Lisa Lavender M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.
After over 20 years in the industry, exact timelines are a bit fuzzy. However, I remember the lightbulb moment a few years after starting our restoration and reconstruction company and thinking, “This is not good!” It was the beginning of another busy day, everyone was gathered in the garage and managers were holding clipboards. It was loud and chaotic. It was an exercise in figuring out what needed to be done and who should be doing what. I was relatively inexperienced and had no formal or informal training. What I did know is that it had to change and there was a better way. The money lost by one person standing there “waiting” to find out where they were going and what they were doing, multiplied by the number of people and days; ouch! This deserved attention.
My story is just the beginning of explaining why job planning and scheduling in your company are so important. It is the first step to improving – identifying there is a problem. Job planning and scheduling in restoration is both a skill and an art. It is a critically important functional area in juggling the juggle of life in restoration. One could argue it is more important than ever when operating in a world that could make scheduling seem pointless. There are endless supply chain chinks and labor shortages. For some absenteeism of staff is at an all-time high.
It is true that planning and scheduling are not easy, and has become more complicated than ever. So, the question is: “Are we managing the resources we have the best we can under the circumstances?” Managing our resources the best we can is a function of our capability to plan and schedule.
Let’s start with some of the reasons it is so important to consistently monitor and improve scheduling and planning activities:
- Profitability: At a high level, planning and scheduling will impact the effectiveness and efficiency of your production activities. Our ability to properly manage resources has a direct impact on profitability. Poorly planned and scheduled jobs will take longer to complete, which will have a series of negative impacts. Schedules provide a structure to allocate and manage resources to tasks and elements of the project in units of time. At a company level, an example of just one impact is the cost of every minute of every individual’s time spent idle.
- Customer service: Timely and relevant communication to all interested parties regarding timelines and progress is important. Even if something goes off schedule, there needs to be a schedule in the first place to go “off”. This leads makes it possible to proactively communicate the change to customers and effectively deal with the impact to the schedule.Managing expectations is more important than ever before. For many, times have changed and some timelines, especially with repairs, are much longer than in the past. Being honest and upfront in managing expectations is the best course of action. To proactively manage the expectations, the operation must have a schedule which presents realistic and meaningful information.
Honoring the commitment of 24/7 emergency services and delivering exceptional overall service experiences requires skilled management of the company’s schedules and resources.
- Culture: Planning and scheduling functions help set the tone and lead the way for everyone in the organization. Being organized, prepared and efficient are a few of the things we want everyone to strive toward. If planning and scheduling are disorganized and inefficient, leaving others not knowing what they are doing, this sets a standard and tone within the company. It becomes a cultural norm in approaches to our work.
- CAT volumes: As referenced in “What the CAT Just Happened?” there is a basis for responding to catastrophe (CAT) volumes effectively that can be used to effectively manage throughout the event.
Now that we have considered some of the reasons planning and scheduling are so important, let’s consider how best to approach them. On a very high level, if you ask yourself, “Are the resources of the company being managed as well as they can be, even in the face of the day’s challenges?”, and the answer is no, then there is an opportunity to improve. The following is a quick checklist to help identify issues with the job planning and scheduling function:
- Are people standing around during the workday waiting to be told where they should and what they should do?
- Can anyone in the organization answer a customer’s simple inquiry about when a task will be done?
- If you need to schedule a specific task, can you easily find your availability or the date the task can be performed?
- If something impacts the schedule, is there a system employees can view to address and communicate the impact?
Planning and scheduling is a complex function that takes organizational systems, tools and best practices. For individuals, it is a skill that can be measured and developed. The following are tips and considerations for developing your existing system or creating a new one:
- Digital or software: Employ a digital system and/or the use of applicable software. This will give you some structure for a solid planning and scheduling system:
- Accessibility and transparency: It should be accessible for all who need it to do their job. Consider a schedule that shows where everyone should be, but isn’t available to team members. The benefits of a system that is not accessible and transparent will have limitations.
- Efficiency: A software-driven system will deliver the best efficiency in managing the entire function (I am laughing as I recall our paper system and near-holes in squares from erasing).
- Scopes of work: To plan and schedule a job properly, you must have good scoping systems and practices in your organization. This applies to all jobs, from a small water loss that may take two people four hours, to a complex rebuild of an entire structure.
- Account for all Resources:
- Equipment, tools and vehicles:
- Materials and supplies:
- Acquisition process
- Other examples (This list could be endless):
- SOPs and/or best practices: Your organization should have standard operating procedures and/or best practices that support optimal outcomes in planning and scheduling.
- Clearly defined expectations
- Clear assignment of all responsibilities
- Experience: Experience should be applied and shared with others. Those with experience know that the time of year, weather reports and/or that age of the property of a specific project can impact a job schedule and, potentially, the entire company’s schedule. Anticipate impacts and complexities to the schedule, and use experience to proactively manage (Like a scheduling crystal ball). Share this experience with others in the company so they can learn and grow.
- Time: This may seem obvious, but a system must acknowledge and honor dates, times, units of measure and an order of operations.
- Reporting, display and accessibility: To get the best outcomes from the system, it should accommodate this at the following levels:
- Per employee and/or resource
- Per job
- Global company
May job planning and scheduling bring you much Restoring Success. You are invited to join us for a free webinar about job planning and scheduling on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. You can register here: https://courses.rtilearning.com/product/rti-irestore-present-job-planningscheduling