Forward and Backward Scheduling: Definitions, and How You Can Use Them to Compete – An Article

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Missed deadlines mean lost customers.

This is true whether you’re shipping products, performing installations, or delivering food. Imagine you run a cable company. You have a customer that rearranged their day and stayed home from work to let your installation specialist in during a 4 hour service window. If your worker shows up late, you’re probably going to lose that customer (and likely get a bad review). Fortunately, there are two proven strategies that can help you stay on top of deadlines, increase customer satisfaction, and earn repeat sales: backward scheduling and forward scheduling.

What Is Forward and Backward Scheduling?

Forward scheduling and backward scheduling are planning strategies. Both methods are useful for strategic planning at all levels of complexity.

Forward scheduling

Forward scheduling is planning with the primary objective of completing tasks as soon as the required resources become available. This strategy is optimized for expediency and prioritizes fast delivery.

The following forward scheduling examples in personal life and in business illustrate some of the key benefits of this strategy:

1. Let’s say you have a weekend to-do list consisting of yard work and washing your car. If your preference would be to knock-out these tasks first thing Saturday morning, your personality is likely aligned with forward scheduling. Crossing things off your list early will allow you to enjoy the remainder of your weekend without stressing about chores.

2. For a business example, let’s say you run a pool maintenance company. You have a client that needs their pool serviced the last week in June. Using forward scheduling, you would schedule this client’s maintenance appointment for the first open appointment slot within that last week of June and get the job done as soon as possible.

Backward scheduling
Backward scheduling is planning with the primary objective of completing tasks on time (but not early).

1. Taking the same weekend to-do list example from above, let’s say you live in a climate with unpredictable weather. Washing your car is one of your must-do tasks because you have a client meeting Monday morning, and you want to roll up in a polished vehicle. You could use backward scheduling to tackle your to-do list Sunday evening. That way, there would be less of a chance that your car would get dirty again before your client meeting.

2. Using the business example from forward scheduling, let’s say you have the same client that needs their pool serviced the last week in June. Using backward scheduling, you might decide to schedule this customer’s maintenance appointment for the last day in June, so you have more open time slots at the beginning of the week for new customers.

Which is better: forward or backward scheduling?

Both offer advantages. Neither one is better than the other. Some logistics coordinators benefit from blending the two. To choose which strategy works best for your business, consider two main factors: what type of business or delivery service you run and how you prefer to organize schedules.

4 Business Challenges Solved by Forward and Backward Scheduling

Here are a few ways you can overcome business obstacles using backward and forward scheduling.

Meeting due dates
Forward scheduling and back scheduling can help teams meet important deadlines and avoid showing up to appointments late (or early). Forward scheduling can show product pickup and delivery services where they have room to accommodate more orders. Those product pickup and delivery services can then use these open windows to make early deliveries and exceed customer expectations. Backward scheduling helps maintenance and repair companies with standing monthly or quarterly service appointments balance schedules to meet a multitude of deadlines.

Balancing employee workload
A combination of backward and forward scheduling can be used to evenly distribute work across teams of employees and/or drivers. For example, a grocery delivery company could start with delivery windows and work backward to plan routes while making sure each driver was assigned the same number of deliveries. That same company could then use forward scheduling to have their packing team assemble orders as soon as they have time. This ensures that workloads are balanced. Ensuring that your employees aren’t overworked will increase morale, and minimizing underworking employees will reduce wasted spend.

Accommodating changes
Backward scheduling allows you to build in time for adjustments to orders. This is particularly advantageous for businesses that create custom products. For example, let’s say your business makes custom windows. You guarantee delivery within 30 days, and it takes 15 days to manufacture a window. Using backward scheduling, you could start at the 30-day mark, allot 7 days for shipping or delivery, and then plan to begin production 8 days after receiving a new order. That would give you the flexibility to accommodate changes for the first week after an order has been placed.

Planning weeks in advance
Both forward and backward scheduling can help you plan further in advance, which will give you a clear projection of revenue and show you process inefficiencies that need to be improved. Combine this with route optimization software and you’ll be able to clearly see where you can fit more orders in, when you need to hire more workers to fulfill existing orders, or when you should decrease your workforce based on demand.

Optimize Your Schedule to Adapt With Confidence

Scheduling can be complex and time-intensive but using backward and/or forward planning strategies will help you get the job done. The most important thing to remember is that a plan is just that—a plan. Even the most thorough plans can quickly go awry when confronted with life’s unpredictability, so forming one that can be adapted if challenges arise is key.

Route optimization software helps you adapt quickly, so you can meet deadlines no matter what challenges arise. Planning days and weeks in advance is easier and more efficient with a solid strategy and the right software.

This article originally appeared on optimoroute.com

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