No executive in today’s field service landscape could deny the constant pressure to increase operational efficiency. This pressure makes them look for underperforming resources from time to time to replace them with more efficient alternatives.
One of the key places to look at in field service operations is scheduling and dispatch processes. As these processes serve as the first point of interaction between fieldforce and back-office teams, an analysis of how resources are allocated could be useful in identifying the gaps in service delivery process and determining the right measures to increase individual output and save time and money.
For instance, if you have to schedule 35 technicians for 80 jobs in a day, you need to consider a range of variables such as:
- Technicians availability
- Skills and past experience of techs
- Distance from the job site
- Customer availability
- Routing to optimize travel time and cost
How accurately you consider all these variables during field service technician scheduling determines the scheduling effectiveness, which impacts utilization of resources, first-time fix rate, and cost of operations. Lack of visibility into these variables at the time of scheduling could cause conflicts leading to reduced productivity and efficiency and increased frustrations in team and customers.
Here take a detailed view of scheduling and dispatch challenges faced by the field service organizations and the measures they take to overcome them.
Effective scheduling and field service dispatch goes beyond simple mix and match. Complex nature of the task and ensuring the availability of the most suitable technician and appropriate tools and spares for the job make the whole process time-consuming and error-prone, especially when done manually.
According to Alberto Rodriguez, Director of operations at ESCFederal with over 20 years of experience in operations management– manual scheduling is the option when you are receiving only 3-4 calls a day, but when you are running big operations, you need digital tools to maximize operational efficiency. In a discussion with FieldCircle, he said that for managing operations with “multiple service calls, you need a software that will help you schedule those calls to make sure the efficiency of your operation is maximized.”
Depending on the size of operations, scheduling challenges can be addressed using:
- A simple calendar-based scheduling
- A more sophisticated dispatcher that runs various algorithms in the background and does matching on multiple criteria
While the calendar-based scheduling system works best for simpler operations with fewer jobs per day, it is not effective when jobs are complex in nature or the number of jobs to be assigned are high.
Auto schedulers are more useful for complex scheduling needs. Usually it comes with a rich set of functions that simplifies the management and planning of tasks, ensuring most routine scheduling occurs with least manual interventions.
How Can Auto-Schedulers Help?
Auto-schedulers enable field service managers to plan, manage, schedule, and dispatch field service technicians with greater accuracy while consuming less time. Most times, such schedulers are integrated with AI and location-intelligence technologies to run technician-job-location matches on criteria such as skill, availability, historical performance, customer grading, distance, and time. You can use auto-schedulers to:
Schedule jobs based on events
The most basic function of an auto-scheduler is to enable you to schedule jobs based on current events and time. You can create and schedule new jobs to be performed at a specific time and at a specific location. The scheduler would run algorithms to find out the best technician available for the job that would reduce completion time and enhance first-time fix rate. As you assign the job, it would be reflected in their calendar with all the relevant details.
Schedule recurring jobs
You could set your preferences for the recurring jobs or preventive maintenance in the system that must be completed at a particular date and time. Set it for once and forget about it! The job will be reflected in the technician’s calendar on that specific time and date and the technician will be shown occupied for that timeframe to prevent double-booking.
Track and monitor jobs
Most often smart schedulers are integrated with GPS and other location intelligence technologies. They enable you to check the availability of the nearest technician with relevant skills and plan routes to minimize pilferages and increase response time. You could track and monitor routes, arrival/departure time gap, off-loading time, visit-in and visit-out time of technician in the location, and current status of the completed job.
Auto-scheduling brings the much-needed accuracy and transparency in the scheduling and dispatch processes to ensure optimal utilization of field resources. With effective scheduling, you could reduce travel time and associated costs, improve on turnaround time, and accelerate your journey to achieve operational effectiveness.
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