If you’re in the service industry, you know that sometimes things don't go as planned. On any given day there are unscheduled absences, demand fluctuations, or storms that postpone service. No matter how early or strategically you plan, there’s bound to be a disruption on the day of service.
Good capacity planning is the art and science of ensuring you have enough field resources available to do the scheduled and unscheduled work on any given day. Schedule too many resources, and you’re spending too much on resources that you aren’t using. Schedule too few, and you have unhappy customers, missed SLAs, and can’t address the emergency work that’s bound to pop up.
Without a crystal ball, how can you see into the future enough to optimize resource capacity on every day you provide service? Below are some best practices for capacity planning.
The first step in capacity planning is forecasting demand. In other words, how many service calls are you going to get in a given day, week, month, or year? How many field service technicians and resources will you need to meet these demands? Which skills will you need? It's crucial you know how much work to expect so you can schedule the right amount of techs.
You might be thinking, "How can I possibly predict the future?" Uncontrolled circumstances and emergencies will come up and force you to move around your schedule. But with the right data, it’s possible to make more accurate predictions about demand.
By leveraging historical data, you can make better predictions about how many hours and resources will be spent on service. For instance, you can look back at different types of jobs you’ve done in the past, and how much time and resources were spent on them. You can also look at seasonal data, and see how much demand there was during a specific time period.
Once you have an idea of demand, it’s time to assess your resources. In other words, how many total available technicians and supplies do you have? How many do you have with the particular skill set needed to complete a job? Once you know what you have to work with, it’s easier to reallocate those resources accordingly.
At this stage, you should also start thinking about whether you’re going to need more technicians to meet demand, or whether you have too many. It’s crucial that you have just the right amount of resources so you’re not overspending and are still able to meet customer expectations.
Once you understand your resources, it’s all about redistributing them accordingly. How you do this will depend on whether your planning for long or short term capacity. In other words, are you planning for the next few months or the year, or are you planning for next week or the day of service? Let’s take a look at a few things you can do, whether it's long or short term.
Hire new people
If you’re planning long term and you find you don’t have enough resources to meet demand, you’ll want to hire new people. Keep in mind this will be expensive and onboarding will be time consuming. But if you have to meet aggressive demands, it could be what you need.
If you’re planning more short term, you can hire contractors to meet demand. This is much cheaper than onboarding new employees, and is convenient if you only need a short term solution.
Conduct gap analysis
Conduct a gap analysis between your forecast and existing capacity. Keep in mind customer SLAs and ensure you have resources to meet them. Look for places where SLA compliance might be at risk and make sure you have the right capacity to meet them. If one of your SLAs is a two hour fix time and you don’t have sufficient resources to do the job in less than four hours, you’ll need to redistribute resources to meet it.
It might take some work to reshuffle the schedule, but keep in mind that the customer’s happiness is the most important thing. Here are some things you can do to fill in the gaps:
- Leverage Overtime—Instead of taking longer to do a job, use some of your overtime hours to meet SLA requirements.
- Relocate—If there's a job that requires more techs and has more aggressive SLA requirements, see if you can relocate one of your techs assigned to another job.
- Expand capacity limit—You might have a limit on capacity for specific job types to save room for emergency work. It's okay to expand if you find yourself short on resources.
When it comes to capacity planning, there’s a lot to consider. It might seem impossible to make these sorts of predictions on your own. Fortunately there’s technology out there to help you automate this process and optimize your schedule for capacity up to the minute.
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