What is Workforce Optimization? A ServicePower White Paper
What is Workforce Optimization? High-level field service processes are the same the world over. A customer will make a request for service and, where appropriate, the service organization will identify and attempt to resolve the problem. If it cannot be resolved remotely, an arrangement will be made for a field service engineer (FSE) to visit the customer, and service the request. Under the broad heading of customer relationship management (CRM), decision support and information systems have been added throughout the process, to increase the level of automation in the service operation. In particular these IT systems have focused on managing the “work” of the service operation, for example call handling and field service management systems. ServicePower was formed to deliver the next, and most significant, opportunity in the progression of service automation. This applies state-of-the-art IT to optimize utilization of “service workers”, achieved by addressing two key components of the service process that have, until now, been lacking any significant IT support. ♦ The ability to automate the real-time process from the point that the need for an on-site service visit is established, through to successful service delivery—with full visibility being granted at each stage of the process. ♦ The ability to optimize the way work gets serviced—in the most effective and efficient manner for the service operation. A large field service force is the primary cost in a service organization, yet it is only relatively recently that IT tools have been available to maximize the productivity of this part of the organization. The SERVICEPower product set addresses both these key requirements. Revised 04/29/03
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The traditional model relies on incoming service requests from a customer being registered in the service management system (SMS) / CRM system. Crude capacity models were used to assess availability of service engineers, or crude patch planning was implemented to assign work to the most local engineers, often irrespective of how much other work they had. In addition, there was often no visibility in the SMS, or call center, of when the job might be done. Any feedback occurred not in real-time, but often as a part of an end-of-day or endof-week administration exercise. So, how does SERVICEPower workforce optimization impact the service process and delivery? At the heart of the system is the worldâ€™s most sophisticated and powerful realtime scheduling engine. This engine is comprised of two schedulers that work together in phases to create and maintain an optimal schedule. In fact the schedulers simultaneously consider real-time resource availability, all work to be completed and any constraints. Constraints include all of the factors that the service operation needs to consider in order to build an optimal schedule (e.g. the priority of the job, the time a skilled engineer will need to complete the drive from their present location to the next job, â€œtime to fixâ€? goals, parts requirements, etc.)
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The schedulers are designed to handle any mix of planned activity and re-active work. For example the service organization can offer its customers a range of appointment offers (all-day, AM/PM, or time-banded slots) or service level agreements (SLAs). The real-time nature of the technology is critical to most service organization’s needs. For example, if 2% of field engineers call in sick on a given day the scheduler is able to re-optimize on the fly and build the best work schedule that can be accomplished given fewer available resources. In this type of environment there is no time to rebuild the entire schedule from scratch, as most batch scheduling processes will do. It is imperative that this ongoing optimization can happen without affecting current activity within the service operation. Unlike competitive scheduling systems, SERVICEPower uses artificial intelligence (AI) techniques at the core of its schedulers. The advantage to service organizations is that SERVICEPower is able to simulate the flexibility of a human mind focused on making difficult scheduling decisions—and is able to cope with the conflicting priorities that often appear in field service. The quality of schedules produced by SERVICEPower, and the very high levels of automation achieved, deliver significant direct business benefits: ♦ Field service engineer productivity up by 10% or more ♦ Travel time and costs reduced ♦ Reduced overtime ♦ Administration time reduced
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In addition to the direct benefits of improved efficiency in the field and dispatch operations, SERVICEPower has a major, positive impact on customer service and management control and visibility. General Electric Consumer Products (GECP), a ServicePower customer, is currently benefiting from workforce optimization by streamlining their business processes. Improving communications between the customer service center and the field, reducing the number of call centers, and reducing the dispatcher to field engineer ratio, has enabled GECP to “break through the glass ceiling” of customer service by offering consumers more choice over appointment times and increasing the rate of on-time service. In terms of management control and visibility, the introduction of SERVICEPower has significantly impacted the ability of managers at GECP to access and review their service operations in real-time. By providing a “management dashboard”, managers can instantly understand key aspects of their operations, such as capacity management, and distribution of work and engineers across their territory. Use of the best available scheduling tool is critical to the success of a service organization. However it is not always sufficient. For the scheduling tool to deliver maximum value the service organization must operate in an optimal way. And that is where SERVICEPlanner comes in. SERVICEPlanner is a web based, graphical information system (GIS) tool, designed to help service managers set up their field resource in an optimal way. Knowing how many field resources to have is only one part of the story, knowing where to put them is equally important and SERVICEPlanner helps service managers deal with both issues.
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Customer and job density is displayed graphically, and used to ensure that the service operation is organized to reflect the typical density of work, by work type. SERVICEPlanner also displays the geographic coverage of individual engineers, a team of engineers or even an entire field service unit. This tool highlights areas of poor resource coverage, as well as areas where the availability is likely to exceed demand. Coupled with the SERVICEPower capability to consider each engineerâ€™s local geographical knowledge when building a schedule, SERVICEPlanner gives service operations the ability to eradicate boundary conditions between field service districts. These boundary conditions can often have a significant, negative impact on field engineer productivity.
