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Publication numberWO2008144797 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberPCT/AU2007/000765
Publication date4 Dec 2008
Filing date31 May 2007
Priority date31 May 2007
Publication numberPCT/2007/765, PCT/AU/2007/000765, PCT/AU/2007/00765, PCT/AU/7/000765, PCT/AU/7/00765, PCT/AU2007/000765, PCT/AU2007/00765, PCT/AU2007000765, PCT/AU200700765, PCT/AU7/000765, PCT/AU7/00765, PCT/AU7000765, PCT/AU700765, WO 2008/144797 A1, WO 2008144797 A1, WO 2008144797A1, WO-A1-2008144797, WO2008/144797A1, WO2008144797 A1, WO2008144797A1
InventorsJonathan Leonard Scharrer
ApplicantNidasu Corporation Pty Limited
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: Patentscope, Espacenet
An information management system and method
WO 2008144797 A1
Abstract
A method of dynamically displaying the status of work orders being serviced in a work place, the method being operable using a computerised system including a processor communicably connected via a communication link with a memory store, an input means, and, a plurality of output display terminals positioned so as to be visually accessible by the workers, wherein the method includes the steps of: (i) the workers entering into the computerised system via the input means, the work order status information representing a status of work orders being performed; (ii) storing the entered work order status information into a memory store of the computerised system; and (iii) dynamically outputting the entered work order status information via at least one of the plurality of output display terminals.
Claims  (OCR text may contain errors)
Claims
1. A method of dynamically displaying the status of work orders being serviced in a work place, the method being operable using a computerised system including a processor communicably connected via a communication link with a memory store, an input means, and, a plurality of output display terminals positioned so as to be visually accessible by the workers, wherein the method includes the steps of:
(i) the workers entering into the computerised system via the input means, the work order status information representing a status of work orders being performed; (ii) storing the entered work order status information into a memory store of the computerised system; and
(iii) dynamically outputting the entered work order status information via at least one of the plurality of output display terminals.
2. A method as claimed in claim 1 wherein each worker is assigned its own output display terminal.
3. A method as claimed in claims 1 or 2 wherein the output display terminals are adapted to display a status of tasks which comprise each work order in real time.
4. A method as claimed in claim 3 wherein each task is represented by an icon.
5. A method as claimed in claim 4 wherein the extent to which the task has been performed is indicated by adjusting a colour of the icon or by adjusting a proportion of the icon's surface area that is coloured.
6. A method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the output display terminals include LCD and/or plasma screen displays.
7. A method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the communication link includes a wireless communication link.
8. A method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the output display terminals are administered by a central server.
9. A method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein workers enter work order status information in to the computerised system whenever at least one of the following events occur:
(a) the worker changes the status of a work order or task comprising the work order;
(b) the worker identified a new task is needed to be performed; and
(c) a predetermined time interval elapses.
10. A method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims including the step of chronologically storing each work order status information entered by workers relating to a common work order in a work order history file.
11. A method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims including the step of selectively outputting work order status information to specific output display terminals.
12. A method as claimed in claim 11 wherein the computerised system is programmed to automatically identify workers associated with a specific work order and to selectively display entered work order status information to output display terminals of those identified workers.
13. A method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein workers are able to selectively configure their own output display terminals to enable them to dynamically display specific work order status informations entered by workers.
14. A method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims including the step of providing a messaging interface operable on the computerised system for workers to message each other.
15. A method as claimed in claim 14 including an RSS reader adapted for automatically checking a message bank of a worker for newly received messages, and for displaying any newly received messages on an output display terminal of the worker.
16. A method as claimed in claims 14 or 15 including the step of chronologically storing each message entered by workers relating to a common work order in a work order history file.
17. A method of generating a real-time report indicative of a worker's productivity in a work place, the method being operable using a computerised system and including:
(i) the worker entering work summary information into the computerised system indicative of the worker's performance over a selected time period;
(ii) comparing the work summary information with a predetermined productivity threshold; and
(iii) displaying a report including a visual indicia which is indicative of the comparison between the worker's performance and the predetermined productivity threshold.
18. A method as claimed in claim 17 wherein the work summary information entered by each worker may relate to at least one of the following categories of performance;
