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Dynamic Schedule Optimization

The goal of dynamic schedule optimization is to schedule associates in a way that provides the best possible coverage subject to budget and associate constraints.  Schedule quality is calculated by comparing scheduled coverage on the floor by quarter hour against ideal staffing. The goal is to minimize shortages in a way that provides the best possible customer service.  QServ uses a heuristic optimization technique that provides excellent schedule quality but does not guarantee that the schedules are optimal.

Scheduling Process

The scheduling process is an iterative process wherein QServ first builds a feasible solution that satisfies budget and associate constraints.  QServ then selectively refines the solution by swapping shifts in and out of the solution to obtain the best possible coverage score.  The process continues until QServ is unable to change schedules in a way that improves the coverage score.

Since forecast sales and customer traffic vary day to day and week to week ideal staffing also varies in the same way.  Consequently dynamic schedule optimization does mean associate schedules vary week to week (see the discussion of static versus dynamic schedules). Note that static (base) schedules can be used in conjunction with dynamic schedule optimization.  Frequently, key full time associates are given static schedules with rotating weekend shifts while the remaining associates are scheduled to cover ideal staffing requirements not satisfied by the static schedules.

Coverage Score

Strictly minimizing shortages doesn’t necessarily provide the best customer service.  For example, a shortage of one person on the floor when ideal staffing is two is much worse than a shortage of one person on the floor when ideal staffing is eight.  In the first case the shortage is 50% of ideal, while in the second case the shortage is only 12.5% of ideal. QServ uses a proprietary score calculation that reflects the fact that the goal is to minimize shortages in a way that minimizes the negative impact on customer service. 

Scheduling Pools

The scope of a schedule calculation is a pool of associates assigned to a scheduling area or group of scheduling areas, either an expense center or an adjacency group, for a single week.  An expense center is generally a collection of scheduling areas grouped together according to the financial reporting structure of the organization.  An adjacency group is a collection of scheduling areas that are physically adjacent with associates that can provide coverage for each of the scheduling areas included in the adjacency group.   

For a small location with 10 to 15 associates the total store might be considered a single scheduling pool, while for a full service department store with many scheduling areas associates assigned to an expense center or adjacency group would represent the scheduling pool.  Plan hours for the schedule calculation are set to the sum of the plan hours for each included scheduling area.

Ideal Staffing Requirements

Ideal staffing requirements are adjusted to match daily plan hours.  Since ideal staffing requirements represent coverage on the floor and plan hours represent paid hours the adjustment to match plan hours includes a factor that compensates for paid relief periods that do not provide floor coverage. 

The calculation of ideal staffing requirements can be set to return either fractional or whole number requirements by scheduling area.  When calculating schedules for a scheduling pool consisting of a group of scheduling areas assigned to an expense center or adjacency group then it is generally best to elect to calculate fractional requirements.  For example, if the pool includes two areas, each with relatively low sales then rounding to a whole number for each area separately might return a combined total of two while rounding the sum of the fractional requirements would return a total of requirement of three.

Ideal staffing requirements are also adjusted to reflect “recovery” requirements.

Recovery Rules

Recovery rules define the staffing requirement for the periods before store opening and after store closing when associates make the store ready for business.  Recovery rules can be defined at any level of the organization tree and for specific time periods.  For example, some support areas don’t need recovery periods at all, while recovery requirements for selling areas following a major promotional event may be greater than normal.

Scheduling Classes

Maintaining associate scheduling information is critical to effective dynamic scheduling.  Failure to maintain associate scheduling information leads to manual editing of system calculated schedules which consumes time and money, and generally reduces the quality of schedules.

To minimize maintenance requirements QServ utilizes scheduling classes.  Scheduling classes define the following:

·         Minimum and maximum hours per week.

·         Minimum and maximum shift lengths.

·         Minimum and maximum number of shifts per week.

·         Rules for consecutive days worked.

·         Shift composition rules.

·         Default pay rate.


 

All associates are assigned to a scheduling class.  The QServ start up database includes the following simple set of scheduling classes:

Class Name

Hourly Rate

Hours/Week

Shifts/Week

Shift Length

Consecutive Days

Shift Rule

Min

Max

Min

Max

Min

Max

Default

10.00

0.0

37.5

0

5

3:00

8:00

5

None

Extra On Call

10.00

0.0

20.0

0

5

3:00

8:00

5

None

Full Time

10.00

30.0

37.5

4

5

6:00

8:00

5

2 Open-2 Close

Part Time

10.00

10.0

29.5

1

5

3:00

8:00

5

None

Short Hour

10.00

0.0

20.0

0

5

3:00

8:00

5

None

 

By simply adjusting the maximum hours per week for one or more of the scheduling classes it is possible to increase available capacity for the total organization.

The properties of the startup scheduling classes can be modified and additional scheduling classes can be added by the QServ administrator to match the needs of your organization.

Scheduling Class Availability Profiles

Scheduling classes also have an associated availability profile which defines the earliest availability and latest availability for each day of the week.  Each availability profile includes a possible availability pattern and up to four normal availability patterns.  Multiple normal availability patterns can be defined to implement a weekly rotation of weekend shifts for full time associates as shown below:

 

Sun

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Possible

All Day

All Day

All Day

All Day

All Day

All Day

All Day

Pattern 1

11am 7pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

Off

Pattern 2

Off

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 6pm

Pattern 3

11am 7pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

12pm 11pm

Pattern 4

Off

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 11pm

9am 6pm

 

The example availability profile shown above provides a four week rotation of weekend shifts.  Associates will have one full weekend off, two Sundays off and one late Saturday followed by a Sunday off every four weeks.

The possible availability pattern is used on days when an event has been added to the calendar that enables “Extend Shifts”.  For example, an event for “Black Friday” would normally enable “Extend Shifts” and “Ignore Days Off”, and possibly “Use Overtime”.

If your organization has access to part time and short hour associates with evening availability then adding scheduling classes for these associates might be appropriate.  For example, a part time nights scheduling class could be added with weekday availability starting after 5pm or 6pm and all day availability on weekend days.

Shift Composition Rules

Note that the “Full Time” scheduling class has a shift rule specified, while the other classes have no shift rule.  User defined shift composition rules control the mix of shift types that are included in an associate’s weekly schedule.  Shift types recognized by QServ include: Open, Close, Early, Late and Anytime. The definition of each of these shift types is user configurable. The “2 Open-2 Close” rule means that schedules calculated for associates assigned to the full time class will include two opening shifts and two closing shifts each week.

Associate Scheduling Properties

Once an associate has been assigned to a scheduling class, area managers simply need to specify a “Normal Day Off” and optional “Preferred Nights” for the associate to complete the definition of scheduling properties.

For example, to have the closing shifts for an associate subject to the “2 Open-2 Close” shift composition rule scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday mark Tuesday and Thursday as the associate’s preferred nights.  If coverage is not adversely affected then the closing shifts will be scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday.

All of the properties defined for a scheduling class also can be specified for individual associates.  However, doing so establishes a requirement for ongoing maintenance of this information.  Consequently, it is recommended that administrators limit access to view only for this information for general users.

Dynamic Schedule Optimization

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