—whether it’s for product delivery, service staff or service technicians—can benefit from planning software to simplify scheduling, manage workflows and improve the bottom line.

So what is it that businesses are trying to automate with scheduling and route planning? We ask this question frequently of field service organizations. There are a lot of products in the marketplace, and they all have a value proposition and price point, but each should also be expected to deliver a certain benefit for the cost.

The Essentials of Route Planning

Some businesses simply assign a certain number of jobs to a technician, usually based on geography, or customer visit frequency, and want software that will figure out a route for that technician to finish their assigned work.

This kind of routing software has been around for some time, and, in its simplest form, it’s something we all use frequently: it is navigation and turn-by-turn directions.

This kind of routing software has been around for some time, and, in its simplest form, it’s something we all use frequently: it is navigation and turn-by-turn directions.

This basic form of simple route planning is built into almost every smart phone that has a global positioning system (GPS)-based navigation system.

More advanced navigation systems can interact with real-time traffic services to suggest the shortest journey from a time or mileage perspective. This is straightforward technology and quite inexpensive, as it’s usually included in your phone plan.

Service organizations don’t really have to invest much to receive the benefit of this type of simple route planning. However, this solution leaves a lot of decisions in the hands of the technician. This self-planning, self-scheduling method is very inefficient: who they choose to visit first and last can have a huge impact on productive time, drive time, overtime, fuel consumption, service level agreement (SLA) compliance, and customer satisfaction.

Ultimately, this solution will fail when jobs and SLAs are missed, or workloads become inefficient.

Optmizing Resources

Where field service organizations start to see a real payback is when they begin using scheduling software that includes travel calculations as part of the schedule.

The jobs assigned to the technician represent the demand, and the scheduling software manages the labor supply. The scheduling software determines the order and the resource, and considers workload balance, while the route planning software can create the best way to get from one location to the next.

This is a more intelligent, more encompassing planning method that produces a more reliable, scheduled plan. It also takes the subjectivity out of the hands of the technician and puts it back in the hands of management, but it only addresses productivity and cost saving at a cursory level.

Some planning software will take into consideration multiple variables to determine an optimized route.

Some planning software will take into consideration multiple variables to determine an optimized route.

The trucking industry has used this kind of route planning software for some time. For instance, a trucker’s licensing and certifications could be considered for what type of equipment they can operate, how many hours they have driven on a given day, week, or month, and how much additional driving time they can be assigned. In this case, fuel consumption or total drive time can be factored into the optimum route as well. This can be fairly effective if the work that is planned throughout the day is static, or, in other words, is not subject to change.

Managing Complexity

In a service business, there can be a plethora of skill set considerations for each job. Perhaps a technician or subcontractor is not welcome at a particular customer site, or maybe the technician doesn’t have the right training on a given piece of equipment.

In simple terms, why send a journeyman to do the work of an apprentice? It is most advantageous for both the customer and the business to send the right resource for the job, based on all the available information at the time the job is assigned to the field, taking into consideration cost, location, capability, and customer expectations.

Many service businesses assign work based on a customer intimacy model; for instance, primary, secondary, tertiary technician (or subcontractor), but this model doesn’t always hold up. In other industries, particularly when the equipment is highly technical and often sold through distribution, the technician is the face of the company to the customer. Although this should be a consideration for who gets assigned to a job, it shouldn’t be the only one.

Dynamic Scheduling

The variability or dynamic nature of a service business manifests itself in other ways.

Besides calls sometimes taking longer than estimated, there are also unexpected traffic problems, emergency calls throughout the day, different prioritization of service work, other skills required to fix a given problem, customer commitments, unexpected fleet problems, and, finally, planned maintenance.

The variability or dynamic nature of a service business manifests itself in other ways.

Whether guaranteed through a contract or mandated as an engineering change order, planned maintenance should be considered so that engineers are fully utilized. All of these variables should be balanced against optimum schedule efficiencies, like reduced total travel time, maximum productivity, minimized fuel expense, and least-cost resource assignment.

Having scheduling software that intelligently factors in the best way to assess these variables in a dynamic fashion is a differentiator to efficient service labor management.

Conclusion

The most important part of selecting a successful field service solution for your needs is to plan with your businesses goals in mind.

As you start to create a vision of where you want your service business to be, think about the long-term impact of all of the technology on your business from an operations standpoint. Lay out an implementation plan that will fold that technology into the organization as you are ready to absorb it. This paper just focused on planning and scheduling but other variables in the areas of technical support, contract administration, product management, service logistics and reverse logistics are equally important.

As it relates to moving your field people against customer demands, perhaps a simple route planning tool is where you want to start, but there may be a better way to significantly change and improve your service delivery by implementing solutions that allow you to get where you want to be. And that planning strategy is your best plan for success.

Want to know more? Tom DeVroy has written a white paper on this project which is available exclusively to fieldservicenews.com subscribers.

The good news is that if you are a field service practitioner then you may well qualify for a complimentary industry practitioner.

The even better news is we will send you a copy of this white paper when you apply as a welcome!

Click here to apply for your complimentary industry subscription to fieldservicenews.com and access the white paper now!

Note: Please do take the time to our T&Cs (available in plain English at fieldservicenews.com/subscribe) and note that this content is sponsored by IFS)

Be social and share

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

« »