Scheduling problems are one of the most common types of resource management challenges, and they affect many industries from airlines to shipping to manufacturing.
For example, airlines need smart scheduling to know how and when to schedule pilots, flight attendants and aircraft. Healthcare facilities need to schedule nurses, doctors and operating rooms for round-the-clock care responsibilities. And logistics companies have to assign truck drivers and manage routes in the most efficient ways. Big logistics companies like FedEx and UPS have entire departments dedicated to scheduling. Other, smaller companies might have more focused, spreadsheet-based scheduling problems that require occasional support to optimize scheduling.
Knowing how to optimize scheduling can involve people, equipment, facilities, materials, and more – but in every case, how these resources are used over time matters a great deal. Almost every industry has scheduling problems that they want to solve. Better decision intelligence for scheduling can help your company minimize costs and maximize output.
Your business can benefit from a smart scheduling approach that uses the power of decision intelligence. Let’s see how your team can solve your organization’s scheduling problems.
The business case to optimize scheduling
Scheduling optimization is part of the overall umbrella of resource management. When your business can get the right people and business resources to the right places at the right times, you can save time, save money, improve efficiency and boost profitability. Better scheduling can enhance productivity at all levels of the business.
Scheduling optimization can include:
- Workforce management: Assigning people to the right work shifts and managing people’s schedule preferences and special requests. But smart scheduling is more than just making sure every shift is fully staffed. Better decision intelligence in this area can help improve your human capital management and maximize your return on people (ROP).
- Production planning: Deciding when and how much of a certain product to produce, how to make use of certain facilities, supply chain, or other business resources, and on what timeframe.
- Logistics planning: Deciding which trucks and routes to use each day, which warehouses to ship from, which drivers to assign, and other related schedule problems for shipping products. Smart scheduling can help you optimize logistics and reduce shipping costs.
- Project workflow planning: Deciding on project timelines and budgets, how to assign internal teams, how to allocate resources, and how to adapt to business constraints.
All of these aspects of business operations can present complex and costly challenges. Better decision intelligence can help your team achieve smarter scheduling to save money and boost profitability.
For example, there might be certain days of the week or certain routes where it’s cheaper to ship products. Some internal project teams or company facilities might have more bandwidth or capacity at certain times, which makes them a better choice for a certain project, production run, or shipment.
How to solve scheduling problems for better resource management
For scheduling problems, operations managers often start by trying to solve them manually, using their experience. But what has worked in the past often is not the optimal approach – scheduling has too many complex variables. There are some specialized standalone, off-the-shelf scheduling software solutions, but they’re often too limited. A standalone tool won’t let you adapt and tweak the software to help solve the problems and model the situations that are most relevant to your company.
There are several types of optimization models that can help solve scheduling problems for various industries:
- Process selection: Different production processes have different speeds and costs. When fulfilling many orders with different, overlapping delivery times, explicitly modeling these processes can help you deliver on time and within budget .
- Crew scheduling: Employers such as airlines and hospitals need to assign crews to certain flight segments and shifts, with business constraints such as mandatory rest periods, minimum days off per week, labor regulations and union work rules. Schedule optimization can help cover your shifts and avoid understaffing or overstaffing while minimizing costs and improving employee satisfaction.
- Fleet routing and assignment: Decide which aircraft or truck to assign to each route, and what order of trip segments should be taken by each fleet vehicle.
These are just a few examples of optimization models that you can run with Analytic Solver®. Want to see a real-life example? Let’s look at the world of sports. The Canadian Football League (CFL) used Analytic Solver® to optimize the league’s season schedule of games.
The CFL had to solve a few competing priorities and business constraints:
- Game times needed to accommodate the most TV viewers in all four Canadian time zones.
- All CFL games are broadcast on the same Canadian TV network, so overlapping doubleheaders was not allowed.
- Each team needed at least five days of rest between games (except for a few specific instances).
- All traditional rivalry games must be played on Labor Day.
- Specific club requests should be honored, if possible.
Working with the Analytic Solver® platform and getting some technical support along the way when needed, the CFL’s scheduling director created a successful optimization model. With feedback and a few adjustments, they were able to build a schedule that worked for all key stakeholders – the CFL, individual clubs, and TV broadcast partners.
How Analytic Solver® can optimize scheduling
Analytic Solver® is well suited to help optimize scheduling. You can use it to set up almost any scheduling problem, which are often linear mixed-integer problems. And Analytic Solver® is easy to use within Excel and is adaptable for lots of different business needs and situations.
Often, companies have their own rules and tweaks that they need to make for scheduling problems, such as industry-specific work rules, limited space as well as time, or “how can I schedule a job that requires another job to be done first?” Analytic Solver® can handle those special requests, and our team provides technical support and consulting, as needed, along the way.
The more nuanced and complex your needs are for scheduling, the more you need a nimble, adaptable solution to help you optimize scheduling. Analytic Solver® doesn’t box you in; you can customize the solution to zero in on your company’s specific scheduling needs.
Get your analysts a free 15-day trial of Analytic Solver® and we’ll give you support to answer your questions to solve your specific scheduling problems.