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Introduction to scheduling in CAFM systems

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Hitachi Solutions > Blog > 2021 > 04 > Introduction to scheduling in CAFM systems

Facilities Management for IT people – Maintenance Scheduling

Depending on the size and shape of your business, scheduling can be simple to very complex. So, what are we talking about when we say scheduling? Normally we are looking at allocating work to a person or persons to undertake an action at a location. This may also require the scheduling of equipment (e.g. diagnostic tools) and other supporting materials (e.g. van stock).

For the purposes of this article, I am excluding room and desk booking requirements as this is out of scope for my maintenance scheduling world. Although I accept they can be incorporated in scheduling systems or have their own bespoke solutions.

I am also focusing on the scheduling of planned and reactive maintenance and leaving installations (projects) out of this blog. Any requirements for resource from the operational team from, say, a capital projects team could either be logged as reactive tasks, or for larger project work the resource would be logged as unavailable for operational work.

What type of resource do you schedule?

If you are a managing agent and solely use subcontractors to deliver your service, then a Computer-Aided Facilities Management (CAFM) schedule board can be used to track the progress of work (assuming you have a business-to-business interface).

If you are self-delivering some or all the work, then you have many factors to consider in a CAFM maintenance scheduling system. These are the main components/questions I have come across: -                         

1. Availability

  • Resource  

For directly employed labour you need to know the working hours for the employees. This could be a simple 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, or a mixture of full time and part time working. It needs to reflect any unavailability such as absence for training, holidays, sickness etc.

You also need to understand which work will be going directly to subcontractors and the operating hours they are working to.

  • Work location

The location itself is likely to have its own operational hours which may be specific to the location of the site (shopping centre) or the nature of the business. The system may need to cope with ad hoc requirements, such as temporary site closure or black out days for retail when new products are released or sales start.

  • Out of hours

The system needs to identify which resource is providing out of hours cover and over what time period.

Example scheduling board.

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2. Geography

Do you have individuals/teams that look after specific geographical areas? How are the boundaries determined (postcodes, radius, map coordinates) or are they matched to a list of identified properties/locations?

3. Target time

I have already covered SLA/KPIs in a previous article; all I have to say here is that you need to be aware of the contractual target time that is required for response and resolution, along with an indication of the priority of the task.

Being able to track response and resolved times along with related warning times to help you hit SLAs is a useful tool in the CAFM armoury.

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4. Travel time

How do you factor in travel time between locations? Is it manual, based on experience, rule of thumb (x miles in y hours) or do you pass parameters to mapping tools (Bing, Google etc) to determine the time?

5. Skills  

From an IT perspective, I would group these as: qualification, information, and competencies, that are specific to an employee undertaking their role. Have a look at my Skills posting for more details.

6. Location

  • Resource location

What are the start and end locations of the resource(s) being scheduled? Do they start from home or a works depot, do they end in the same location or a different one?

  • Work location

How are you storing the location of the address where work is to be done? It this just the postcode or do you use latitude and longitude? Do you hold details of the location’s configuration, site entrance, number of floors etc? Do you hold the location of the asset(s) that are to be worked on?

7. Rostering

Linked to availability, the system either needs to generate shift patterns or take account of them if your company operates shifts. The calculation of patterns may be simply rotational or must consider statutory breaks based on the business function.

8. Scheduling types

  • Planned maintenance

Often called Planned Preventive Maintenance (PPM), this is based on periodic maintenance of an asset. These assets could be physical assets such as mechanical and electrical plant, fabric assets such as roofs, walls etc. There can also be grounds maintenance such as grass cutting in summer, and PPM can also be used for scheduling inspections for compliance or condition-based maintenance.

One area that you need to be careful with is when periodic inspections overlap, e.g. a monthly and quarterly clash within proximity. So, you need to have a clear policy on how this is managed.

Planning tends to be asset-based and considers how to best utilise resource on-site for the day and minimise business impact.

Change control rules also apply, especially when impacting electrical power work.

  • Reactive work

This is unplanned work and requires action within defined SLAs to either effect a repair or provide some form of service, so for example repairing a broken boiler or, say, a security access request to a remote site. By their very nature they vary in priority (target times), health and safety issues, skills, materials for repair and job locations.

They may require multiple jobs and are usually tracked as respond and resolve. So, if you think of a broken window: the first job may be to respond and make safe (remove glass and board up window), with the second job to reglaze the window and hence resolve the problem.

Understanding what a contract says in terms of how work is recorded, managed, and reported is a key element of scheduling. As the scheduler needs to appreciate the commercial importance of work allocation.

