Routing and Scheduling Pays Big Dividends

Lee W Crump, GVP & CIO, Rollins, Inc. [NYSE:ROL]
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At Rollins, Inc., the world’s largest and premier Pest Control Company, fleet expense is our second highest cost item. We are the owner of multiple Pest Control brands; Orkin being the largest and most well-known. We dispatch over 5000 Orkin Pest Control and Termite Technicians every day to service an average of 40,000 unique locations, coast to coast.

Orkin service vehicles drive over 13,000,000 miles per month and we purchase over 600,000 gallons of fuel. In August, 2016 we completed rolling out a new Branch Operating Support System to our 385 Orkin branches. An important feature of this new system was Routing and Scheduling. Additionally we equipped all our technicians with iPhones and eliminated the paper service tickets they used in the past. Service tickets were now emailed (about 60 percent of the time) or printed on a portable printer at time of service.

  We will soon pilot multi-day planning, allowing us to look at a full week of planned services and move non-constrained services even more effectively  

In late 2016 we began enhancing our Routing and Scheduling software to help our Orkin branches improve the efficiency of their routes and how they were scheduled. Rather than a “big-bang” implementation we moved forward with a series of “baby steps” to minimize change impact and gain buy-in from the field that technology could help with customer scheduling in a way that reduced costs and increased employee and customer satisfaction. Scheduling is the toughest task our branches face due to the constant daily changes as new customers start, or existing customers request an additional service or appointment change.

We had three objectives:

• Help make sure our technicians are where they are supposed to be and when they are expected to be there. This is essential to improve the customer service experience.

• With dual-working households, our customers expect reasonable and accurate arrival windows to accommodate their schedules.

• Reduce the drive time so our technicians could be more productive.

• When technicians are driving they aren’t servicing customers or generating income.

• Reduce the miles driven to lower our Fleet costs, reduce accidents, and lower employee turnover.

We initially started with Google Maps and provided easy to use displays that put push-pins on a map showing a branch all their customer locations, color coded by each technician route. This enabled a very quick and easy way for the branch to identify outliers and build tighter routes.

This was followed with an on-line dash board that allowed Service Managers to check the progress of technicians real-time as they performed scheduled services throughout the day.

Automated same-day scheduling in early 2017 was next, using the system to build the most efficient schedules for a day’s services. This was a real game changer because we had to maintain scheduled appointments that required a specific time and day of service. This enabled us to honor the technician/ customer relationship because it is important for customer retention. We partnered with an Atlanta based logistics firm to adhere to these constraints while at the same time moving non-constrained services for more efficient service routes. Every night we transmit all our scheduled services for the following day; they re-sequence them in the most efficient order and send them backto update our schedules.

By doing this we reduced our average miles per stop by ½ mile. This doesn’t sound like a big saving until you multiply it by the 880,000 stops we do in a month. The 440,000 miles saved not only reduces vehicle expenses; it saves our technicians 11,000 hours of drive-time!

Because we have GPS in our vehicles we were able to add a real-time map display showing a branch the current location of every vehicle, whether it is moving or stopped, and if moving, what direction and what speed it is traveling. This is effective for our branch personnel when they have a customer or potential customer on the phone that needs immediate service.

The technicians’ iPhones show their services for the day and any changes to their schedule are transmitted immediately as they occur. The phones provide spoken turn-by-turn directions and we also have an app to help them locate the best prices for gasoline. Saving 2-3 cents per gallon adds up dramatically when multiplied by 600,000 gallons per month!

We are still in the early stages of our Routing and Scheduling initiative and we have just scratched the surface of the benefits we can continue to enjoy. We will soon pilot multi-day planning, allowing us to look at a full week of planned services and move non-constrained services even more effectively to tighten the daily work assignments. We plan an enhancement to allow the technician to optimize their route right on the phone as changes are received. We will also enhance our customer communications ability; texting them our location, estimated arrival time, and displaying an “Uber-like” map showing their technician’s vehicle so they can watch it drive to their home.

It is an exciting time to be the CIO of a great and progressive service delivery business! 

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