Workforce scheduling

Dynamic Workforce Scheduling for British Telecommunications

Radio mast with blue sky behind

The Problem

British Telecommunications is one of Europe's leading providers of telecommunications services. BT employs over 50,000 field engineers across the UK to maintain networks, repair faults, and provide service to customers. Workforce scheduling is critical, and BT's ability to provide high–quality service while achieving maximum productivity and low operational costs is vital to the company's success and competitiveness. Doing so would require operational research's ability to handle multiple elements and constraints:

  • Assigning staff required evaluating employees with different skill sets.
  • Geographically, the engineers were responsible for a large service area.
  • Staff scheduling in general requires accommodating employees' numerous constraints.
  • Scheduling in general is subject to frequent changes and substitutions.

The OR Solution

The OR department at BT developed Work Manager, an information system that automates work management and field communications. More recently, the Intelligent Systems Research group of BT enhanced Work Manager with a dynamic scheduler (DS) based on a combination of heuristic search and constraint-based reasoning.

The Value

In its first year of implementation, DS with Work Manager was saving BT around £100 million a year on operational costs.

Kevin Bradley, BT UK operations manager, said, 'Dynamic Scheduling provides a much more stable work allocation mechanism. It has the ability to look several days into the future, which gives us much more benefit. The ability of this system to allocate high priority work is, frankly, awesome.'