Dynamic scheduling was introduced to the housing repairs market in 2002, so 15 years ago, and the majority of housing repairs services have implemented specialist software to help manage this process.
Myself and Richard now run Cloud Dialogs but started working together when we formed Xmbrace and introduced the market to opti-time, so we have had the luxury of seeing at close quarters how everyone has managed their service and particularly how scheduling has been adopted. It should not be a surprise that with the results in, the winner is simplification.
The surprise is how much confusion there still is around what does and doesn’t work. The key thing to grasp about housing repairs is that you can’t create a detailed plan for the day – if you are aiming for say 70% first time fix, that means 70% of the jobs on your diary no-one has been to, so you have no idea whether they are going to take 10 minutes or 2 hours.
Diagnosis and getting the right SORs are irrelevant in terms of scheduling – there might be a role for diagnosis in terms of commercial framework – should we be going out, does it look like a recharge or a referral – but in terms of who do you send and for how long, on a first time visit, the decision you are making is do you send a plumber, carpenter or electrician?
All the ‘but what about’ cases are not first time fix – if a tenant phones in with what sounds like a repair, you are sending an operative in a van, assuming whatever the problem is can be repaired and that it can be done with van stock – and blocking out a chunk of diary time – how much you block out is just to control how heavily you load your diaries. The call centre isn’t booking 2 people for half a day, or identifying some special material requirement and you definitely aren’t using a SMV from a SOR code.
The organisations delivering the highest levels of productivity and achieving the highest levels of first time fix are the ones who understand you can’t plan but have to react – the operatives go out with a repair now culture – if they don’t think they can repair they talk to the planners – who might talk to the supervisor – and between them they work out the best plan with the customer, which could be to get materials brought to the property, get other people round and stay all day or could be book to come back – anything that gets in the way of this will impact the level of service the customer receives. If you don’t think you can trust the planner and operative to make the right decisions or that someone else has to approve their decisions – then you have bigger problems than can be dealt with in a blog post.
I was asked the other day if on the sites where we have replaced DRS with Service Connect is there evidence that our scheduling algorithms are having an impact on travel time or productivity? (The answer by the way is that there hasn’t been any change, the sites are all very mature scheduling users and the change was driven by other improvements). The productivity gain that a site gets from implementing scheduling doesn’t come from clever algorithms – 70% of the things on the plan are just a guess, you can optimise travel all night but as soon as the day starts the plan is going to get pulled to pieces, you will never end up following the plan as it was set at the start of the day. The productivity improvement comes because scheduling systems help you be more reactive and more flexible, and obviously more in control. For those still giving the day’s work out in advance, then moving to one job at a time will increase jobs per day, this is just a factor of human nature.