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.
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: -
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.
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.
The system needs to identify which resource is providing out of hours cover and over what time period.
Example scheduling board.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Has visualisation of resource and availability
Task manually allocated to resource
Relies on local knowledge (helpdesk) of geography and resource skills
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.
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.