SERVICEManager is another web-based tool for administering the data used by the SERVICEPower schedulers and system. Of most importance is the information regarding the availability and capability of the engineers. SERVICEManager allows a user to define and manage the key attributes of a field service engineer â™Ś When they are available for work Revised 04/29/03
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♦ What work they can do ♦ Their known productivity (efficiency) ♦ Where they can work, or where you want them to work ♦ Which team / scheduling unit they work for When used in conjunction with SERVICEPlanner, SERVICEManager completes the required tools to ensure that your service operation is set up to maximize the considerable benefits which can be achieved through SERVICEPower automatic scheduling and optimization. However, we are all aware that no service operation runs as smoothly as we might hope. There is always the VIP customer who demands an immediate response. There are always one, two, or twenty field service engineers who don’t make it into work through sickness, family/personal problems or vehicle breakdowns/accidents. Not to mention the odd exceptional job that massively overruns, or requires additional engineers to resolve. All these exceptions to the process demand a high quality tool, which allows the right level of manual override to the automatic scheduling. SERVICEGantt provides this tool set via a highly graphical user interface supported by a wide range of functionality. Jobs may be manually scheduled, moved or removed from the schedule. The number of FSEs may be increased or decreased to respond to service capacity requirements on demand. Automatic schedules may be requested, and a set of decision support tools help identify the best FSEs to undertake any service request.
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Of course the SERVICEGantt also provides the necessary visibility and control to allow you to see where every job is scheduled, and to whom. It also provides a visual display of any job that may be a problem. For example, a missed SLA, a job overrunning, an appointment slot missed, or a job that exceeds allowed overtime are all reported to the user who can take, or initiate, the appropriate remedial action.
The key to any fully automated service process is the communication between the various steps in the process. None is more important to the service process than the way in which schedules are communicated to the service force, and the way (and timing of) information is returned from the field. The more real-time the communication, the greater the flexibility, the better informed everyone involved in the process is, and the greater the return from the many benefits on offer.
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Traditionally, work has been dispatched to field resources via one-way mechanisms such as fax, pagers, one-way email, or via time-consuming methods such as voice traffic over telephone. Wireless technology has now evolved to the point where dispatch and job status reports can be communicated in a two-way fashion with increased cost efficiency and reliability to allow for the fully mobile worker. SERVICEMobility provides the missing link between the highly efficient schedules developed and maintained by SERVICEPower, and the field service engineers themselves. Out-of-the-box, it provides an entry-level solution that communicates the basic information about jobs to field engineers, and allows them to return status updates (progress reports) on each job in real-time. These status changes and times are automatically reflected in the SERVICEPower schedules and where possible, SERVICEPower itself will take any remedial action necessary to maintain the quality of the schedule. However, ServicePower is fully aware that most organizations require a communications solution that is customized to their service business, and their own service processes and practices. As a result, SERVICEMobility has been specifically designed and developed with our partners who are able to perform the additional customization and integration necessary to complete the full solution that is typically requested. This approach is ideal. Firstly, it enables each organization to have the customized solution they requireâ€”such as the ability to send out specific work instructions, safety notices, and other useful information to the engineerâ€”but from a common base. Secondly, the out-of-the box solution provides a sensible introduction to a fully mobile solution without the need to design and develop a full solution up front, often before the full requirements are clearly understood.
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So, at this stage SERVICEPower has supported a fully automated process from service request through to service delivery. This level of automation is capable of—and proven to—deliver millions of dollars of direct savings to a service business. Put another way it allows the business to generate incremental service revenue without increasing the workforce. The final part of the SERVICEPower portfolio that allows the process to be well managed, is SERVICEAnalytics. This is a management reporting tool set that enables business management to analyze their service performance in real-time. Web access allows a manager to see how well the day is progressing, how well the future days planned work is being managed, and where and when they are likely to be short of resources. Further drill down enables comparisons between individual engineer performance for either identification of training and skills needs, or disciplinary action. In summary, the SERVICEPower tool set delivers full workforce optimization and underpins the automation and optimization of the full service process. ServicePower, the company, was formed in 1996 to specifically address the optimization of field service resources. Its core scheduling technology has scheduled the workload for tens of thousands of field resources around the world. ServicePower has a proven implementation process and methodology that is wholly focused on working with it’s customers to establish a process, systems, and operating environment that delivers the key benefits an organization is looking to achieve. These vary from the more generic: ♦ Improve customer service ♦ Improve service response times ♦ Improve visibility and control Revised 04/29/03
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♦ Reduce overheads in the service process ♦ Improve field service productivity Through to more specific objectives such as: ♦ Reduce overtime ♦ Improve conformance to SLAs for priority customers. ServicePower has the people, expertise and experience to significantly enhance your service business.
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