A Bundle of Joy — for Field Service
Author: Hadas Lahav, Product Line Manager
The definition of a bundle, according to the Oxford dictionary, is: A collection of things, or a quantity of material, tied or wrapped up together. Interestingly enough, this ‘collection of things’ is not limited to books, envelopes or babies. In some cases, service jobs should also be strapped together into a bundle.
Envelopes and Service Jobs
There are many similarities between a bundle of envelopes and a bundle of field service jobs. In both cases the bundles contain a collection of similar objects, which have to be grouped together so various activities can be performed in a more convenient way. Such activities may include creating a bundle of objects according to pre-defined criteria (envelopes addressed to the same town, service jobs that have to be performed in the same street), allocating the bundle to a clerk (for envelopes) or an Engineer (for service jobs), or transferring the bundle from one desk (for envelops) or one Engineer (for service jobs) to another. There may also be a need to unbundle and re-bundle the collection of objects according to changing circumstances.
Use case examples
Putting aside the similarity to envelopes, bundles of service jobs can have some very useful usages. A common scenario for bundling service jobs in the Utilities industry is the case of meter reading jobs. These jobs are typically repetitive, short-duration jobs. It makes perfect sense to group all meter-reading jobs for the same street or neighborhood together, and assign them to one technician, who should perform them in a consecutive order. A good way to make sure that these jobs are kept together during the scheduling process, is to group them together into one bundle.
Another example from the Telco industry is Switch jobs. These are short duration jobs that have to be performed at a specific switch location. Since the switch is sometimes located in a very small room or in a metal box on the street, it is not possible for several technicians to work on different switch jobs on the same switch box, at the same time. Therefore, it is important to make sure that one technician performs all switch jobs on the same switch box.
But the benefits of jobs bundling are not limited to scenarios of short duration tasks. Consider cases where the organization has to serve customers who are located in remote areas, or even on platforms in the middle of the sea. Rather than send a technician to handle one single job in the remote area, it is much more efficient to group several of these jobs together, and send the technician to the remote area for several days, so that he can complete all the jobs. This is another example where jobs bundling can come in very handy.
The benefits of jobs bundling are not only apparent in the scheduling process. Updating the all the jobs which are part of a bundle, or dragging jobs in and out of a bundle, also contribute to the improved user experience in handling groups of jobs.
Multiple challenges, one solution
A solution for short duration jobs was in the minds of ClickSoftware’s logic team when they developed the initial version of the bundling mechanism. But over time, while looking at scheduling challenges of various customers, they came to realize that bundling is serves a much broader need. The bundling component evolved rapidly and it can now support many different scenarios which require jobs grouping.
This is a great example of how a solution for a business problem in one industry can be expanded to solve other business problems in other industries. After all, we all use envelopes; we just use different stamps and send them to different locations.