Scheduling optimization is critical to improving cost efficiency and productivity. In this article, we cover five steps to better workflows
Pohan Lin is the Senior Web Marketing and Localizations Manager at Databricks, a global Data and AI provider.
Do you remember your first jobs as a teenager or university student? You were likely working in a restaurant, supermarket, cafe, or bar. Many in hospitality and retail are given their work rotas at relatively short notice, and staff schedules at these places can be about as clear as mud.
You may remember asking yourself questions like “it’s slow, will I be sent home early today?” or “why am I scheduled on a Wednesday afternoon?”. Hold onto that nostalgic frustration for a minute, and add to that the anxiety you may feel as a leader who sometimes struggles to fit together the scheduling jigsaw at your workplace.
Now, take a deep breath, release slowly, and relax. Today, we’re going to talk about scheduling optimization and how it can help your business.
Scheduling optimization is the act of aligning your input resources to achieve a maximum output or ultimate business goal. For business scheduling, this is related to areas like staff rotas, logistics routing, and fieldwork dispatching.
Image sourced from timify.com
Scheduling optimization varies widely depending on the industry you’re in and the nature of your business. It also depends on what your organization is hoping to achieve through the optimization of your workflows.
For example, a delivery service may want to map out a route that drives fewer miles, but a home repair service may want to optimize for customer issues vs tech skill levels. Alternatively, a data analyst training provider might want to maximize the capacity of every course offered against demand.
Scheduling optimization comes with many benefits for those willing to put in the work.
When you implement scheduling optimization, you’re moving toward making the most of what you have. This means getting the highest production figures from limited resources such as employees, IT infrastructure, or logistics services.
While there may be an upfront investment of time and money, a long-term result will be cost savings across the board. Scheduling optimization can save your business money by, for example, cutting down paid overtime or gas expenditures for company vehicles.
Optimizing your scheduling could lead to greater revenue. It could free up more time and help avoid delays, helping your team service more customers in the same amount of time. It could give you broader access to a wider base of customers, opening your business up to new markets. It could even help you upsell or cross sell products and services as you factor this into your scheduling workflow.
Optimizing your scheduling can increase efficiency and help you improve your bottom line.
Improving workflows with scheduling optimization is a win-win for everyone involved. Sure, the organization gets to promote growth and reach its goals; however, employees get plenty of benefits too. They get more notice and/or flexibility regarding shift scheduling.
Free-to-use image sourced from Unsplash
With a better-optimized workflow, team members are also set up and streamlined for success, and we all know happy employees are more productive. It’s a positive feedback loop that can level up your company culture.
Modern technology has made it simpler than ever to implement scheduling optimization. Here are five steps to help you achieve it.
Before you can get moving, you need a roadmap with a destination. Start by identifying your goal(s). What is it you hope to achieve with scheduling optimization?
Some examples of business goals would be:
Once you have an ultimate goal, you can begin to manage resources with single-minded purpose. You’ll need to assess what’s required to get from A to B and all of the intermediate steps along the way.
What type of schedule will need to be optimized and what are the options? These are the questions that must be answered as you formulate your plan.
Now you have a plan, it’s time to share this information with employees, managers, and stakeholders. Take everyone through the optimization project and explain the benefits to the organization as well as each individual role.
This gives you a chance to receive feedback on any proposed changes, such as remote work options. Team members will know how their areas operate with much more granularity than leadership. They will likely point out anything lacking or out of step practicality-wise.
Once management is happy with the optimization plan, you can go ahead and get moving. Project management software will help you organize and delegate tasks to get the ball rolling.
You have several options for a scheduling optimization solution. There’s always the medieval method of pen and paper, and this can work for basic timetabling for small teams or the use of a conference room.
Of course, you could opt for a spreadsheet template, but it can be difficult to find one that works perfectly for you.
If you and your team are capable in programming languages like Python or R, however, there are several approaches to choose from:
This uses math to determine the most optimal solution. This is a form of prescriptive analytics that can help with the planning of production, routing, financial assets, and other areas of business.
This is about finding the most feasible solution. It lets you juggle a large set of variables, inputs, and constraint parameters.
This offers a solution for organizations when there are a lot of unknowns to address. This can be because historical data is lacking or business operations are continuously changing.
Image sourced from medium.com
Machine learning models offer the best of both worlds. They can get your scheduling optimization off the ground and running but also continually input new data, validate, and improve.
As a result, this model is much better at predictive rather than prescriptive analytics. So, if you need to forecast demand, it’s a good choice.
For many businesses, the best option is to skip all of the coding and complicated all-in-one solutions. Instead, you can opt for a highly focused solution that allows for customizable and dynamic scheduling optimization.
Many ERP or industry-specific solutions provide templates and automation tools to help with the scheduling of workflows in various areas of your business. While these can be effective, they’re not overly flexible nor tailored to individual needs.
Nonetheless, if you’re a small to medium business, industry-specific platforms are likely the way to go. They’ll have the scheduling tools that are most relevant and also provide you with other useful business tools.
For example, solutions like TIMIFY give you a wide range of scheduling tools for everything from video appointments to resource and service management. They streamline the process so you can start reaping the benefits ASAP.
With everything in place, it’s time to get going with the implementation phase. Always start with the highest priority first. If you want to increase worker productivity, then begin with shift patterns, before moving on to individual workflows by role.
Start delegating from a shared to-do list to help everyone stay focused on the task at hand. This includes onboarding new tools and processes. Begin with management and then work your way through every employee.
Now you’ve got a schedule optimization plan with moving and working parts, it’s time to measure your success (or lack thereof). It’s important to keep open two-way communication between management and the rest of your team. This encourages feedback and transparency regarding how the implementation is going.
Use whatever business tools you have to collect data and monitor relevant KPIs, such as total revenue or units produced. Many scheduling tools let you plug this data straight in by way of APIs and third-party integrations. Other options, like Databrick’s Lakehouse for Retail, will let you connect an extremely diverse set of data points to a centralized hub.
Use employee feedback and analytics data to fine-tune your scheduling optimization. At this point, it’s a process of washing, rinsing, and repeating.
With plenty of modern technology available to help, companies like yours no longer have an excuse not to be running with optimized schedules and workflows. In fact, businesses can choose from a range of highly focused scheduling solutions to meet their individual needs.
Once you start optimizing schedules, you’ll find yourself addicted to the continuous improvement workflows, collaboration tools, and associated benefits. There’s no need to mull it over—start saving time today!
Pohan Lin is the Senior Web Marketing and Localizations Manager at Databricks, a global Data and AI provider connecting the features of data warehouses and data lakes to create lakehouse architecture along with Databricks HDFS architecture. With over 18 years of experience in web marketing, online SaaS business, and ecommerce growth. Pohan is passionate about innovation and is dedicated to communicating the significant impact data has in marketing. Pohan Lin also published articles for domains such as Landbot and PPC Hero.