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Stop that morning field service schedule blow up

May 22 • Features, Software and Apps • 2843 Views • No Comments on Stop that morning field service schedule blow up

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IFS’s Tom Bowe takes a look at the feeling we’ve all had before where the day is spinning out of control and helps identify how we can stop it with field service technologies… 

You know what I mean. It’s 8 a.m. Two field techs have called in sick, three started late and four more are in training, your dispatchers are already biting their nails, and the schedule is looking more like scrambled eggs and less like the beautifully organised chart that 30 minutes ago was going to hit 100% of your SLAs.

Perhaps you have a legacy system that just can’t keep up with demand. Perhaps you use a ‘temporary’ Band-Aid application, or a hodge-podge of Excel and other manual systems. Whatever your predicament, there is a better way.

You’ve heard it before – the right technician, at the right place and right time, with the right tools. Right? This marketing buzz only means so much. What does an optimised schedule truly mean for your business?

You’ve heard it before – the right technician, at the right place and right time, with the right tools. Right? This marketing buzz only means so much. What does an optimised schedule truly mean for your business?

For one, it means the situation I described above can be addressed without daily fire-fighting and crisis management. A schedule that continually and automatically re-optimises in real-time based on changes (expected and unexpected) that happen throughout the day, eliminates human error, frazzled dispatchers, missed SLA’s and so much more. Let’s take a deeper look.

The end game is to deliver the best service possible balanced between lowest cost and highest profit. Pretty simple, right? No, actually that is kind of hard. There is a cost and usually a revenue side of every factor that drives your service business. If you had unlimited resources you could probably keep all your customers happy all the time, right?

If you had engineers within a few minutes’ drive of all of your customers and they all had every part that could ever be used to service the equipment they repair, you could literally achieve the ultimate goal of 100% satisfaction because these techs would be there when equipment fails, and they would always have the right part. But that’s fantasyland, not to mention super-expensive.

What you need is an intelligent system to consider all the dimensions and constraints of your service operations and evaluate them in real-time to make sure you are making the best decision to achieve target service levels.

In other words achieving a level of customer satisfaction where customers return for additional product and service purchases, while you deliver that service at the highest profit and lowest cost possible. So what kinds of dimensions and constraints are we referring to?

The dimensions of field service scheduling usually include geography, capacity, traffic, work to be performed, rules about the work to be performed, parts, people and time. These constraints, and many more, each have an impact on your operating margin.   Let’s look at some examples.

The dimensions of field service scheduling usually include geography, capacity, traffic, work to be performed, rules about the work to be performed, parts, people and time. These constraints, and many more, each have an impact on your operating margin.

Capacity is the number of resources available to handle the workload. This can include employees, contractors or service partners and needs to address emergency jobs, appointments, installations, repairs and PM work. Capacity costs money so shift rosters are carefully planned to provide adequate coverage. But parts come into play because they need to match up with the assigned resource. And so does travel times, traffic and proficiency.

The work itself is defined when the job is created. It could be an urgent job that requires immediate attention, or a lower priority PM service inserted into the schedule at the last possible moment given their proximity and availability.

Maybe a technician arrived on site and could not get access to the equipment, or the repair took half the time expected. Why not recognise that you now have additional capacity and dynamically adjust the schedule to increase productivity? Perhaps you can do one more job today or you can arrive 10 minutes early to the next one, but maybe there is a penalty clause. These are all factors in making the best decision.

Rules usually define who can do a given job. Do they have the skills, certifications or even travel visas. Are they qualified, available and how much do they cost? Are they close enough, can they get the parts needed, or is someone else closer and equally qualified?

All of these decisions are balanced against time. For instance, knowing where each resource is currently located, who is on time vs. running late, how far do they have to travel to their next job, and if that made sense at 8am in the morning, does the same set of circumstances apply at 9:05am? The same can be said about the value of each service call to your business.

The customer’s happiness is not static. There is a time period within which your response is adequate and after that satisfaction dwindles or costs rise depending on the SLA. And 1 hour appointment windows are better than 2, 3 or 4 hours. Even better if you tell the customer the tech’s estimated time of arrival (ETA).

Today, the best enterprise service management software solutions take all of these factors, and more, into consideration when providing an optimised end-to-end service delivery schedule. Optimised scheduling, as part of an intelligent mobile workforce management solution, means complete field visibility, on-time every time, anywhere.

It means less human error and better efficiency. It gives you back the control you might think you’ve lost…so you can get that cup of coffee at 8:15am instead of having to manage another blow-up crisis.

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