Tim Skaar | 04.03.19

Let’s say your marketing department launches a campaign that’s expected to increase the amount of new install jobs you will need to handle by 8% over the next 30 days. Is your field service organization ready? Do you have the capacity to handle this campaign? 

For field service organizations, it’s important to consider these things before it’s too late. Think about the repercussions if you don’t have the capacity (available resources) to meet demand (expected work). You could miss an SLA and face revenue implications, or lose a customer from a missed appointment. And if an emergency job pops up, you might not have the resources to address it.

With a better grasp on capacity against anticipated demand, you can make more informed decisions on how to plan and schedule your workforce, and ensure you’re well-prepared for execution. Even better, if you can plan for these things well in advance, you can avoid unexpected issues and ensure seamless service delivery.

What is Capacity Planning?

Capacity planning is the process of determining the amount of field resources required to meet projected demand. A planner starts by assessing all available resources against the expected work, identifies any gaps, and makes decisions on how to best meet the anticipated work. Depending on the business goals and policies, this might mean redistributing existing resources, relaxing overtime rules, hiring new employees or contractors, or providing additional training.

It’s key that planners maintain a delicate balance between resources and demand because both over- and under-scheduling have consequences. For instance, scheduling too many resources can be costly, and result in wasted money on unused resources. Scheduling too few could mean unhappy customers, missed SLAs, or revenue implications.

The Current State of Capacity Planning

The work demand in field organizations fluctuates for many reasons.  It could be a marketing campaign, storm recovery, or seasonal variability. Whether you measure capacity in points, quota, hours, or number of jobs, it’s important to know whether or not you have the bandwidth for the planned, forecasted, and unexpected work in the upcoming weeks. Additionally, does your workforce have the right skills? Are the field workers located in the right areas? Do you simply need more feet on the ground? Or conversely, do you have too many?

As discussed, managing and planning capacity against demand is crucial for any field service organization. Some companies have great visibility into their workforce, and know when technicians are working, the skills at use, and where the professional is located. Other organizations have a good picture of their upcoming demand around planned maintenance work and accurate forecast models. However, in the 15 years I’ve been working in field service management (FSM), I have seen very few organizations that have an accurate look at both of these pieces. Many haven’t been able to manage their capacity in a strategic way.

Visibility is Key

To become proficient in both of these areas, organizations need a FSM solution that takes a holistic view into the management of capacity across the field service organization. The solution should have modules that include scheduling, forecasting, and planning—all on the same integrated platform.

With a single platform, all the changes made to the forecast are directly and immediately reflected in the planning tool. Likewise, changes in the schedule of actual work, the location of resources, or the skills of the workers are also reflected in real time in the planning tool. Real-time information enables organizations to see gaps in capacity coverage before a problem arises. These gaps may be uncovered this afternoon, tomorrow, or even a month into the future. But, by having this real time visibility, the field supervisors and district managers can take action.

For instance, if the need is immediate, perhaps a resource can be relocated from a neighboring district. Or, if the uncovered gap is several weeks out, training might be an option to increase the skill depth of the workforce. Alternatively, contract workers can be hired to cover the additional work. Regardless, a solution can’t be identified unless the organization has real-time visibility across the operation is in the same platform with real-time data exchange. 

The Need for a Holistic FSM Solution

Returning to our opening scenario of the marketing campaign, the planner, if using a single FSM platform like Click Field Service Edge, would have full visibility into the forecast and the schedule. They might decide to limit capacity for break-fix work during the campaign and relocate several resources from lower demand areas. When the campaign launches, the organization is able to meet, and even exceed, their new customers’ expectations.