Optimised scheduling remains an absolutely crucial tool for many field service companies and one that could improve many other companies’ efficiency and productivity levels if they were to adopt such a system. On a recent Field Service News webinar based on this topic, Kris Oldland interviewed scheduling expert Daryl Dudey from IFS to find out more…
KO: What is a typical timeframe from modelling a scheduling solution through to actual implementation?
DD: There are several things that affect that.
Firstly how driven a company is but also how large the organisation is. If we are dealing with smaller teams we can roll out a bit quicker, so we could even be talking weeks moving from pilot to live, if we are talking about a larger organisation with a couple of thousand people out in the field generally speaking we’d like to take a little longer with that to make sure we are considering all the factors.
Really we try to go for a timescale of six months from start of project through to live, that’s the goal if possible. Also the nature of the business the more the senior management is driving the project the more likely it is we are going to get to live quicker, that’d very important.
A lot of the time these implementations can be viewed as IT projects but they’re not they’re business projects and businesses need to understand there is a lot of change involved in this, employees are involved, customers are involved and everybody really needs to be concentrating on it and focussing on it to get the result everybody wants.
KO: In your experience is it a case that those companies that have the full management buy in get more from these types of implementation?
DD: Absolutely. The ones that have that buy-in, that have that drive, they’re the ones that see the significant improvements to their business. They’re the ones that see the big numbers in improvement in terms of cost of travel and increasing jobs per day. They’re the ones that see the most success.
[quote float="left"]A lot of the time these implementations can be viewed as IT projects but they’re not they’re business projects and businesses need to understand there is a lot of change involvedAlso in a company that decides they’re not over ride the system manually they’re not diluting the benefits. By the management setting those sorts of rules down the project works just that much better. From experience I’ve also seen that those companies that drive an implementation better, those people out in the field and in the dispatch office end up liking the system more anyway. Because they get the benefits out of it that they were expecting.
KO: So as well as there being a need to be driven by the top level, is there also a strong case for involving the end users, the field engineers and dispatchers throughout the implementation process?
DD: Involving the technicians, their team leaders and the dispatchers is absolutely key. At the end of the day this could be seen as a bit of an invasive system, coming in and changing working practices and taking responsibilities away from people. So we need to manage it in the right way to keep those people on-board.
[quote float="right"]Involving the technicians, their team leaders and the dispatchers is absolutely key. At the end of the day this could be seen as a bit of an invasive system, coming in and changing working practices and taking responsibilities away from people.However, in the end people end up doing what they are better at. So with dispatchers for example, instead of having to decide which job to do in which order, they have more time to do what they are better at which is contact customers and dealing with the technicians and making sure everything is running smoothly.
It’s the same with the technicians. They are able to do what they are best at, which is being on-site, fixing equipment, interacting with customers etc. Basically not deciding which route is the optimum etc. So in my opinion, everyone benefits.
KO: What is the typical R.o.I following an implementation?
DD: It can vary but scheduling as a project is very much a return on investment project.
Most companies can expect to see five to fifteen per cent increase in productivity in SLA hit rates so that will hit the bottom line. Every organisation of course has different priorities so they tend to tune things in a different way.
Fuel savings are a particularly direct way of measuring cost savings. PHS in the UK for example made fuel savings of around 7 or 8% a year, which for them equates to around £2 million. So they made some significant savings – quite a lot more than they paid for the solution I might add, so the solution paid for itself pretty quickly.
We are currently running a free field service health check, which is a great way of getting a picture of this, and a great way of putting the business case together. We can take customer data if they are unsure and we can run that through and we can give you some predictive numbers which is a great way of seeing what that R.o.I specifically in line with your business.
KO: All too often we hear that service doesn’t perhaps get the voice it should in the boardroom, what do you recommend a service director should do when building the case for investment in a scheduling solution?
DD: To be honest the numbers make a pretty good case for themselves. Increasing jobs per day, reducing fuel costs etc there are all pretty big numbers and there aren’t many projects you can implement that are going to get you big savings like that.
But there are some more intangible benefits as well such as customer satisfaction. A lot of organisation using manual systems can end up sending the wrong technician out, or maybe a technician is missing parts and that just causes frustration at the customer end really.
[quote float="left"]There are some more intangible benefits as well such as customer satisfaction. A lot of organisation using manual systems can end up sending the wrong technician out, or maybe a technician is missing parts and that just causes frustration at the customer end really.So sending the right engineer, with the right skills and the right parts, in the agreed allotted time window is pretty important when it comes to customer satisfaction.
Also a possibility given the increased efficiency is maybe offering shorter time windows, which can be a big competitive benefit. If you customers are all offering AM or PM slots and you can offer one hour or two hour slots that’s another pretty compelling case for scheduling optimisation I think.
The reality is from my experience is that companies may have these SLAs in place but they may not necessarily be meeting them and it’s interesting that when we do the initial phase and we take some historical data we discover some often huge discrepancies between what a company thinks they are delivering and what they are actually doing.
The reason being is that when you are using a manual system or a semi-manual system then it’s pretty hard to consider all these variables.
You’ve got to consider where the technicians are, what jobs are nearby, what parts and skills are required on those jobs, when you need to get there etc. It’s just to much for a person to deal with in reality. So sometimes things slip.
Whereas in an organisation not only are they to hit the SLAs they’ve already guaranteed to their customers, they also have the opportunity to offer shorter SLAs. If your peers and competitors are using manual systems and offering a four hour delay you could offer a two SLA and they simply wouldn’t be able to achieve that.