(a) an amount of work that has been performed by the worker;
(b) the type of work that has been performed by the worker; (c) an amount of work still pending for completion by the worker;
(d) a total amount of time taken to perform the work;
(e) information indicative of a starting and finishing time of the work performed by the worker;
(f) a number of vehicles upon which the worker has performed work;
(g) an amount of revenue generated as a result of the work performed by the worker.
19. A method as claimed in claims 17 or 18 wherein the predetermined productivity threshold is predefined by a workshop controller responsible for managing, supervising and/or monitoring work activities of the worker.
20. A method as claimed in any one of claims 17 to 19 wherein the comparison is represented in the report in terms of a percentage of the predetermined productivity threshold that has been achieved by the worker based on the work summary information entered by the worker.
21. A method as claimed in any one of claims 17 to 20 wherein the comparison includes at least one of the following:
(a) information indicating a percentage of work orders and/or tasks of a specific nature which the worker has completed within a predetermined threshold time frame; (b) information indicating a percentage of work orders and/or tasks of a specific nature which have been completed by the worker after a customer designated completion time;
(c) information indicating a percentage of work orders and/or tasks of a specific nature which have been commenced by the worker after a customer designated commencement time;
22. A method as claimed in any one of claims 17 to 21 including the step of automatically sending an alert message to the worker or to the workshop controller whenever the comparison indicates that:
(a) the predetermined productivity threshold has not been met by the worker's performance; or
(b) a minimum percentage of the productivity threshold has not been met.
23. A method as claimed in claim 22 wherein the alert message is sent in at least one of the following messaging formats:
(a) an SMS;
(b) an e-mail;
(c) an Internet-accessible web page posting;
(d) an automated phone call message.
24. A method as claimed in any one of claim 17 to 23 wherein the worker enters the work summary information at a predetermined event, the predetermined event including: (a) whenever a work order or a task comprising the work order is completed;
(b) whenever the worker has ended his/her work shift.
25. A method for use in booking a customer work order for servicing by a service provider, the method being operable using a computerised system and including the steps of:
(i) receiving a request to perform a customer work order, the customer work order being defined by at least one requirement;
(ii) determining whether a predetermined resource allocation criteria is able to be met by allocating an available resource of the service provider in performing the customer work order in accordance with the at least one requirement; and
(iii) recording a booking for the customer work order if the predetermined resource allocation criteria is able to be met.
26. A method as claimed in claim 25 wherein the customer work order includes a specification of at least one of the following requirements:
(a) that a specific service be performed on the customer's vehicle;
(b) that a specific starting time and/or completion time be allocated for the customer work order; and
(c) that a loan vehicle be provided to the customer as a replacement for the customer's vehicle while it is being serviced.
27. A method as claimed in claim 26 wherein the predetermined resource allocation criteria includes at least one of the following requirements:
(a) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of vehicles which the service provider wishes to accommodate in the car park on the requested day is not exceeded;
(b) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of loan vehicles which the service provider wishes to supply to customers on the requested day, is not exceeded;
(c) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of working hours which the service provider wishes to operate on the requested day, is not exceeded;
(d) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of work-stations which the service provider wishes to operate on the requested day, is not exceeded;
(e) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of work orders of a specific nature which the service provider wishes to perform on that day, is not exceeded;
(f) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on a requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of work orders having an estimated duration for completion which the service provider wishes to perform on the requested day, is not exceeded; (g) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined earliest starting time during the day for booking in a customer work order, and, a latest starting time during the day for booking in a customer work order, is adhered to; and
(h) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of express and standard work-stations which the service provider wishes to provide on that day, is not exceeded.
28. A method as claimed in claimed in claims 26 or 27 wherein a different resource allocation criteria is able to be defined for different days.
29. A method as claimed in claim 28 including the step of maintaining a record of resource allocation criterias defined for different days.
30. A method as claimed in any one of claim 26 to 29 including the step of automatically booking a customer requested work order on a day having a resource allocation criteria which is compatible with the customer work order requirements.
31. A method as claimed in any one of claims 26 to 30 including the step of displaying on the computerised system a booking calendar having a plurality of calendar elements, the calendar elements having icons representing the actual availability of a resource on a given day, or, the actual limits on available resources that are to be allocated to work order bookings.
