Multi-Objective Routing and Scheduling at Your Field Service Org: It doesn’t have to be a conundrum
The Shortest Path Problem has been solved. We use Google Directions and Waze in our daily lives when searching for the best route from point A to point B, accounting for current and predicted traffic. Optimization, or “producing the best possible solution, to a well-defined problem, using the most current and relevant data, in a reasonable amount of time,” has already been incorporated into many business strategies in a variety of areas.
So why do routing and scheduling still seem to pose such a major challenge for Field Service Organizations? The intricacies and transient nature of today’s economy produce more complex obstacles to overcome and require several layers of tradeoffs and considerations to be made. As Field Technologies Online indicates in their recent report, “State of Field Services 2018,” the demands of customers are shifting as well, from response time to resolution time and reactive support to proactive support.
With this in mind, optimization now demands a multi-objective approach that can accommodate a deluge of competing criteria. It’s no longer as straightforward as finding the quickest path from A to B, or solving single objective Traveling Salesman Problems or Vehicle Routing Problems. Current solutions must take into account the current state of the street network, vehicle restrictions, predicted traffic and a huge number of other considerations:
- Visiting point A is more important than point B, but if I could visit point B and point C I’d tolerate missing point A
- I have to arrive at point A sometime between 12 and 1pm and point B by 2:30pm
- Customer A has cancelled our meeting this morning, I don’t have to be at location B until noon. Who else can I visit nearby and still make it on time to my point B appointment?
- I need to visit customer C 4 times over the next 30 days, but only in the afternoons, and at least 5 days between visits
Regardless of the situational specifics, the objective for all Field Service reps is to meet their customers’ expectations and be on time, every time. After all, customers don’t care about traffic congestion, the needs of other top-priority customers, vehicle availability or fixed meeting times.
And with such high stakes attached to customer satisfaction in today’s marketplace, the need for a location-of-things routing and scheduling platform is greater than ever. The benefits of this kind of technology include:
- It seamlessly integrates with the customer and prospect data housed in a business’s systems (like a CRM or Field Service Management platform), and accounts for real-time updates made by the assigned rep.
- It’s fueled by a complex routing engine that creates solutions based on a plethora of criteria, including but not limited to: fixed meeting times, variable traffic patterns, optimal tours, customer priorities, appointments, and skill matching. Typically, these tools also have the ability to make real-time adjustments as situations change and understand their effect on the overall schedule for the day, the week, or the month.
- It also usually provides a visualization component as well. When a map can guide reps while they are in the field and allow fleet managers and service leaders to track their schedule progress and visits being made, everyone can be on the same page.
It’s the multi-objective challenges that present themselves to businesses today, along with their optimal solutions, that I will be discussing during my session, “The Field Service Dilemma: Solving Today’s Multi-Objective Routing and Scheduling Problem,” at Dreamforce this year. I hope to see you there!
By: Chris Groer
SVP of Routing and Optimization at MapAnything
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