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Issue No:09/03/2

Next Issue: Financial Risk Modeling
Previous Issue: Optimized Load Planning Decisions

In today's competitive business environment, there is a greater need for organizations to manage their operations efficiently to achieve competitive advantage in every part of the organization.

Human resource is the core of any organization as a large part of an organization's workforce is directly involved in running key operations, e.g. labor in manufacturing operations, sales representatives in servicing customers, medical representatives in visiting doctors, contact center employees in handling customer interactions, airline crew in servicing various flight legs, etc. Efficiently managed workforce ultimately adds to the productivity, and thus bottom line of the organization.

The goal of any workforce application is to cover the workload with the resource available, while respecting work constraints, balancing the workload among employees, and minimizing idle time. There are major benefits of better workforce allocation and scheduling such as reduced cost, higher efficiencies, improved customer service, and higher employee satisfaction. For example, a contact center with better workforce management can achieve improved operations efficiencies, optimized use of resource, and expanded customer base. Whereas departure from optimality can make contact center:

  • Drain its limited budget through high costs-per-call
  • Miss opportunities to build revenues via cross selling and up-selling
  • Reduce customer confidence in their client company and increase customer churn

Workforce planning and scheduling has its applications in many others areas such as:

  1. Staff allocation in departmental stores
  2. Nurse rostering in hospitals
  3. Ground staff allocation in airline operations
  4. Work pattern allocation in banks
  5. Time Tabling of classes and lectures in a university
  6. Reservation Systems in Airlines, and Railways
  7. Car, Train, and Bus drivers' route allocation, and scheduling in public transportation
  8. Shift allocation, and scheduling of labor in manufacturing units
  9. Training Schedule preparation

Workforce optimization problems are highly combinatorial and heavily constrained. No classic algorithm can answer all the constraints involved in workforce optimization such as heavy regulations, economic goals, union rules, individual wishes, staff availability, and skill requirements.

In workforce optimization problems, job requirements such as employee skills, job duration, and job priority are grouped together to give the workload. The activities or tasks of a job need to be scheduled over specific periods of time in order to meet customer requirements. Some of requirements are quite complex (e.g., skill requirements, various work rules such as shift start times, lengths, break windows, durations, etc.). This correlation of requirements over time often implies sequencing effects that can dramatically affect the cost of jobs.

Manually creating a workforce schedule can be tedious and time-consuming. Researching the countless number of configurations of shifts and breaks becomes quite difficult when the size of the scheduled group is 20 or more, and often best answers and scenario analysis is impossible to find. Workforce solutions can help in coming up with best answers by generating and evaluating all relevant scenarios. This is why optimization software is key to workforce scheduling and allocation applications. To address workforce-planning problems, a system must take into account the company needs, constraints and objectives, and provide different objects, planning, schedule checking, and reactive planning.

Better workforce planning and scheduling results in increased workforce productivity, feedback and support from the staff, and involvement of support organizations (engineering, stores, operations, etc.), which further results in the improved overall reliability and efficiency of the organization.

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