PJ: How do you view your competitive landscape, and why do you win over or loose to these competitors?
GF: Our largest competitor has been internal to the customer, since companies often decide to “do nothing” or create a “home grown” solution. Customers are often under the impression that their organization or facility’s labor scheduling is so complex and that it cannot be automated - or if it could, it would be too expensive. They may have even looked at other packaged solutions and found them lacking.
All of this is possible with ScheduleSoft, because our system is rules-based and easily configurable. We also understand that no two facilities are the same – no matter what. Even if they make the same product in the same geographic market, there could still be differences in the interpretation of labor rules and scheduling nuances that are unique to each facility.
PJ: Why has labor scheduling and optimization in field force and call-centers thrived for all this time, which is not necessarily the case with manufacturing?
GF: Because many people don’t think labor scheduling for manufacturing is even possible. The retail stores, field service, and call center markets are cluttered with workforce scheduling solutions providers. These solutions address scheduling issues that can be forecasted. There is little variability and these solutions typically don’t have the optimization engine, the smart “math” behind them to solve truly complex shift scheduling.
ScheduleSoft has cultivated a strong customer base in Food Processing and Manufacturing where we have developed expertise in the complexities these organizations face (labor laws, regulations, complex shifts, continuous production, etc.). The following message is beginning to resonate with manufacturers: it is not just a human capital management (HCM) issue, but workforce scheduling should also be part of an overall agile manufacturing strategy.
PJ: What is your mobility strategy (technology and platforms supported), perhaps in light of the SAP and Sybase merger and your important relationship with SAP?
GF: We have taken a bit of a unique path on this one. In the past, we had partnered with an industry standard that most other solution providers are using for their mobile solution, but we found that it wasn’t well suited for our customers’ dynamic environments.
Our current philosophy is to provide a mobile offering that supports the complex scheduling rules and strategies executed in ScheduleSoft and not the other way around. Our interactive voice response (IVR) offering leverages the power of a customer’s scheduling algorithm. So we start by identifying the best candidate for the job and go from there, which requires the least amount of calls, confirmations, and notifications to meet the staffing requirements.
PJ: Although the trends seem positive lately for you, what issues/challenges are still keeping you asleep at night?
GF: Because we have a strong focus on manufacturing, one competitive concern is the fact that SAP has selected ClickSoftware as its global workforce scheduling and optimization solution, SAP WS&O. As you stated in your recent article series, ClickSoftware has become a leading provider for field service businesses. But because it is resold by SAP, ClickSoftware is being marketed to all SAP customers, which muddles our message.
Another major challenge is educating the market about the uniqueness of our solution. ScheduleSoft is a strategic workforce scheduling solution that doesn’t just address HCM and HR issues, but it also provides visibility into the Supply Chain and the ability to have a flexible workforce in support of agile manufacturing. We optimize labor resources to allow organizations to produce the same amount of product with fewer resources or produce more products with the same number of resources.
PJ: In light of my recent series on the link between ERP, lean manufacturing, advanced planning & scheduling (APS), and manufacturing execution systems (MES, see the article for more details) , how would your solution fit in amongst these technologies (and to solve what)?
GF: This is core to our differentiation. We agree with your recent statement that these systems (ERP, APS, etc.) are good for long-term planning and transactional accounting, but not necessarily for scheduling and execution on the shop floor. How we fit in is in the following way: we can take a production schedule that has changed and generate an optimized workforce schedule to produce exactly what is required.
In each of these systems (ERP, MES, etc.), labor is viewed as a constraint. We believe that there should not need to be a variance in labor and that labor should be seen as an ingredient in producing the final product. In a manner of speaking, ScheduleSoft can be regarded as the “six sigma for labor.”
PJ: Is there anything else you are at liberty to volunteer on the company's future moves, i.e., new functional scope, verticals, etc.?
GF: Really, we think it will be more of the same for us. We are confident we can grow significantly with our current focus and differentiation in the marketplace.