Dispatch is the nerve center of every field service operation. With all of the information that managers need to juggle, from travel data to average repair times and even weather updates, a scheduling optimization system is key to boosting productivity.

ServiceMax’s Spring 2014 release includes new functionality that will help service organizations address increasingly complex dispatch and scheduling challenges. Here, Dave Hart, vice president of global customer transformation at ServiceMax, explains how scheduling optimization works — and how it benefits field service organizations:

What is scheduling optimization, and how does it impact a service manager’s day-to-day responsibilities?

Historically, field service organizations have either handed their field service techs their list of calls for the day when he or she walks through the office door in the morning, or the organization would use an electronic scheduling system to push out service calls to techs based on their skill sets. This approach, however, often led to overbooked techs. Scheduling optimization improves the system and factors in not only the tech who has the right skill set for the job, but also the tech’s GPS location, the parts that will be needed, and weather and traffic conditions.

How does scheduling optimization improve management of a tech’s workload?

An intelligent service system can use data to calculate the average amount of time it will take a particular tech to solve specific issues. It has the intelligence to know, for example, if a tech can perform routine maintenance on a specific type of machine in, say, 45 minutes. The system can then calculate travel time, based on the tech’s location, giving the customer a better prediction on when to expect the technician. The system is able to make these changes and calculations in real time. This makes the system very agile and able to adjust routes and schedules instantly if a tech’s availability changes, or if another tech becomes available.

How does this affect the role of the field service dispatcher?

Scheduling optimization effectively automates a lot of the minutiae dispatching, freeing the dispatcher to focus on managing productivity, priority customers and balancing the field service team’s workload. With optimized systems, managers have to take into consideration the personal lives of their techs as well. For example, if a field service tech usually drops off and picks up his kids from school, dispatchers can build that into the schedule.