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The Importance of Crew Scheduling Software

A person near and dear to my heart recently became bored with retirement and decided to go back to work. He was looking for a job, since his career was already checked off, with no responsibilities, and nice fringe benefits. The airline industry fit the bill.

Those that know me know I’m a nervous flier, to put it lightly.

Since beginning this new job, I have heard horror stories, about plane maintenance, mishaps with the crew and equipment, and being particularly aware of issues with flying with food allergies like peanuts and tree nuts, cleaning or lack thereof.

What I find most interesting though, are issues with crew scheduling and lack of crew scheduling software.

One would think, given the high tech perception of the industry, that airlines would be able to schedule crew, be it flight crews or maintenance crews, with intelligence and ease. And yet, the industry still lacks the appropriate crew scheduling software necessary to maintain proper schedules.

I remember being in Atlanta once, delayed till 2AM, not because of weather or a lack of flight crew. The pilots were in the gate with the rest of us. There was no cleaning crew available, so the flight couldn’t take off. What? Garbage and full lavatories delayed my flight.

Workforce management, at least at the terminals sounds like a very manual process, managed too often by team members with no experience and little training creating schedules.

Flights, to the observer, appear to be relatively regular, with X number of flights going to destinations planned at least 3 months in advance.

Modern meteorological science can predict weather changes that affect schedules and create delays or cancellations.

So, do ground crews sit for hours between flights? Why are vacations not accounted for in schedules? Why is anticipated, predictable sick time not accounted for? Why are crews working unpredictable schedules when flights are delayed around the country? Crew scheduling software can account for all of these mishaps and more so why is it not being utilized?

Service optimization and intra-day changes, which are ServicePower sweet spots, clearly don’t apply here. If the ground crew isn’t moving between addresses or geolocations, then it doesn’t make sense to optimize them. I think there are several industries where the benefits of automated, intelligent scheduling are harder to prove.

However, ServicePower, a long time Cloud, SaaS pioneer, now offers SaaS-Scheduling as a Service. Scheduling as a Service may be the perfect option for companies that don’t need true, in-memory, intra-day route optimization, but simpler scheduling capacities.

Consider the airlines.

Crew maintenance requirements can be predicted, one would think, looking at a) the number of expected flights, b) the average flight delays by date and city, c) crew required to turn a plane in the required time frame, and d) predicted schedule anomalies, like sick time.

Crew scheduling software can take all of those parameters, and weight them, such that it’s creating an intelligent work schedule that includes the right number of crew, with little downtime. The crew isn’t going from airport to airport, but they are moving from plane to plane, with an expected time between each arrival, and anticipated turn time for each.

When you consider this scenario, it can be applied to numerous other job types that don’t necessarily require route optimization. The person I’m talking about, as a matter of fact, spent 35 years with the US Postal Service, most of those in management where he managed the staff, created schedules, audited routes, performed time studies to validate routes and dealt with a union environment. He knows just a little about scheduling. Post office carriers run the same routes every day. There is no need to optimize from address to address.

Similarly, laboratory couriers pick up test samples from the same hospitals, labs and doctor’s offices every day. Charities like the American Cancer Society need to go to different patient addresses each day, but the time with each as one by one they are shuttled to doctor’s appointments are unpredictable.

Call it what you want, workforce management software, work order management software, crew scheduling software, mobile workforce management software or maintenance scheduling software. It’s all the same. And, it’s applicable to any business that has people on the ground, regardless of whether or not they are racing from one address or utility pole to the next. For businesses to maximize efficiency and productivity, and let’s not forget the customer, provide better service levels, scheduling, regardless of what you want to call it, and regardless of the need for robust optimization, does provide tangible, measurable benefits.

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