PLANET Technology Information Day
Prague, May 26, 2003

12:30 - 13:20

Ralf Keuthen (a.p.solve ltd., United Kingdom)
Dynamic Scheduling in Mobile Workforce Management

High quality customer relations and the provision of fault free service represent an important issue for leading telecommunications, cable and utility companies. In order to achieve this, companies employ a large field workforce to provide services to residential and business customers and carry out fault repairs and maintenance work. For example, British Telecom supports a mobile workforce of more than 20.000 technicians that perform in excess of 100.000 tasks each day across the United Kingdom. For a workforce of this scale high quality workforce management solutions are crucial to achieve a high standard of service while maintaining low operational costs.

Creating efficient work schedules for a mobile workforce is a highly complex task due to a dynamic and uncertain environment. Changes to the scheduling environment may be introduced by various sources such as the company itself, the customers and the technicians. While the schedule is executed new tasks are introduced following a company or customer request; existing activities may change due to cancellations, amendments or reviews of business objectives. Furthermore, technician availability is subject to uncertainty because of traffic, variations in task duration or vehicle breakdowns. Technological advances in the management of mobile workers via Personal Digital Assistants and mobile telephony have enabled companies to automate workforce management operations and react to these environmental changes in real-time.

To enable quick reaction times in this dynamic environment and ensure high quality service to its customers British Telecom developed the fully automated workforce management application TASKFORCE that is now marketed by a.p.solve. Among other operations, TASKFORCE automates the allocation of tasks to technicians, the task despatching process and monitors the progress of tasks in the system. The implementation of TASKFORCE has increased productivity at BT by about 15 per cent and enabled BT to introduce new service offerings on the speed of provision and repair to both business and residential customers.
Ralf Keuthen holds a MSc degree in Numerical Analysis and gained his PhD at the Automated Scheduling, Optimisation and Planning Group of the University of Nottingham, UK. After the completion of his PhD studies in 2001 he joined a.p.solve ltd, a recent spin-off of the British Telecom Research Laboratories BTexact, as a research scientist. At a.p.solve he explores new scheduling technologies for mobile workforce management. Among other projects he is currently involved in the design and development of the Next Generation Dynamic Scheduler, a mobile workforce scheduling system currently developed by the BTexact Intelligent Systems Lab in collaboration with a.p.solve.

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