Magazine Article | January 5, 2010

Optimize Workflow With Real-Time Scheduling

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Integrated Solutions Magazine

Bell Canada is a $14.3 billion company that provides connectivity to residential and business customers through wired and wireless voice and data communications, high speed and wireless Internet access, IP(internet protocol)-broadband services, e-business solutions, local and long distance phone, and directory services. Bell Canada offers these services through its Bell Ontario and Bell Quebec divisions, which perform labor-intensive tests on high volumes of new equipment and services, demanding efficient utilization of technicians' experience, knowledge, and skills.

Bell Canada began to recognize some inefficiency with its current workflow management processes that led the company to seek a new solution. Bell Canada had experienced a shift in workloads as legacy communication technology declined and IP-based technologies grew rapidly. In addition, the company had increasingly stringent SLAs (service level agreements) in place with its customers, often with a job completion window of less than 3 hours. And, like many other companies, Bell Canada has felt the pressure of tightened budgets and the need to "do more with less."

After considering what could be done from a management perspective to improve workflow processes, Bell Canada decided to implement an automated workforce-scheduling tool to optimize the workload distribution across technician pools. The company wanted to find a solution that would integrate with their CRM (customer relationship management) software, could be implemented on-site for control over the solution, and could be optimized in real time to schedule jobs to technicians on a continuous basis.

Factor In Technician Skills, Availability

Based on these criteria, Bell Canada selected ClickSchedule from ClickSoftware. ClickSchedule allows the company to check resource availability (via calendars) against projected work, output shortfalls by territory and skill, balance resource capacity, and optimize the scheduling of test jobs across the pool of technicians according to their availability and skills. Bell Canada planned the implementation of ClickSchedule with its call logging and workforce management infrastructure. The scheduling objectives and rules were entered into ClickSchedule, and test technicians were interviewed to capture their technical skill sets and competency levels, which were also loaded into ClickSchedule.

With ClickSchedule, Bell Canada is able to proactively plan and schedule for tests, instead of reacting in an ad hoc fashion. Dave Wilder, project director at Bell Canada, summarized the company's lessons learned from the workforce management project. "You must clearly understand your objectives and find a solution that fits them," he says. "We were working in a reactive world, which caused us trouble. Now, we are able to plan and schedule, which has allowed us to increase productivity and better track the use of our technicians."

First Responders Demand Reliable Battery Life

The San Antonio police and fire departments are composed of more than 3,700 police officers, fire fighters, and emergency medical support personnel who are responsible for protecting the citizens of the seventh largest city in the United States. When in the field, these men and women rely upon the M/A-COM P7100 series land mobile radio from Tyco Electronics in order to communicate. The city's mobile radios work well for the tasks the first responders need to handle, but San Antonio ran into trouble when it found that the batteries used in the devices weren't keeping up.

"When we switched to the M/A-COM P7100 radios, we began having significant issues with batteries. The batteries just lasted a few hours," stated Sgt. Gabe Trevino of the San Antonio police department. With a typical shift being at least eight hours long, batteries that last only a few hours were not appropriate — especially considering the serious nature of the work the police officers must be prepared for at all times. The San Antonio fire department was experiencing similar problems with their radio runtimes. For example, at a recent brush fire, responders went through several radios before finding one that had a working battery.

Full-Shift Operation Crucial For Police

As you can imagine, the inability of the battery to power the radio for a full shift was creating significant issues for San Antonio's first responders. San Antonio turned to Global Technology Systems Inc., a division of Honeywell Batteries, for a solution. Honeywell developed a full suite of batteries and chargers to meet San Antonio's requirements for full shift operation. Honeywell's HMA2104-LIP solution represented the first use of lithium polymer batteries and chargers in a public safety application. The solution provides San Antonio's users with 20+ hours of runtime, ensuring that the radio is properly powered through an entire shift. Additionally, the batteries are built to meet intrinsically safe standards, ensuring that when used with a safe radio, the device is safe to use in environments where flammable gases or vapors may be present. "With Honeywell Batteries, we now have a product that has solved our longevity issue. We have eliminated the risks that were inherent with devices that wouldn't last an entire shift," said Sgt. Trevino.

Used with permission from Integrated Solutions For Retailers magazine.