Field service management

5 signs that you need to be optimizing scheduling for your mobile teams

Productivity of mobile teams is a key performance factor for your company, and like all companies with a business activity that requires complex scheduling for travelling resources visiting customers, the daily challenge is to juggle multiple constraints each day so as to:

  • guarantee best possible customer service in terms of the ability to offer, and deliver, visits within the shortest timescale, with every assurance of the company’s commitment to respecting scheduled appointments;
  • increase the number of interventions or visits fulfilled each day, without putting undue strain on mobile teams;
  • reduce the costs of routes travelled, to keep profitability at optimum levels…

Sounds good,but are you there yet? Whether it’s a matter of delivering and installing productsmaintenance visits, consultancy rounds to deliver expertise or equipment testing, or again sales rounds…. you just have that feeling that, as things stand, your efforts are not bringing expected rewards, and above all, that you could do a lot better.

Well you are right! Companies using an optimization solution for scheduling and routing report productivity gains ranging from 10-30%. If your company is showing signs of suffering from only 5 of the symptoms described below, it means you too could significantly benefit from increasing mobile productivity by deploying this type of solution.

Indicators that your schedules aren’t optimized (yet!)

1 – Your staff spend a huge amount of time organising their travel and to manage the sequence and chronology of their visits. Despite this, once out in the field, changes and unplanned events constantly wreak havoc on daily planners. The length of the average working day increases, but there are more ‘dead’ times and productivity is visibly affected…

2 ­– Visit times at customer premises are not respected. Routes undertaken do not correspond at all with the planned routes or rounds. There are lots of reasons for this: errors in calculating journey times or the length of time each intervention takes, customers being absent despite having said they would be present, appointments added into the round at the last minute… The result? Your teams regularly receive complaints once they arrive, and on your side, you receive and must manage feedback from dissatisfied customers.

3 – Routes are unbalanced: your staff produce schedules that are not filled in a balanced way, appointments might be badly distributed over the week, some days are over-filled and others are not full enough. Within your teams, these imbalances give rise to tensions, conflicts and dissatisfactions that translate into a rising turnover of staff.

4 – Travel costs are on the rise, but turnover has a habit of not following suit… Despite your calls to order and appeals for more rigorous management, the situation is not getting any better. You can see the problem, but find it difficult to identify and tackle the root causes because you don’t really have the means at your disposal to identify them with any certainty.

5 – Getting hold of the data you need is well-nigh impossible: you know you need information about journey times and appointment duration, about how effectively equipment and facilities are used, and about under-optimization of your schedules. These data exist, but they are scattered within various tools, calculated on different databases or according to different methods, and if you are the unlucky person on the receiving end of such diverse information, you have difficulty consolidating them into something that can be effectively analysed.

Beware: don’t put the cart before the horse!

The fact that your organisation is presenting with one or more of these symptoms does not mean that deploying a schedule management and optimization solution will provide an overnight cure. Identifying symptoms is no substitute for making an in-depth diagnosis of the problems: this is the first step needed to discover the scale of the problem, its causes, and moving towards acceptance that treatment is required….

It is highly likely that an optimization solution can help you overcome the difficulties you are experiencing in achieving targets set, and to fulfil your company objectives. But don’t lose sight that a project of this kind will inevitably pose challenges to your current structure and administration, as well as to the processes and habits ingrained in the culture of your organisation – despite their limiting influence and imperfections, remember they are accepted as tried and tested means to an end by the various players concerned.

Adopting a new tool and new working methods always raises legitimate concerns and endless questions:

  • Is this really the right time to be launching this project?
  • What will be the tangible benefits and how soon can we expect them to materialise?
  • Will these benefits be lasting?
  • Will change be easily accepted by technical and sales staff and by managers who have to implement the changes?
  • Will the solution bring about constraints for users?
  • Will customers be impacted in a positive way by the new way of operating?

There are many such questions to which a proper analysis that looks in-depth at needs and potential can provide precise answers.

In the forthcoming issues of this blog we will explain the actions that are needed if your project is to succeed. And don’t worry, we will be taking the time to explain, step by step, how to move forward ….