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Prototyping the Roster for an Understaffed Air Navigation Service Provider: Part 1

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

This post is part of the series Prototyping the Roster for an Understaffed Air Navigation Service Provider: Part1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Last year we were contracted by a large-cap international consulting company to help them prototype a roster for one of their clients, a new-to-launch private air navigation service provider. The goal of the project was to test and validate the parameters of the new roster for the operational personnel in 3 to 6 of their ATC units. The project was to be implemented in a few monthly iterations, together with some of their social partners, who would provide constant feedback and guide the team towards a progressively better result.

During the project execution, we needed to create a new roster from scratch, starting from a given Sector Opening Timetable (SOT), adapt the roster to staff planned and unplanned unavailability, balance resources to cover the required demand, integrate a SOT change into a published roster and relocate staff optimally to maximize certain KPIs.

The entire project was a very useful exercise for the entire team which was involved. It is still a work in progress, so we are not yet ready to collect and share all learnings from it, but the results of the work done up to this point might provide real value to ANSPs that go through the same process, and especially to understaffed ones.

How the process looks, step-by-step

1. Kick-off meeting - Know Your Customer

Everything started with a kick-off meeting between representatives of the ANSP and our ATM Consultants. Every new customer is welcomed in the ATCO Rostering Automation world with an initial presentation of our product and our company. Our consultants emphasized to our clients the potential return-on-investment that rostering automation can deliver. At this point, the capabilities of the application were presented, as well as the steps that were needed to be done to reach through the first ATCO Rostering simulation.

Following that, we needed to set up the core team involved in the project. This was the point where we've met with all social partners and established the first contact with ATCOs, union members, and client representatives. Then we had started to gather the first information regarding the ANSP and what were the issues and limitations they wanted to address. Understaffing is one of the most encountered issues in the HR departments of air traffic control organizations and it was also the case of this client. Although a stressful limitation, these issues are far from being a showstopper for our side of the deal, so we started from the very beginning to draft all the available solutions to deal with this problem from the rostering point of view.

For the onboarding process to be as straightforward as possible for both parts, we have designed a checklist with the steps that must be followed to configure the application. The product tour ended up with a set of actions for both the ANSP and our ATM consultants. One of the most important steps was the provision of staff data. As GDPR rules are in place, we are always looking to work with disidentified data and store it as ID numbers. Not only the employees' IDs are needed, but also the units and the teams where they belong. Having this set of data, our consultants were then able to create the virtual image of the ANSP on the SkyRoster platform.

2. Set up the organizational settings

As part of our services, each client is gaining full access to a dedicated server on the SkyRoster Cloud Platform. This step was done by the internal deployment team, which also created accounts for the admins. At this point, the custom checklist was followed by both our consultants and the organization members. Everything started with the system parametrization process where we configured the global settings, the leaves, and the duty types.

Different types of leaves were created, according to work legislation and internal regulations of the ANSP. There were nine types of leaves created and amongst them, the most used were the Annual Paid Leave, Maternity/Paternity Leave, Sick Leave, and Recuperation Leave. There are three parameters available to select when defining a new leave: Required approval, whether it is planned leave or not, and whether it's deducted from allowances or not. Each leave was defined by taking into consideration the available parameters, as for example, the Annual Paid Leave requires approval, it is not unplanned and it's deducted from allowances.

There were also constraints added for some of the leave types and the admins were available to define the maximum hours allowed for a leave per day/month/year, the maximum consecutive days for each type of leave, and if there are any time(days) constraints for submitting a request (e.g., You must submit the request for Annual Paid Leave at least 10 days before starting date of that leave).

As every ATCO can have multiple reasons to take a day off or to request a duty, it is very important to make sure that all types of data are defined. The same procedure as for leaves was then repeated for the duty requests. There were 11 types of duty requests defined (e.g., Refresher Training, Mission, English Training, Medical Check, Overtime), and for each, there was the option to select if it requires approval or not, and the same constraints from the leaves were applied here.

Public holidays for the ANSP country were introduced as well in the system, as they are really important for the Leave Management in keeping track of the remaining number of leaves for every employee. Having this data available, a wide overview of the ANSP was reproduced.

3. Map the organizational structure

A custom-tailored experience in the SkyRoster platform means that every existent aspect in the organization is stored and then used by the roster engine. Other than the structure of the ANSP, it is important to know all the details involving ATCOs, as their qualifications and the requirements needed to maintain them. The ATM Consultants required and received this information, and everything was input in the Competency Management module.

Once we had the license data ready, the next action was to import the disidentified staff data. The organizational structure for this particular ANSP is defined by one Tower and an Area Control Center. Nine teams work in the ACC, each of them with nine ATCOs, getting a total of 81 ATCOs working in ACC. As we defined the units, the contract containing the allowances, carryovers, and all other details regarding work and leave requests were introduced. Each ATCO has been attributed then its allowances and carryovers, alongside personal information like date of birth, date of employment, and license number.

In the next post, we'll discuss how we imported the staff data, creating and assigned their licenses, and placed all ATCOs in their teams. Stay tuned for the next chapter of our story, and don't forget you can begin yours by Signing up for our Free Plan.

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