  •  Appointment based work

In my own commercial FM experience, scheduling has been focused on meeting the SLAs. However, appointment-based scheduling is more important for residential based work, for example, housing associations. The linkage of the availability to facilitate the customer to self-book is another method of scheduling and can reduce the workload on the central team.

9. Communication

  • Customer

Once work has been allocated to be done, you need to share these details and any changes with the customer. The customer may have a preference for communication method (email, SMS etc) and you should consider what are the trigger points for communication and content. Common these days are technician trackers that can aid the customer on the anticipated arrival of the technician.

  • Escalations
    • Event-based - Certain events may need key people to be informed that they have occurred. Typically, this is via SMS to give a push alert to senior management. So, think of a situation where a key building has been evacuated: the FM senior management team need to be aware of progress of what is happening and how it is being resolved. Ideally, they should be able to access the record directly to see all relevant communication and notes.

    • Priority-based - Those technicians undertaking the work and the management team responsible need to be proactively alerted if they are nearing target times. This will be focused on high priority work and, ideally, they should be able to access the record directly to see all relevant communication and notes. As above, this is typically SMS based.

    • Technician - The ability for the technician to provide updates as to the status of the work (via mobile application) is key to successful scheduling. This can be taken a step further by tracking technology. Below is a typical example of how the status changes may occur to keep the scheduler and customer informed. 

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10.  Hazards and dependencies

Whilst certain works may only need one technician, it may be that for health and safety and personal risk, additional resource is required for a given location. The scheduler needs to be aware of these issues and scale resourcing appropriately.

11.  Type of scheduling methods and technology

  •  Level 0 – Basic
    • Information on paper or spreadsheets

    • Limited or no knowledge of resource availability

    • Relies on local knowledge (helpdesk) of geography and resource skills

    • Manually intensive for both maintenance and run

  • Level 1 – Drag and drop
    • Has visualisation of resource and availability

    • Task manually allocated to resource

    • Relies on local knowledge (helpdesk) of geography and resource skills

  • Level 2 – Assisted scheduling – suggest best person
    • Automatically allocates task to resource based on basic rules and parameters (skill, trade, travel distance)
  • Level 3 – Batch scheduling
    •  At a predetermined or on-demand frequency can optimise a schedule for one or many people. Introduction of business preferences as to the factors in determining which work is done first, e.g. minimise travel, maximise total working hours, skill matching, cost management etc.
  •  Level 4 – Full real time dynamic scheduling
    •  Programmed rules for skills, availability, travel time, travel radius and cost
    • Continual real time change to complete resource schedule
    • No human ‘thinking’ required by operator
    • Low ‘operator’ cost, but potential for high maintenance and change costs
    • Have employees on board for the cultural change
    • Understand the implications of override and fixed appointments

 12.  Cost

The systems need to be able to apportion costs to the relevant resource(s) and the related timings for the work. So, you should be able to understand what the travel time has cost, how long the work took (and hence cost), and how this relates to operational planned cost. Adjusting job duration based on experience can lead to improved quotations and people management.

Summary

I hope this insight into the variables and constituents of scheduling help in some way towards you getting the right person to the right job at the right time. I hope this introduction helps get you started on understanding the considerations in taking your scheduling further within your business. Having an understanding of the demand and current activities and status will help your business deliver a better service to your customer. Having the ability to share the details online, e.g. portal or via messaging, can also reduce customer contact on status inquiries. Overall, effective scheduling can improve the efficiency and profitability of your business. 

Speak to our experts today

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Martin Green

Martin Green is Head of Field Services for Hitachi Solutions Europe, with extensive experience in Facilities Management, Real Estate and Capital Projects.

Martin joined from BT where he was Head of Facilities Management Technology managing 750,000 jobs across 8,000 properties. He was responsible for contract onboarding for Carillion Facilities Services and at HSBC the design, development and implementation of a global Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS).

Martin has managed both IT development and business teams to deliver continuous improvements. He is currently working with multiple diverse clients to deliver Field Services solutions.

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Author Spotlight

Martin Green

Martin Green is Head of Field Services for Hitachi Solutions Europe, with extensive experience in Facilities Management, Real Estate and Capital Projects.

Martin joined from BT where he was Head of Facilities Management Technology managing 750,000 jobs across 8,000 properties. He was responsible for contract onboarding for Carillion Facilities Services and at HSBC the design, development and implementation of a global Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS).

Martin has managed both IT development and business teams to deliver continuous improvements. He is currently working with multiple diverse clients to deliver Field Services solutions.

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