IFS adds mobile workforce scheduling and optimisation with 360 Scheduling

Sunday, 10 October 2010 23:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

WITH the acquisition of 360 Scheduling, IFS strengthens its offering to customers in the service and maintenance sector with deeper functionality for scheduling and optimising mobile workforces.

IFS has a long experience of providing ERP solutions to industries focused on service and maintenance, and has large customers serving a wide variety of dispersed assets, for example telecom networks, petrol pumps, alarm systems, recycling machines, air traffic control  systems and power distribution networks.

The scheduling and optimisation of operations with up to hundreds of service technicians working at customer sites and in geographically dispersed facilities quickly become difficult to grasp. Assignments might be completed earlier or later than scheduled, travel time needs to be considered in order to optimise routes, and unforeseen events often arise on the scheduling horizon.

Moreover, field technicians need to have the right competence, tools and spare parts to be able to complete their assignments.

Furthermore, many service operations today are outsourced and are carried out by a third party. The assignments, which can amount to several thousand per day, often go directly from the facility owner’s monitoring systems to the service provider’s scheduling system.

The Service Level Agreement (SLA) between the facility owner and the service provider regulates response time, availability, quality and other areas. Negative deviations often incur penalties — another factor that can affect scheduling. Is it profitable to miss a response time in order to do a job for another customer en route and thus save travel time?

“Adding 360 Scheduling to IFS Applications will enable companies to benefit from an integrated and global solution for mobile workforce optimisation. With the capability to define best-cost case scenarios or to deliver the best possible level of service to customers, the solution gives the user full control of service levels and profitability,” said Thomas Säld, VP Research and Development at IFS.

Tight routing as a planning constraint to reduce environmental impacts can be balanced against SLA performances. Output can be analysed in performance indicators such as resource productivity, average travel per activity and resource utilisation. For instance, if the business targets are 80% resource utilisation and 90% SLA hit rate, the KPI monitor will react when these targets are missed by more than a defined percentage threshold.

360 Scheduling is interfaced via XML web services and can be accessed on demand, supplied over the Internet as a cloud service. This means that companies that are not running IFS Applications or customers running a small scale business can access this service and start optimising their workforce to better meet the requirements and expectations of their customers.

The service industry is one of IFS’ targeted vertical market segments. The company offers a complete and integrated business solution that manages the entire lifecycle of customers, contracts, machines and equipments. With IFS Applications, companies can support and improve business processes by collaborating more closely with customers, suppliers and subcontractors.

IFS Applications includes functionality for resource scheduling and optimisation, installed base management, spare part management, mobile solutions for field work force, call and case management including SLA, all integrated with financials, procurement, manufacturing and HR. Existing IFS customers in service industry include Hertel, Debut Services, Niscayah, eps, Schultess Maschinen AG, Dalkia, Anticimex, Eltel Networks, Infratek, Gilbarco Autotank and Tomra.

360 Scheduling has its roots in complex numerical analysis and has long been linked with Nottingham University. In the 1990s the company’s founders developed a sophisticated mapping and scheduling solution for use by the Emergency Services.

The system helped the Fire, Police and Ambulance services make efficient use of their resources and helped them to meet legal SLAs measured in minutes. Ambulances waiting in strategic locations rather than remaining in their stations became a common sight as a direct result of this system.

360 was founded in 2002 to take its world-leading scheduling expertise into a new software environment focusing on field service. The adoption of the most modern technology that embraces the web revolution has meant that any company with a mobile workforce, whatever its size, can now benefit from 360’s best in class scheduling solutions. Since that time 360 has been working with field service organisations to help them schedule effectively and optimise their resources to meet an ever-widening spectrum of SLAs.  

Today the team at 360 continues to include top mathematicians, scheduling experts and field service specialists based at Strelley Hall on the outskirts of Nottingham.