Updated: Nov 22
We know that time is the most valuable resource everyone has. Therefore, we need to spend it wisely and achieve better productivity, happiness, and success. Working in an ANSP, sometimes the idea that you always need to be busy doing something is better perceived than having any spare time. Studies show a tendency to assume that continuous improvement is the most critical part of managing time at work. There is no perfection in daily activities, and even if the results show great, there will always be room for improvement.
Moving to ATCO planning & rostering, it is already known that the work in this direction it’s not even close to being perfect. Most ANSPs are not even taking into consideration the benefits of moving from the old-fashioned Excel to Automated ATCO Rostering Platforms yet.
If you are working as a Planning Manager or a Roster Officer, one way to stay busy and improve your work performance is to seek out opportunities for innovation. By constantly innovating and streamlining your work process, you can become a better employee and contribute more to your company's success.
So, how can you make the best of your time?
Tips for effective usage of spare time
1. Invest time in Business Intelligence
While it may seem daunting at first, learning new skills and tools can have numerous personal development benefits. With the help of online resources, training, and materials, anyone can gradually learn new skills at their own pace. Business intelligence tools like Microsoft Power BI can add a lot of value to your data, whether you're using Excel or an automated rostering platform. Don't expect to be able to design amazing dashboards after a few hours of online learning, but you will slowly build up the skills you need by reproducing models from the learning materials
Many examples can be given when discussing the power of Business Intelligence applied in rostering, but we will present only some of them. To be able to build a database with information regarding how many shift types, how many hours, or how much overtime each employee/team does, you will need first to export or create all types of numerical data. If you are using Excel, your work will be translated into manual counting of all data types and transformed into numerical data, but if you are using automated rostering platforms such as SkyRoster, you can easily export all data needed with a few clicks.
Considering that the data is already clean in a database, you can then start creating interactive dashboards that can be customized for upper management, roster officer, head of units, and even ATCOs. For example, if you are interested to see how many hours or shifts each employee or team has worked in a month, it is much better visually represented than in excel, as the business intelligence tools can drill the data and change the visuals within two clicks.
The following image represents a data visualization in Power BI. It can be observed how the dashboard includes all types of data that can be transformed into KPIs and further optimize shift scheduling. For each employee there is the possibility to observe the total work hours, how many shifts from each type they were working, what types of leaves were taken in the specific month and extra KPIs as the minimum, maximum, and average numbers of shifts and worked hours. This is just an example where the power of BI is used for better data interpretation and further analysis can be obtained by just selecting what type of information is relevant for you as a Manager or Roster Officer.
2. Optimize shift scheduling by using KPIs
It is essential to understand which data points are necessary to generate an accurate view of an organization's efficiency or productivity. When discussing scheduling, it is beneficial to identify the key performance indicators that would bring value to shift optimization. If you are interested in how to optimize shift planning on a restricted budget in any Air Traffic Control Organization, we recommend you this article.
ANSPs typically utilize breaks in order to manage the workload of ATCOs across different shift patterns. For example, during morning and afternoon shifts, the break rate can be up to 33% of the total presence time. However, during night shifts, the break rate can be closer to 50%. This difference represents the gross vs net available time of an ATCO. In order to maintain an effective schedule, it is important to consider the duration and frequency of breaks when substituting ATCOs. You can optimize this process by automating it. SkyRoster platform includes a Tactical Rostering module that can automatically convert presence hours into "on position" time. This module allows users to define working positions, sector configurations, and sector opening times for each day. The system will then use available employees on duty to cover the demand, taking into account break duration and frequency.
In the case of understaffed ANSPs, there will be always overtime needed to cover the demand, so both financial and wellbeing aspects need to be observed. Costs are much higher for the overtime period, so quantifying how many hours are needed within a period and how many employees are working OT shifts, financial changes can be anticipated in time. With 40% of employees reaching the maximum number of overtime shifts, and 25% of them not doing overtime at all, such information rings another alarming sign regarding how good the shift scheduling is. This is a new essential KPI, and overtime shift distribution is important when thinking about the fatigue levels reached by ATCOs who worked the maximum shifts.
Having a fair distribution and analyzing data, the differences between minimum and maximum shift types, worked hours, or overtime shifts can be lowered. SkyRoster's multiple constraints such as shift distribution, weekend distribution, and qualification distribution are available and can be used to change the values of the KPIs, by enabling or disabling them.
There is more to effective shift planning than simply finding the right number of workers to meet demand. To really succeed, you need to put in the extra work and be willing to adjust your plans as needed. After a few months of monitoring key performance indicators and observing changes in business intelligence dashboards, you will be able to work less for more and this should be applied across the entire organization.
Start thinking about your metrics and put them together to optimize your shift scheduling process and get the most out of your spare time by investing in business intelligence.