How to master ATCO planning complexity?

Successful ANSPs break it down into a 3-step action plan

Workforce planning has always been a crucial part of air traffic control. Workforce agreements, ever increasing legislation, fluctuating traffic volumes, fatigue management, employee retention and the need to always have a controller with the right skill level for the right task, all make planning a complex and dynamic challenge.

How do successful air navigation service providers (ANSPs) do it? Take a page out of their book with these three guidelines.

STEP 1: Manage fatigue

Fatigue management is critical in an industry where safety must be maintained at the highest safety standards. You want to be sure that your employees are sharp enough to keep their eyes on the ball. The risk of fatigue can be substantially reduced by incorporating proven fatigue-minimizing principles when scheduling Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs).

A few simple pointers to follow:

  • Put fatigue mitigation at the heart of ATCO scheduling. Aim for the kind of control that allows you to build your unique policies into rosters while optimizing ATCO satisfaction and airspace coverage.
  • Last-minute changes should be monitored automatically to ensure that planners comply with rest and break rules. Planners should be able to track fatigue-related metrics, and respond promptly and effectively when violations occur.
  • Fatigue is largely influenced by employee satisfaction, as well as work ethic and motivation. A great way to enable organizational fatigue risk management is to have a portal where ATCOs can view proposed shifts and tasks, indicate their shift preferences, and enter requests for leave or shift swaps. Fatigue risks should be automatically highlighted when ATCOs indicate their preferences or enter requests. For example, a red flag should be raised if an employee is requesting for a next day shift that is earlier than the current one.

How to master ATCO planning complexity?

STEP 2: Optimize the use of resources

Over the last decade of implementing solutions in the air traffic control industry, DELMIA Quintiq has gained an in-depth understanding of the sector’s need to respect a wide range of constraints, including labor laws and government regulations. These rules though stringent, are not necessarily static. Rules can also differ from time to time, and location to location. Your business goals might also change further down the line. Considering all that needs to be taken into account, there is a risk that planners are happy to settle for a plan that “works” instead of a plan that makes optimal use of your resources.

Moreover, in this dynamic industry, your initial plan can quickly become irrelevant. Can your plan handle disruptions caused by, for example, delays due to ad-hoc aircraft maintenance? How much of your plan stays intact in the face of extreme weather or airspace closure? When you have the ability to directly see the potential impact of various alternative scenarios, you can make the best plan to manage disruptions and last-minute changes, and utilise your resources optimally.

For most ANSPs, optimization is a delicate balancing act of various objectives. Of course, as a business you want to utilize your resources efficiently and keep costs as low as possible. At the same time, you need to have the right ATCOs at hand to guarantee a safe airspace. You also need to schedule ATCOs following stringent working rules, while maintaining a great working environment and increasing employee satisfaction.

STEP 3: Use planning as a strategic tool

ATCO planning and scheduling should be viewed as a strategic tool, essential to uphold the most stringent safety standards and provide the best service that satisfies all stakeholders  .

Any advanced planning solution should be able to support you in evaluating the benefits of one plan over another. You should be able to test if the plan aligns with the company’s overall objectives. Knowing which business goals and KPIs you are working towards will help define a good plan.

Modelling various scenarios can give you insights into the impact on your organization as a whole. Some organizations may set the best utilization of their staff as the main objective. For others, it could be balancing workload against union constraints. If there are multiple, possibly competing objectives, these can be weighted and an extra KPI assigned to determine the overall quality of the plan.

DELMIA Quintiq’s smart planning platform helps you balance your goals, ensuring that increased productivity and efficiency, cost reduction, employee satisfaction and optimal safety drive your planning process.

Want to learn more? Don’t miss your chance to discover what leading ANSPs know about effective ATCO rostering. Sign up for our webinar now!'

Rae Janssen'

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