DFS - ATCO scheduling case study

Around the world, large Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) work in dynamic, complex environments. They need scheduling systems that can change and grow with the company, and they need round-the-clock support for their systems administration.
The planner can check all working, non- working and holidays on one screen. The system shows the effects on demand coverage when approving days off to balance capacity and demand to a 100%. The system supports what-if scenario building allowing the planner to compare different situations to define the best work day schedule.

At DFS the employees are given the choice to select a fixed shift pattern which generates a more predictable roster or a flexible roster which is less predictable in terms of working and non-working days but more considerate towards individual employee preferences. Both, fixed shift patterns and flexible individual rostering guarantee full compliance to all labor rules and union regulations.
Until recently, Germanys Deutsche Flugsicherungs GmbH(DFS), along with many other large Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), were scheduling their air traffic controllers (ATCOs) using the same commercial shift scheduling system. In 2005, when the systems developer stopped all software development and declared that it would no longer provide support or upgrades, ANSPs worldwide were left in a lurch. DFS is one company that wasted little time in deciding to replace the legacy system, seeing this as an opportunity to vastly improve its scheduling and planning capabilities. DFS had high demands for the new shift scheduling software as it wanted a solution that could exactly meet its specific planning needs. An additional requirement for the new system was that it be able to integrate with DFS IT environment. Answering these criteria, the Quintiq Workforce Optimization solution was chosen to replace the former system. It was first implemented in the Bremen Control Centre and, over time, it will be implemented in all of DFS Control Centers and Towers.

The Bremen Control Centre is one of DFS five national control centers and 16 Towers. Of the 1,800 ATCOs working at DFS, 270 work in the Bremen center together with 50 Flight Data Assistants, helping to direct more than three million flights that cross the German skies annually. For many reasons, planning and scheduling this large number of employees is an extremely complicated task. First, government regulations regarding the number of controllers and the licensing necessary to man each sector are very strict. Second, DFS has to deal with a complicated set of collective labor agreements which can even vary from site to site. Finally, for the past couple of years, Europe has suffered from a shortage of ATCOs. Short term scheduling and long term recruitment and training must take this into consideration. DFSs future vision is to benefit from the Quintiq solution even further. Using some of the most advanced planning algorithms available today, the Quintiq Workforce Optimization solution is able to exactly adjust the number of ATCOs to the flow of traffic and to position controllers in the right sectors to constantly ensure that safety regulations are strictly adhered to. Also, the solution is flexible enough to include different labor agreements for each control center and to take into consideration employee preferences. With every project milestone set, DFS and Quintiq strive in that direction. Improved personnel utilization and employee rostering according to shift preferences reduces stress in the workplace and improves employee motivation and satisfaction. Moreover, Quintiq helps DFS in better dealing with staffing deficits. Another reason DFS chose Quintiq was because of the unique Quintiq capabilities which allows the system to be configured to meet DFS strict planning requirements. Quintiq and DFS have been working closely to develop the DFS-specific aspects of the system.

As with IT system upgrades in any large organization, the implementation process at DFS has been complex. Understanding that this is normal, Quintiq solutions are extremely flexible and the implementation process is iterative, with quick turn-around times for updated versions. Mr. Schlingmann commented: If something in the software doesnt work right or if one DFS site wants something slightly different, there is a new software model available for work three or four days later. The DFS roll-out is continuing and will eventually include all of DFS ATCOs and operational technical people in the Control Centers, Tower sites and Aeronautical Information Service Centers - a total of 2,700 people. Also, additional functionality including productivity checks, event handling in real time and controller training alerts will be included in the system at a future date. Together DFS and Quintiq will bring ATCO scheduling to new heights.

Quintiq Workforce Optimization solution

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