Scheduling Software Prospex GIS

Filed in: General News

February 22, 2017

Schedule Manager in Prospex GIS – User Guide
This powerful feature in Prospex GIS enables users to optimise call visit schedules for an individual or even an entire field force. The schedule can be displayed on a map and even exported as an Excel spreadsheet.

In order to use the scheduler you must have a Point Set (locations either as postcodes or lat long coordinates) containing the locations of the calls that need to be scheduled. In order to use the multiple source functionality you must also have a point set containing your callers start locations, for example their home addresses or local offices.

  • Creating a Point Set.
  • Importing a Point Set.

Starting the schedule manager

From the Planning menu

From the Planning menu, click schedule manager.

Screen shot schedule manager planning menu

The manager will start with the options selected as per the last time a schedule was setup or run

From the Point Set Library

From the Point set library, select a point set, click the Special menu, then click schedule manager.

Screen shot schedule manager special menu

­If the selected point set had previously been used as a calls or callers point set, the manager will load in settings from the point set. Or, if the point set has never need used in the manager before, it will assume the point set is a calls point set and set it so.

If you are rerunning a previously run schedule, you will be asked if you wish to maintain the existing order and if you want to append new calls.

To remove previous manager settings from a point set select the Reset Schedule Settings option

Intro

If the Schedule Manager is opened without any previous settings, then it opens on the Intro step. Next > will take you to the next step. < Back will take you to the previous step. Close will close the schedule manager and prompt you to save if appropriate.

Some steps can be configured out of order and the Manager will allow you access to those steps when they become available. When starting working with the Manager it is best to use the next button to progress sequentially through the steps, until you are more familiar with the choices that are available.

Screen shot reset button

  • Reset button: click this to return the manager to default settings

Select Calls

Screen shot schedule manager

Locate a point set in the point set library that contains the schedule call locations:

  • Right click a point set for more options
  • Import: click to import a point set from a data source or file outside Prospex

 

Setup Calls

The Calls tab allows you to specify scheduling features such as day masking, length of day and length of calls.

Screen shot set up calls grid

The grid shows points and point set fields in the calls point set, you can edit field values and delete points here.

  • Select columns to label calls in output: Check fields in the calls point set, they will be set as tagged fields and used to indicate call in Excel output
  • Default Call Time: This is the time in minutes taken for a call by a caller if not indicated otherwise by a call time field value
  • Call time field: Select a field from the calls point set that indicates the time in minutes spent at a call location. If there is no field in the calls point set describing visit time, select the <Not Set> option. To add a field use the add field option by right clicking on a pointset.
  • Avoid days field: Select a field from the calls point set that indicates days or weekdays that a call location should not be visited. The field should be formatted as a call mask field.
  • Show System fields: Check to show the Prospex point set, grid references and internal fields of the calls point set.
  • Fixed Date: If you set a Fixed Date column then any points that have a value that it understands as a valid date in the schedule will be fixed to that day on setup. Format is text in date format, preferably dd/mm/yyyy. if you set Fixed Date then you should set an appropriate Start date in the days tab.
  • Fixed Time: If you set a Fixed Time column then any points that have a value that it understands as a valid Time will be fitted into the schedule (if possible) at that given time. The schedule favours arriving early rather then arriving late, so it is possible that some waiting time might enter the schedule. Format hh:mm:ss e.g. “10:30:00”. If you set Fixed Time then you should set an appropriate Start time in the days tab, the program defaults to 9am as a start time and moans if you set fixed times that it cannot get to from the origin and the start time even if it is the first call.
  • Reserve call: Allows the user to set some calls as being only worth visiting if there is free time in the schedule and if the caller happens to be nearby anyways. Format 0 or 1. A value of 1 has to be set in the field (a numerical or string field) and the call is then removed from the schedule until either the timer runs out or the schedule is manually stopped in which case the schedule days are examined and starting with the day with the most time remaining reserve calls are added to fill up the time starting with the nearest reserve call to the nearest point in the least busy day.
  • Use Repeat Calls: See Repeat Calls.

Call Mask Field

A call mask field has a value for each call whereby an X character represents a day that should be avoided. The length of the field characters should be either the week length or the total day length of the schedule. A Y character may be used to represent a day that can be scheduled on for ease of reference. The first day is the first day of the week or the schedule. If the call mask field is the same length as the week length then the call mask is assumed to be a week mask and is repeated for each of the weeks of the schedule, if this is not correct then a mask should be set that is the same length as the number of working days in the schedule.

Select Callers

This section allows you to set the start location for the points you would like to schedule.

screen shot single callers select task

  • For single point scheduling first click on the Single button and then the EN button, under Method, select Place Name or Postcode, click Location, enter the place name or postcode, click OK. Alternatively, to pick up the location from a Point Set, under Method select Point Set, click Location, double-click on the Point Set, select the relevant row, click OK, click OK.

screen shot multiple callers select

  • For multiple point scheduling you will need a Point Set containing the start locations of your Callers. First, select Multiple and then double click in the Callers dialogue box. From here you can now select the Point Set that contains the start locations of your staff.
  • The Calls dialogue box allows you to select the Point Set that contains the locations of the Calls that need to be made. If you have a Point Set set current the Calls field will be automatically completed containing this Point Set.
  • Once this has been completed click Next and enter the Calls tab.

Setup Callers

screen shot set up callers selection point location

Locate a point set in the point set library that contains the locations of the schedule callers. Indicating a name field is obligatory.

The grid shows points and point set fields in the calls point set, you can edit fields and delete points here.

  • Name field: Select a field from the callers point set that indicates the name of the caller, this value may be used to link the caller to territory or call assignment
  • Avoid days field: Select a field from the callers point set that indicates availability of the caller during the working week. The field can be the length of the set working week or else the length of the schedule, an X indicates the caller is not available for either that weekday or day of the schedule
  • Show System fields: Check to show the Prospex point set system fields of the callers point set

Caller Mask Field

A caller mask field has a value for each caller whereby an X character represents a day that they do not work. The length of the field characters should be either the week length or the total day length of the schedule. A Y character may be used to represent a day the caller works for ease of reference. The first day is the first day of the week or the schedule. If the mask field is the same length as the week length then the mask field is assumed to be a week mask and is repeated for each of the weeks of the schedule, if this is not correct then a mask should be set that is the same length as the number of working days in the schedule.

Assign Calls

screen shot assign calls

  • Calls are already assigned to callers by territories or prior assignment, the scheduler will loop through each caller creating a separate schedule for them
    • Using Catchment territories: Select a catchment directory containing the territories of the callers, the names of the territory catchments should match the values of the name file set in the Setup Callers tab
    • Using a caller field in the Calls point set: Select a callers field from the calls point set, the field values should match the Name field values of the callers point set set in the Setup Callers tab
  • The scheduler will assign calls to callers by scheduling all the callers at once and allocating a call to a caller by best fit

Output Locations

screen shot output location set up

  • Save Schedule point sets: Select a Prospex point set directory to hold point set output for each caller. The output contains the schedule for that caller and can be opened in the Schedule Manager for further optimization.
  • Export to Excel: Select a windows directory on your computer to hold Excel output for each caller
  • Save Routes: Select a Prospex network directory to hold route output for each caller

Setup Days

screen shot schedule option select days

  • Number of weeks: Indicate the days of the week that the caller can work. When a single caller schedule doesn’t have a calls avoid day mask then the number of days can be set otherwise the schedule has to be set up as a number of weeks
  • Maximum Day Time: Indicate the maximum time in minutes that Prospex will attempt to not exceed
  • Start Date/Time: Select a start date and or time for your schedule(s), date must be the first day of the week, output will indicate a date for each day and or times for each day’s schedule
  • Calls Per day:
    • Prospex decides how many calls there are by day using best fit
    • The user can indicate a number of calls per day beyond which Prospex penalizes allocation of further days
      • Set the level by which Prospex penalises calls beyond the specified value, the more to the right, the greater the importance puts into insuring that calls per day do not pass that value, this may be at the expense of other factors to optimise such as journey length
  • Schedule week length:
    • 5 Day: The scheduler will schedule Monday to Friday, ignoring weekends
    • 7 Day: The scheduler will schedule all the days of the week, unless otherwise specified for an individual caller
    • Number: The scheduler will schedule a number of days which are not assigned day of the weeks and are just referred to as day 1, day 2 etc. setting a start date or fixed days for calls is not allowed. If schedule length is a whole multiple of call or caller mask length, then mask is repeated until it covers the whole schedule length

If Repeat Calls are being used then the week length and number of weeks is fixed and another option is available

  • Repeat Call Strictness: The higher this value the more importance the scheduler manager gives to maintaining the strictness of the repeat calls frequency settings. Maintain the default setting unless you are unsatisfied with the results.

Run Scheduler

This step can appear differently depending on choices made previously in the manager.

  • For a Single Caller.
    • This choice is set in the Select Callers step.
  • For Multiple Callers with calls previously assigned.
  • For Multiple Callers where Prospex assigns Calls to Caller.

For a Single Caller

Prospex will show a single caller and attempt to optimize the calls for that caller. Calls can be manually moved and fixed to set days. The output can be exported as an Excel spreadsheet.

The saved output for a multiple caller schedule where calls have already been assigned is saved such that it can then be opened in the Point set library, using the special menu Schedule Manager option, as a Single Caller schedule for further optimization.

screen shot run option for single caller

The Grid shows the schedule progress in terms of number of Calls, journey time to First call, time spent Visiting, journey time to Last call, and overall Time on schedule per day.

Clicking on a day in the grid highlights the assigned calls for that day.

For a given caller and calls point set a drive time calculation has to be made, this can be time intensive and Prospex will only calculate that once you press start, Prospex will not give time estimations in the grid until it has done so. Prospex will retain and reuse drive time calculations to avoid future unnecessary delay.

  • Start: Click to start Schedule.. when the schedule is running this changes to stop, click to pause or stop the schedule
  • Reset: Restarts the current schedule. iF you are rerunning a schedule you have previously saved it resets it in accordance with the settings in the Create New step
  • Export: Export output in Excel format
    • Single Sheet Output: Check to output all the caller output to a single Excel worksheet, uncheck to have each day output to a separate worksheet
  • Move Call Day: use these controls to manually edit assignment of calls to specific days
    • Move: Click to manually move a call from an assigned day to another, select a call by clicking on the map or from the Move Call Day drop down box
    • Fix: Fix a call to the day it is currently assigned to. To enable this option click on the point on the map or else select it from the Move Call Day drop down box, this will show what day it is currently assigned to and then select the same day in the “to” drop down box. You can also do this following a move. If a day is fixed, you can Float it using this button, the label of the button changes to reflect this
  • Save Calls: Save the schedule into the Calls point set (appends Day, Sequence and Time fields)
  • Save Network: Save the schedule into a network
  • Display: turn on off features of the schedule route on the map
    • Labels: Check to show labels for each call on the schedule when displayed on the map
    • Times: Check to show time between calls when the schedule is displayed on the map
  • Stop Condition: Decide when the optimization stops
    • Manual: Schedule will continue until stopped by the user
    • Timer: The schedule will stop once an amount of time has passed
      • Mins: Indicate the number of minutes before the scheduler automatization process automatically stops
      • Without change: Check to make the schedule timer count only time passed where a better solution has not been found, uncheck to make the timer schedule for a constant set amount of time

For Multiple Callers with calls previously assigned

Prospex will cycle through a series of callers, one by one, optimizing their previously assigned calls.

Prospex will initially show the list of callers and allow the user the uncheck them to avoid then in this schedule or to select a caller name from the drop down list to visually inspect the initial assignment of calls to that caller. Once Start is pressed Prospex will go through the callers that are selected and schedule each one by one and outputting the results for each in the manner that had been selected in the output locations step.

Clicking on a day in the grid highlights the assigned calls for that day.

screen shot run option individual schedule

  • Schedule: Select a caller from the callers to view existing schedule or initial setup or to run an individual schedule. Select <All> to show a summary of calls by caller and allow for the deselecting, by unchecking the check box, of a caller from the series of schedules
  • Start: Click to start the series of caller schedules.. when the schedule is running this changes to stop, click to pause or stop the current schedule
  • Reset: Restarts the series of schedules.
  • Stop on errors: Check this box for Prospex to stop scheduling should any errors occur in a given callers schedule, leave unchecked for Prospex to continue to the next caller
  • Output: Create point set, Excel and or route output for just this caller
  • Stop Condition: Decide when the optimization stops
    • Timer: The schedule will stop once an amount of time has passed, this is the only option available in this mode
      • Mins: Indicate the number of minutes before the scheduler automatization process automatically stops.
      • Without change: Check to make the schedule timer count only time passed where a better solution has not been found, uncheck to make the timer schedule for a constant set

Before Drive time calculation

screen shot before drive time calculation

While Running

screen shot scheduler while running

You can Stop the scheduling and move and fix locations using the Move Call Day controls.

For Multiple Callers where Prospex assigns Calls to Caller

In this mode Prospex will schedule all calls at once moving them between caller and day to attempt to find the shortest amount of journey time.

Clicking on the name of a caller or a day in the grid highlights the assigned calls for that caller or day.

screen shot Multiple Callers where Prospex assigns Calls to Caller

Re-run an Existing Schedule

screen shot Re-run an Existing ScheduleCreate New

  • Schedules already exist
    • Use the existing schedule(s) as the starting point for your schedule
    • Ignore the existing schedule and recalculate from new
  • Append additional calls: Append to an existing schedule the additional points from a point set selected using the Pick button
  • Fix location of saved calls: Check box if you wish the existing scheduled calls to be fixed to their current days and only the additional calls to be floating

If you have any questions about the Scheduling Manager tool give us a call on 01904 701020.

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