The Planning Inspectorate is responsible for managing all planning and enforcement appeals, local development plan enquiries and planning related casework throughout England and Wales.
The business is complex and dynamic, dealing with multiple moving dimensions and stringent deadlines. It also has a set of strict business rules, which matches a network of over 400 professionally qualified, home-based inspectors with a workload of approximately 20,000 cases every year for 422 Local Planning Authorities (LPAs).The Planning Inspectorate had previously been using a highly complex manual system to schedule inspection jobs. Managing this process was a large team of schedulers, whose aim was to maximise the number of jobs carried out within a given period, a task that would involve making constant changes to the inspectors’ schedules in order to deal with the continually evolving workload.
Using their comprehensive knowledge of the inspector workforce, schedulers would select the best inspector for a job based on a set of clearly defined criteria including skills, competencies, grade and location. This could be a lengthy process for the more complex inspections, which could take up to half a day to find the most appropriate person. Many communications between the remote inspector workforce and the centralised team of schedulers were telephone and paper based, which was very time intensive.
Following a full tender process, the Planning Inspectorate selected Cygnum (formerly known as OfficeBase) from CACI to help them improve inspection scheduling and resource allocation. The solution, which was delivered on time and to budget within 8 months, was fully customised based on the Planning Inspectorate’s unique business requirements and operational processes.
Schedulers can now use the software to efficiently match inspectors to jobs based on clearly defined business rules. The software works by providing the scheduler with a colour-coded virtual planner, which shows the current set of jobs against the inspectors for a given time period.
Cygnum then identifies the most appropriate inspector for the job, which is presented as a best-fit percentage ranking, thereby allowing schedulers to see straight away who the most appropriate available person is and assign them to that job promptly. The software also uses genetic algorithms to review the inspectors work schedule for a week’s worth of hearings and enquiries to ensure staff resource and travel time are optimised.
Each inspector can now access their work schedule for the coming weeks through a secure web browser, with any changes to the schedule communicated to them by email. This includes drill down functionality, available against each inspection task, so they can view additional information to help them complete the assignment. Inspectors also complete their timesheets online. Pre-populated information for inspection tasks is also used to minimise the manual input by the inspectors, which can be overwritten if necessary.
Results and Benefits...
“The scheduling system has brought significant efficiency improvements to the front and back office. Since implementing this system, the Planning Inspectorate has experienced increased demands on its services by approximately 20% but has nevertheless been able to reduce the number of staff scheduling the inspections by 33%. In addition, there has been a significant reduction in the paper based administrative tasks supporting remote inspectors. All this was achieved without compromising the quality of service to our clients.”John RendallSection ManagerThe Planning Inspectorate