Improving daily work performance: Optimization algorithms
This water and energy management company located in the north of Portugal is responsible for the integration of the urban water cycle in one of the largest cities of the country, with around 160,000 customers and 50,000 m3 of water supplied to customers daily.
A significant effort based on the continuous improvement of the company has been focused on upgrading the water meter grid, aiming at reducing measurement errors on the equipment and their reliability.
The daily operation manages around 400 interventions and operations. 250 of them are related to the management of the network of water meters. Most of the interventions consist of water meter replacements and contractual modifications (changes to the placement, connection, disconnection and removal of meters). These services are scheduled in a time window agreed upon with the client and should be performed as quickly as possible. Carrying out this service means organizing and distributing the 250 interventions through eight operational teams.
The main challenges are:
● Manual and empirical service allocation to the operational teams.
● Manual data input for the service allocation.
● High planning time.
The goals of the project are:
● To assign teams to service in a fast and efficient manner.
● To increase the visibility of daily operations.
● To assign unscheduled (non-priority) services to teams in order to maximize their productivity.
To achieve efficient and strategic management of people and resources, the need for an optimized and automatic itinerary assignment to the different operational teams was identified. This can be achieved by using optimization algorithms to achieve efficiency in performing all daily services.
Firstly, a detailed study was carried out to fully characterize the entire operation of the team planning process, the information flows, and the existing information systems in place.
After this study, a software platform was designed and implemented. The platform integrates with the existing management software of the company and uses heuristic and meta-heuristic algorithms to solve the optimization process, taking into account the execution times of each type of service, the meter types and the availability of teams. Through a simple and user-friendly interface, users have the possibility to quickly and efficiently carry out the optimized planning of teams and carry out real-time monitoring of operations.
The main modules of the platform are described below.
As described previously, the platform is powered by optimization algorithms to generate optimized planning solutions that allow teams to perform more services, traveling shorter distances, which reduces transportation costs and travel time, ensuring the time windows of all scheduled services.
The implementation of H2METER and route optimization through optimization algorithms led to positive results in the daily work performed by the company. Its implementation resulted in a productivity increase of over 20% in the operational teams’ performance, in terms of the distances covered by the teams, the number of services carried out, which increased, as well as the compliance with the time windows agreed with the clients.
In terms of human resources, it also resulted in a decrease of 0.5 FTE (full-time equivalent, a method for measuring the degree of involvement of an employee in the activities of an organization or a particular project) allocated to tasks of planning and assigning routes to the teams for the installation and replacement of water meters.
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