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Work-life balance for truckers is key as driver shortage takes its toll

Breakthrough AI optimization technology for real-time scheduling shows that carriers are prioritizing drivers work-life balance while helping manage costs, service and safety for the company.

With over 70% of all freight tonnage being moved on the nation’s highways, most of the goods you eat, wear, walk on, live in and otherwise consume are transported on trucks. However, within the trucking industry, and increasingly beyond it, alarm bells are going off.

A driver shortage has been getting more severe over the last few years and is predicted to worsen. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) produced a study recently showing a shortfall of approximately 60,000 current qualified drivers in 2018. More critically, the average driver age is now at 46. While the industry is making efforts to attract a younger and more diverse workforce, success in this area has been limited. If the current aging driver workforce trend holds, the shortage will more than double to over 160,000 in ten years.

Importantly, the ATA study outlines how “qualified” means more than just a Class A license. The carriers continue to maintain stringent hiring processes, with safety and reliability being prime concerns. Moreover, traditional approaches for attracting and maintaining the best drivers, such as sign-on bonuses, increased compensation and premium rigs, are now mere table stakes. As a result, carriers struggle to find enough qualified drivers, which makes the impact of the shortage feel worse. Enterprising logistics executives are beginning to realize that these perks are just not going to be enough in the long haul. All the while these same executives need to consider costs, safety and service as well.

Interestingly, a quick survey of some of the threads in driver forums such as the TruckersReport shows that drivers place high value on more nights at home. A recent article in SupplyChain 24/7 backs this up, going on to say that providing an acceptable home-life balance for long-haul drivers is “no easy trick” .

As the shortage of qualified drivers intensifies, carriers look for more and different ways to attract and maintain these key business resources. An innovative approach sees leading carriers looking at advanced planning and scheduling solutions to give drivers more nights at home while maintaining cost structures, service, and safety parameters. Such preference-based scheduling harnesses the power of operational AI to optimize resources, loads and routes while considering regulations and business rules in real time.

Advanced planning and scheduling (APS) is rapidly becoming a key element of an overall ERP strategy for many mission-critical industries, where optimizing resources in real-time and on-demand amounts to smart business. In trucking, APS begins with preference-based planning, with all available trucks, drivers, depots and goods and their respective locations, enabling straightforward fleet, platoon, lane and leg-level optimization. This means more orders are pushed through the same or even fewer fleet resources.

As the usual day-to-day unfolds, unplanned maintenance, sudden cargo limitations, and even last-minute customer changes get a speedy response, all while considering traffic, weather, and of course, driver nights at home, in real-time.

We are just starting to feel the impact of this worsening driver shortage. Visionary trucking companies recognize the clear and present need to manage the challenges of attracting and maintaining drivers, a key business resource. Advanced planning and scheduling not only enables a good work-life balance for their drivers, but reduces costs, improves service and maintains safety regulations.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn

Why surgery is so expensive

The latest developments in operational AI mean advanced scheduling and planning in real time and on demand is becoming a key element in the delivery of cost-effective surgical procedures with better patient outcomes.

Within the $3.65 trillion healthcare system, surgery is one of the highest cost centers, accounting for as much as 30% of that total, around one trillion dollars. This is a lot of money, but let’s consider all the aspects of a typical surgery: highly skilled physicians, nurses and support staff operating state-of-the-art equipment, requisite tests, medications, and surgical supplies, possibly implants too. Reliable pre-op and post-op transitions and care are key elements of every surgical procedure.

A health care center’s systems for case management, staff scheduling, lab, supply, and imaging all play an important role. Unfortunately, these systems are often disparate, and so data is gleaned and transferred manually from system to system. The surgery scheduling system is included in this mix, with its hourly, even minute-by-minute updates. And while some scheduling applications include staff skills criteria and equipment maintenance schedules, these are sometimes maintained on a simple spreadsheet. In the end, the actual live schedule may be posted on a whiteboard, requiring the daily surgery scheduling team to bounce between the various systems and sources, ensuring that all resources and processes are in place for each surgical procedure.

However, especially for large surgery centers, priorities are dynamic, and disruptions occur regularly. Emergencies arise. Procedures run late and so on. These not only have a cascading effect on the ongoing surgery schedule, but add overtime pay to the ballooning costs. Moreover, the operational staff are in a continuous catch up process, adjusting the various systems to reflect the dynamic situation. This leads to situations where surgeons, anesthesiologists and surgical nurses are waiting to enter the operating theater, as another procedure has run longer than expected. Delays like this are costly and negatively impact pre- and post-operative room assignments. And as the pre-op and recovery rooms fill up, the quality and consistency of patient care suffers too.

When the schedule is over-burdened, much needed breaks for the front-line medical professionals are often the first sacrifice. This despite the overwhelming evidence showing a rested, alert and coordinated team correlates strongly with better post-operative outcomes and shorter hospital stays, not to mention more satisfied employees.

It should come then as no surprise then that surgery is a major expense item in our health care system’s books. Skilled physicians and nurses and state-of-the-art operating theaters are premium assets. The business of healthcare demands that these critical resources be fully and optimally utilized, with a keen eye on improving patient outcomes every step of the way.

With the latest advances in operational AI, service optimization for surgical scheduling and planning sees the intricate operating room logistics iterated automatically as the schedule develops during the days leading up to the procedure. Throughout a day, as long-running operations and emergencies crop up, AI-optimized scheduling navigates the complex resource realignment in real-time and on-demand, while ensuring processes including mandated breaks are protected.

The paradox here is while science and medicine push the boundaries of what is surgically possible to save and improve lives, the complex set of resources and processes required to deliver these procedures lag behind. However, visionary organizations are beginning to recognize that AI optimization of these costly and critical resources with advanced scheduling and planning, they not only serve their bottom lines, but contribute to improved employee satisfaction and most importantly, better patient outcomes.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn