During conversation with client, while we deepdive to operation efficiency topics; client always puzzle on the process. From our perspective, Efficiency and optimisation seem to go hand in hand and they really do. Efficiency is the driving force in reducing operational costs and Optimisation is the engine with which to achieve this goal.
When discussing workforce management solutions, the first thing to discuss is the return on investment (ROI). What value can a service organization strive for when implementing such a solution? The value is indeed related to efficiency in all levels of operations, from reducing mileage and fuel consumption to saving on overtime and balancing work between field technicians. The efficiency is measured ultimately in how much you affect your bottom line in terms of expenses.
Service organizations are first faced with the need to get the basics right. Collecting the right data, implementing processes and connecting everyone to the same system, once every field resource has a mobile and is connected, it is time to work on changing the organization attitude, to adopt the system and the new processes.
Only once the system is fully integrated and adopted can you start discussing optimization. The first reason for this is down to information. There is no way to improve (optimize) if there is no information about the current state of operations. Once the system is implemented and run for some time the data becomes available and you can start looking into the details more closely and suggest ways of improving the current system or process.
The second reason is that optimization removes control from the users and replaces it with automated computer thinking. This is a huge step forward, from a world of total control to a new world of decision-making that is not based on any human factor. This step should not be taken before a level of trust is established between the human operator and the new system, otherwise, implement too soon and the users will simply override the system or reject it all together.
Efficiency is really down to each organization to define but lets look at the most common ones based on the wide range of service organizations we have worked with.
Balancing work load
All work should be spread fairly and evenly across the board. Field resources should not feel there are any favourites so they should all be happy with their work loads. There is no reason for one resource to go into overtime while another is sitting idle. Most organizations consider overtime expensive and struggle to avoid it.
This optimization process is simple to understand and produces a schedule that is efficient and balanced. However, it does conflict with other forces that might drive the schedule to be less balanced but more efficient in other ways, (such as travel time) so this should be taken with caution and not forced in but be more of a guideline.
Doing more with less
This is the holy grail, everyone would like to get more business, complete more jobs per day with the same (or less) people out in the field. When you become more efficient you become more optimized and can therefore do more with the same number of resources. You are more organized, and have better visibility but in total you squeeze out more performance without changing your actual workforce capacity (same number of resources).
Looking at the previous points (that are a small sample part of the overall picture) you can see how different efficiencies can contribute to this overall profitability. Optimising each section (may be small) of the larger picture directly contributes to this benefit.
Optimization may be partial and in a limited area and may involve a process of continues improvement, however, the bottom line will have an immediate impact.
As we have seen, efficiency is driving optimization but optimization might look like it is improving one factor while reducing the others. It is very much a balancing act to get the right overall efficiency using an optimization process. In this short article we have just touched on some of the aspects, and obviously don’t have the time to discuss all of them and how they interact.