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CW Innovation Awards: Arming for efficiency

Fujifilm Business Innovation Australia’s automated scheduling application has been able to schedule unplanned service calls automatically and reduce travel times for its technicians

At Fujifilm Business Innovation Australia (FBAU), a print and IT solutions provider, more than 220 direct field staff and 230 customer support employees perform an average of 2,000 service activities a day, including scheduling service calls in different locations based on call priorities and available expertise.

A typical day might involve scheduling 70 calls for 20 technicians, which works out to 1,400 possibilities without factoring the order of the calls. As new calls are placed by customers, this calculation would need to happen repeatedly. 

The sheer complexity of such calculations took a toll on existing in-house mobile applications and made it challenging to manage. Manual scheduling further weighed down processes and reduced efficiency.

To drive innovation and improve the efficiency of field and administrative staff, FBAU embarked on building an automated scheduling application that has been integrated into its existing systems. Dubbed Arms, (auto-scheduling, route optimisation mobility solution), the objectives were threefold.

The first was to improve efficiency and the assignment of technicians to the field. The second was to automatically schedule work orders and optimise travel routes via a field service mobility application. The third was to replace the existing mobility application and adopt industry best practices to manage the FBAU’s services business.

“After years of project work and financial investment into uncharted technical territory for our organisation, this is an important recognition of how we’re delivering quality outcomes as part of our strategic digital transformation vision,” said Rhys Huett, chief operations officer of FBAU.

FBAU’s automated scheduling application was based on Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Field Service Resource Scheduling Optimization software. Through Arms, 60% of unplanned service calls have been scheduled to date without the need for any human interaction. This has freed up its scheduling resources to focus on other impactful responsibilities

Additionally, technicians have been able to cut travel times by 20%, thanks to the application’s ability to calculate trillions of routes and scheduling possibilities for more than 150 resources. In optimising work orders, it considers factors such as location, engineer skill, service level and work time. Furthermore, service crews are now attending to calls faster due to the optimised routing.

How the project was managed

To ensure that the implementation of Arms was successful, FBAU embarked on a number of initiatives before and after the project.

During the request-for-quotation stage, market testing was performed as part of the process and five vendors were approached through three rounds of procurement. A six-week discovery workshop was conducted with the selected vendor, which involved business systems experts, “champion” users and service system experts from the FBAU’s IT team.

The next stage involved a Microsoft recommended partner and FBAU’s project nominated subject matter experts from its IT and business operations teams. The team used Microsoft Azure DevOps to manage the build of the application.

During the build stage, business team experts spent time writing user acceptance test (UAT) cases, doing data cleansing and preparing for data migration. The vendor also provided quick reference guides for each process and training sessions for FBAU’s business team experts.

To ensure processes were coordinated smoothly, the project team met with the service operations management team on a weekly basis to provide status updates, consult on changes and share the workload.

FBAU also appointed champions to train users through in-person classroom sessions. This gave end-users confidence that experts were involved. Because the end-user community is very union focused, FBAU assigned key champions to represent the project during consultation meetings, along with business system experts.

These champions became the first point of escalation for the end-users once the system went live. Through this process, the champions were able to identify those who required further coaching and freed up the project team to work through issues.

After the project went live, all issues and suggested enhancements were logged in DevOps sprints. Configuration changes were also made every three weeks based on agreed priorities.

Key takeaways

There were many lessons learned during the Arms project, including the need for business and IT teams to work closely together as a project of this size required both business and technical expertise.

Another important lesson was that there has to be sufficient time for UAT and bug fixes. FBAU also recommended that teams embarking on such projects use a hybrid waterfall and agile methodology initially, as the former will reduce costs when building a minimum viable product. Upon completion, teams can then leverage the agile project methodology.

“The spirit of collaboration and passion for process improvement among our employees was key to this project’s success,” said Huett. “We established a diverse working group to bring multiple systems and stakeholders in the room to create the best outcomes possible. Their collaboration, accountability, customer focus and innovative approach to transformation has been truly inspiring for colleagues across our business.”

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