Field service raises several daunting challenges, but a good field service management software helps overcome such challenges with ease. Automated scheduling is a critical component of any good field management suite.
Automated scheduling is the use of technology to realize strategies and action sequences. It co-opts dynamic programming, reinforcement learning, and other disciplines, to automate critical processes and tasks in the most efficient way.
Here are ten ways, detailing how automated scheduling makes a difference compared to conventional scheduling and processes.
Manual scheduling is always prone to errors. Slip-ups such as a technician scheduled for a job on his leave day, a novice technician assigned to a complex job requiring advanced expertise, and more, are commonplace. Many field service jobs are often highly complex and require specific skills.
Automatic scheduling uses smart algorithms to assign the right technician to the right job. The system considers factors such as technician competencies, leaves, off-days, job priority, customer preferences, and every other relevant variable, to allocate tasks without slip-ups.
Automated scheduling not only improves accuracy, but also completes scheduling in a fraction of a second, sparing the manager’s valuable time and effort. The one-time investment in technology pays for itself many times over the life-cycle of the suite.
Scheduling is a never-ending job, with the manager forced to make changes frequently to accommodate the ever-changing situation. Automatic scheduling makes such changes pronto, adjusting all dependent variables automatically at the touch of a button. Prompt notifications and follow-ups keep all stakeholders informed throughout and in the loop.
Today’s enterprises have complex workflows, with each item in the workflow having several dependencies. Changes or interventions on any one item may cause a chain reaction of disruptions. A field service suite with automated scheduling factors in all variables and linkages related to the item or machinery, and make the right interventions.
For instance, the system automatically notifies of any downstream or upstream impact when maintenance is scheduled on any node, and provisions for maintenance of all related assets.
Scheduling one level of tasks is arduous enough. Enterprises with large-scale operations, spread over different geographies, and or handling more than one type of field service have their scheduling problems compounded.
Automated scheduling is the only viable solution for such firms. The scheduling algorithms take into account service regions, worker skills and location, to draw up a comprehensive scheduling plan at various panes.
Contingencies and emergency works are part and parcel of field management. An HVAC unit can conk out suddenly, necessitating instant repairs, whereas the sales team may bag a rush order to be fulfilled within the hour, and more.
Most field service operations are a mix of planned and emergency works, with the latter mostly disrupting already scheduled tasks. An automated system categorizes schedules into planned or emergency and determines the level of priority for each task.
For emergency jobs, the system locates the nearest technician and prompts him to reach the site in the quickest time, guiding him all along through the most optimal route.
The hallmark of a successful enterprise is transparency and visibility. Field service firms achieve resource optimization and effective service delivery by bringing total visibility into the activities of field service technicians.
Automatic scheduling enables real-time tracking through GPS, with the location and position of each team identified on a map, which is easily accessible through a smartphone app. Likewise, the system updates the status of each task or work progress, in real-time. Thus, managers gain visibility of assets, to assign jobs for technicians optimally.
With automated scheduling, the system schedule technicians for specific jobs, record the time worked, calculate different rates for different technicians on the same job, and takes care of other parameters, down to an individual technician or client level.
Often, on-the-spot exigencies and ad-hoc arrangements cause a big mismatch between the planned or scheduled tasks and the actual tasks performed. Automated scheduling captures an accurate log of the exact happenings, allowing for easy tracking.
Managers have the option to generate reports comparing the schedule with actuals, tracking discrepancies or deviations easily. The system can even throw up reasons for the deviations.
An automated system offers real-time alerts, push notifications, and emails, notifying managers and other stakeholders on the status of the task, ETA of the technician, and other crucial information. The stakeholders may also access the required information or insights via custom-generated reports.
The updates offered by automated scheduling spares the workforce of routine tasks, thereby aiding in their productivity. For instance, managers no longer have to check if a job is finished as the system offers live status updates through their smartphone. Likewise, the field technician may make use of precise and comprehensive information on offer to visit the site armed with the right tools and spares.
With automated updates, field service and maintenance tasks proceed on auto-pilot, and supervisory interventions become the exception rather than the norm. A field management suite equipped with the latest emerging technologies such as Augmented Reality can gather real-time updates on the machine being serviced as well as connect with a remote expert supervisor and get valuable insights to perform the task most easily, and quickly.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) and other regulatory requirements in the US and elsewhere raise the stakes of regulatory compliance. Automated audits make it easier to ensure regulatory compliance across all levels.
Automatic updates leave a trail on the sequence of events, the timeline of jobs done, and other vital details, which may become critical down the lane to ensure process integrity.
Notwithstanding the many benefits of automated scheduling, many field service enterprises still rely on paper-based processes, wasting a huge amount of time and resources, and for-going significant opportunity cost. It pays to partner with a provider who has experience in hand-holding companies to take the automated software route and reap rich dividends.
Sachin works as a part of the digital marketing team at ReachOut Suite. He believes in a healthy and resourceful web and does his own little contributions for the purpose by creating and disseminating innovative and quality content.
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