Most team leaders know that to succeed in their field service scheduling efforts they need to make balanced decisions based on jobs and skills. The blend of “on-field experience” and a “know-how of using the right tools” makes a winning job scheduling strategy. Yet, most operations either rely on manual methods or have blind trust in their Field Service Management (FSM) Software.
In this article, you’ll see how the introduction of automated FSM tools can help overcome the common challenges faced by most team leaders when performing their scheduling tasks.
The Importance of Automated Scheduling
Field service scheduling tools are a key feature of any FSM Software product. They give field managers the ability to automate scheduling tasks and improve the overall management of their workforce. A more precise governing of the scheduling process ensures that field workers are planned for and dispatched as efficiently as possible.
With the introduction of automated tools, field service operations can thrive. They allow you to:
- Increase the number of bookings
- Improve the customer experience
- Quickly adjust job schedules on the go
- Route technicians to the nearest job
Without access to a field service scheduling system, the routine procedure is to plan jobs manually via whiteboards, spreadsheets, or paper-based rotas. However, having a manual approach to scheduling tasks can pose various challenges.
Automating the scheduling process helps to reduce risks that impact the delivery of service to clients. It also provides several benefits, including:
Connecting Jobs with the Right Technicians
The success of a job is typically measured by completion time and customer satisfaction metrics. As well as first-time fix rate (FTFR). Best performing field service providers boast an average FTFR of 88%. To achieve a good FTFR, field service managers must ensure the best technician is dispatched to the right job.
A field service scheduling system collects data regarding a technician’s skill set and job history. As well as considering schedules, workload, and location. This helps to automate the process of assigning and dispatching the most qualified workers. As well as providing back-office staff with the data to manually assign the most suited workers.
Timely Ordering and Availability of Parts
When the scheduling process becomes automated, there are multiple factors to be considered. One key consideration is the availability of inventory. Such as equipment and tools needed to complete a job. As well as having the right parts available to complete repairs, installations, and services. This helps to avoid delays to jobs and increases the likelihood of a first-time fix.
Luckily, most software works in sync with inventory management tools. So, when a job is requested, the inventory needed to complete that job is identified. This is then checked against the availability of inventory.
Alternatively, this can also speed up an operation’s assignment and dispatch processes. If a technician has the right tools needed for a job, they will automatically be scheduled.
Improving Worker Dispatch Times
Field service scheduling tools provide managers with different ways to schedule their workers. One of which is complete automation. This works by giving a system control to automatically assign incoming requests. Meaning, that as soon a client request is raised, it is assigned to a worker.
A scheduling system will consider various data sets, which help schedule qualified service technicians who’re nearest to a customer’s location. This mode of automation helps to optimise a business’s scheduling tasks. Leading to improved time efficiency, better productivity, and a higher job completion rate.
2 Main Challenges of Manual Scheduling
1. Collecting Trustworthy Data
Collecting, analysing, and actioning data regarding field service scheduling is an effective way to constantly improve your scheduling tasks. This is achieved with tools used to collect information in real-time. Including the location of workers, their availability, and what inventory is ready to use.
Whether you’re using spreadsheets or Field Service Software, the challenges around trusting data exist. In 2018, 52% of businesses were using manual methods for their field service processes.
Whilst spreadsheets are easy to use, they have an inherent challenge as they were not made for scheduling jobs. Hence data collected in a spreadsheet is heavily dependent on the person who is entering the data. If the person changes or if you change the way you schedule jobs, the use of spreadsheets as a trustworthy source of data can be a limiting factor.
With job scheduling software, data input can be automated to some degree. Yet it constantly reviews whether the scheduling software addresses your requirements, which is typically a limiting factor.
2. Balancing Data Entry and Automatic Data Collection
When it comes to field service scheduling, speed and accuracy are scheduling managers’ key goals. Achieving these KPIs comes from balancing how data around job logging, job assignment, job initialisation, and job completion are captured. The very best field service managers take the right calls in setting up systems where job scheduling data collection is consistently reviewed.
8 Areas That Benefit From Automated Job Scheduling
Most contemporary field service management tools will improve your scheduling by offering speed, automation, and actionable data around these 8 areas:
1. GPS and Route Optimisation
GPS trackers are used for identifying the location of your mobile workforce. Knowing a worker’s location is essential for assigning jobs and optimising driving routes to reduce the cost of travel. Helping to reduce travel time between jobs and customers. Something that equates to 50% of lost servicing hours.
2. Inventory Management
Real-time stock management is key to ensuring jobs are completed without delays. Inventory management plays an important role in field service scheduling. It displays the equipment, tools, and spare parts available either with technicians or in a warehouse. Meaning jobs can be planned for and workers can be scheduled with inventory in mind. Alerts and notifications can also be set up to alert inventory managers when stock availability is low and replacements need purchasing.
3. Centralised Field Service and Asset Data
An essential part of automated field service scheduling is being able to make decisions based on data. This includes technician skills, locations, inventory, work order progress, and customer details. A field service management solution will capture data and store it in one place. Effectively creating a centralised asset register. This allows back-office teams and field service managers to easily analyse data and make decisions when scheduling workers.
4. Job Management
Job management features provide visibility for everyone involved in the job cycle. Including being able to track the progress and status of a work order. Available in one platform, managers can gain visibility of a technician’s entire job process. This lets them know how long workers are taking on a particular job. Whilst being aware of areas that are taking too long. This can help schedule workers in the future, as well as react to changes.
5. Mobile Apps
With modernised tools and technology, automated job scheduling systems are accessible on mobile devices. These are used with cloud-based FSM software that allows managers to access data via an app. The main function of a dedicated scheduling app is to access data from anywhere at any time. Reducing the need for workers to return to the office in-between jobs and eliminating processes such as using paper rotas. Having mobile access allows you to:
- Check technician availability and location
- Access job checklists
- Update job progress and job status
- Track spare parts and inventory
- Visualise work order progress
6. Automated/Optimised Field Service Scheduling
Suited to larger management operations, automated tools enable quicker dispatch for a large number of job assignments. This mode allows for bulk automation when scheduling technicians. When an incoming request is received, an instant decision is made based on the available data. This is also a key part of resource scheduling in project management to improve employee time efficiency.
7. Continuous Scheduling
Continuous field service scheduling modes are used to initiate a more reactive approach to activities. All decisions taken are based on real-time events in the field. Such as delays to technicians when on route to a job. Or the unavailability of spare parts needed for a repair.
8. Recommended/Manual Field Service Scheduling
Recommended and manual scheduling is based on the initial requirements of a field service manager. A tool is used to analyse data and provide recommendations to optimise tasks. But, it provides the option to manually override these recommendations. Allowing office staff to use a shared calendar and drag and drop tools to schedule technicians.