A few weeks back, I wrote an article on the importance of proper parts management and reverse logistics for sustainability. In it, I made the case not just for the moral imperative that smart waste management allows, but also the economic imperative. In that same vein, I think it’s important, within field service, to discuss optimization in the same vein.

I’ve outlined optimization in excruciating detail (and sometimes with the help of Super Mario) over the last few years, so if you’re in need of a primer, they’re out there. The bottom line is: Best-in-class planning and scheduling optimization finds and fixed invisible inefficiencies for your business. We’ve used the example of Cubic previously, where PSO showed them  that their instincts of leaving a single technician at a single site for the entirety of the day was actually wasting money and resources. But why, exactly, is that the case?

It comes down to what your optimization system is trying to do. Inferior systems with optimization capabilities, under many circumstances, are just shoving people into time slots in what is essentially the illusion of automation. True, full-featured optimization powered by AI is (as we have discussed before) attempting to accomplish a specific set of goals for your business. Specifically, they are using complex algorithms fed by vehicle, job, and location data to minimize:

  • Drive time
  • Time from ticket to invoice
  • Appointment time
  • Stockouts

And many more. By coordinating a list of goals (and feeding that list with good data) you’re mitigating a lot of drive time. Drive time means gas guzzling time.

Let’s put together a general estimate to what that could look like. Let’s assume your vehicles average 35 miles per gallon, and your system, by consolidating truck rolls, saves 10 miles of drive time per truck per day, which is a pretty standard expectation. Assuming you have, let’s say, 200 technicians, that’s about 57 gallons of gas a day, 286 gallons per work week, 14,857 gallons per year.

Obviously there’s a monetary component to this. Last time I filled up, I paid $2.50 per gallon or so. Assuming that you’re using regular unleaded and happen to be in the greater Boston area, that is more than $37,000 in savings annually on nothing more than gas. That ignores every other saving that good optimization offers a business.

There’s obviously a bottom-line benefit to this, but the ecological story is just as prescient, and worth publicizing. There are obviously a variety of ways that businesses can mitigate their carbon footprint, but drive time is absolutely and unequivocally a key. And yes, cynical as it might be, if your business is making decisions that eliminate waste, ecologically through reverse logistics and operationally through AI-powered scheduling, you have tools to market around that, too. It’s harder, then, to find a more tangible win-win for a business that’s not just forward-looking with its growth, but also with its place in the natural world.

Tom Paquin
Author

Contributor, Future of Field Service