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How to optimize your ATCO roster without investing in a rostering tool

In the past year, there have been more and more customers, especially small and mid-sized ATC units, that were interested in evaluating the performance of their spreadsheet-based ATC rosters, but weren't yet in a position to commit to a company-wide rostering automation solution. Therefore, we have quickly adapted and opened up another business offering in the form of Rostering Automation Prototyping Services.

What are Rostering Automation Prototyping Services (RAPS)?

Well, imagine a small ATC unit with 50-60 controllers that are overwhelmed with overtime, (working 4 to 7 additional shifts per person per month - or even more in some cases), with traffic still behind the 2019 levels (so no provisioned budget for a rostering tool), with an irregular shift roster done in a 20-year old-format spreadsheet, and with no possibility to hire new staff under the current context.

Or, imagine another ATC Unit with under 100 ATCOs, still short of 25%-30% of staff, that is also paying thousands of overtime hours per month to cover the demand with their current headcount. In addition to this, the ANSP is also experiencing a high rate of sick leaves (ATCOs are taking, on average, 19 days of sick leave per year to compensate for their 2-week vacation in the summer).

Scaling up a bit, imagine a mid-sized ANSP with ~450 ATCOs that are filling ~60.000 swap requests per year. For each swap request, the requester has to fill in a paper form, have it signed by the colleague with whom the swap is agreed, and submit it to their direct manager. The manager then checks manually if the swap is legal and no scheduling constraints are broken (rest time is fulfilled, staff have the required licenses to work the swapped shifts, worked hours are evenly distributed, etc.). In the end, if the swap is approved, the paper is registered with the HR department, and the shifts are finally swapped in the published roster. Approximating this process to only 15 minutes (in reality, it takes much more, maybe even hours), it was calculated that the ASNP is burning ~360.000 EUR/year only on manual shift swapping management (the entire process can be completely automatized using AI-assisted Shift Swapping feature in SkyRoster).

All these use cases are perfect fits for the Rostering Automation Prototyping Services. Via these services, we are effectively trying to help companies discover their major rostering pain points, by benchmarking their current rosters against our AI-powered constraint-based scheduling engine, offering the SkyRoster Power & Knowledge as a service, without the need to buy a SkyRoster software license!

How it works

In the past year alone we have performed tens of rostering simulations for ATC Units ranging from 45 to 450+ ATCOs. Some of the simulations and what-if scenarios that we can currently model are the following (but not limited to):

  1. Cost optimisation: what is the most cost-effective roster for the traffic demand and current headcount that we have?

  2. Reducing overtime: how can we reduce overtime by distributing workload more evenly and correlating scheduled staff at work with peak traffic hours?

  3. Staffing plans: how many new ATCOs do we need to recruit, train and hire in order to reduce overtime by 80% in the next 3 years?

  4. Workload distribution prediction: how will our workload and associated rosters look if the traffic increases by ~30% by 2030?

  5. Costs associated with maintaining ATCOs with multiple ratings: taking into account the costs to train and maintain competency, which is more cost-efficient in terms of overall workforce management cost: maintaining all our ATCOs with 3 ratings or having them drop 1 rating so that each ATCO has only 2 ratings?

  6. Comparison between different watch systems: taking into account our current staff headcount and traffic demand, what is more cost-efficient: a 5-watch system (Morning-Afternoon-Night-Rest-Off) or a 4-watch system (Day-Night-Rest-Off)?

  7. What is the variation of overtime between different shift patterns, and how much does it cost us?

  8. What is the efficiency factor for our roster (time on position vs total time at work)? How can we increase it?

  9. How is the fatigue score varying across the year for every ATCO? How can we improve it?

  10. What's a better roster system in terms of fatigue and social acceptance for our 90-ATCOs ATC Unit: a team-based roster with a fixed shift pattern or an individual roster with flexible shift allocation?

Only the sky is the limit to what ANSPs can model, measure and analyse under a Rostering Automation Prototyping Services contract!

For each simulation we execute, we offer a complete package of deliverables to our customers, containing the following:

  • rosters for the agreed period - 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, etc. (in PDF format and fully available on the SkyRoster Cloud Platform);

  • Excel exports with worked hours for every employee, pivoted per shift type, qualification, and working position, including all leave days, training periods, office hours, etc.;

  • A detailed report explaining the setup for the simulation, strategies, methods and results;

  • Comprehensive Power BI reports, modelling the outcomes of the simulation;

  • Support with having the outcomes of the simulations discussed (negotiated to get buy-in) with ATCOs, unions, and other internal and external stakeholders.


Here are some samples of what can be achieved in a few days of modelling:

If you'd like to know more about these services, contact us. You can even share a sample Excel roster with us for a quick evaluation without any commitment

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