32. A method as claimed in claim 31 wherein the degree of availability of each resource is indicated in real-time by varying a colour of the displayed icon, or by varying a proportion of the icon that is coloured.
33. A calendar for use in displaying work absences of a worker, the calendar being displayable on a display means of a computerised system and including: a plurality of calendar elements indicative of work sessions; and a means of adjusting a visual characteristic of a calendar element to indicate a forecasted absence of the worker at a work session represented by the calendar element.
34. A method as claimed in claim 33 wherein a visual characteristic of the calendar elements are adjusted to indicate an absence of the worker on the corresponding day.
35. A method as claimed in claim 33 or 34 including the step of the computer system automatically determining if a worker has clocked in at the start of a work session, and, causing a visual characteristic of a calendar element to be automatically adjusted to indicate the absence of a worker on that day, if the worker has not been detected as having clocked in.
36. A method as claimed in claim 35 including the step of the computer system automatically sending an alert message to a workshop controller indicating the absence of the worker from the work session.
37. A method as claimed in claim 36 wherein the alert message is sent automatically in the form of at least one of an e-mail, an SMS, or, an automated phone call.
38. A method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims including the step of dynamically displaying worker productivity information in real-time on at least one of the plurality of output display terminals.
39. A method as claimed in claim 38 wherein at least one of the plurality of output display terminals is programmable to dynamically display a worker productivity histories of multiple workers simultaneously.
40. A method as claimed in claims 38 or 39 wherein the worker productivity history includes at least one of:
(a) information indicating work currently being performed by a worker;
(b) information indicating past work performed by a worker;
(c) information indicating future work that is scheduled to be performed by a worker.
41. A method as claimed in any one of claims 38 to 40 including the step of displaying the worker productivity history on the output display terminal in graphical format.
42. A method as claimed in claim 41 wherein the step of displaying the worker productivity history in graphical format includes displaying each worker productivity history as a column adjacent a time line, the column including a sequence of blocks representing a particular type of work.
43. A method as claimed in claim 42 wherein each block in a column is selectively coloured wherein the colour of the block represents whether the work associated with the block is "productive work" or "non-productive work".
44. A method as claimed in claims 42 or 43 wherein at least one block is an interactive icon, hyperlink or the like which when activated causes further information to be revealed relating to the work associated with the block, the further information including at least one of: (a) a measured duration of the work;
(b) a measured start time of the work;
(c) a measured finish time of the work;
(d) an identify of a vehicle that was or is being worked upon; (e) information identifying a customer who owns the vehicle which has or is being worked upon;
(f) an indication of an estimated time required to complete the work.
45. A method as claimed in any one of the preceding claims including selectably controlling how work is allocated to workers, wherein at least one of the following work allocation schemes is implemented:
(a) a new work order is allocated to a worker one-at-a-time and only once a previous work order has been completed;
(b) all work orders having completion times meeting a particular criteria are allocated to a specific worker;
(c) multiple work orders are allocated to a worker in bulk at any one time; and
(d) work orders are self-assigned by a worker.
46. A computerised system programmed to perform the method steps in accordance with at least one of claims 1 to 45.
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

AN INFORMATION MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AND METHOD

Technical Field

The present invention relates to an information management system and method, and in particular, an information system and method for use in managing information in process-flow work environments such as auto workshops, hospitals, law firms and the like.

Background of the Invention

In an auto workshop, customer vehicles are typically processed by reference to a "customer work order" - that is, a specification of the tasks which need to be performed in order to service the vehicle in accordance with the customer's wishes. For instance, a customer work order may typically include such tasks as washing the vehicle, changing the brake pads, tuning the engine, and spray-painting the vehicle. These tasks may be performed by a single technician or several technicians under the supervision of a workshop controller.

The fluent processing of relevant information between different workers when servicing a customer work order may be crucial in ensuring that the work order is processed efficiently and economically. Unfortunately, information bottlenecks tend to arise between technicians, work shop controllers, customer service advisers and receptionists. For instance, whenever a technician identifies a new problem with a customer vehicle, in order for the technician to find out if he should take steps to address the new problem, a query must be communicated along a chain of workers in cascading fashion before arriving at the customer, and then the customer's answer to the query is again cascaded back to the technician through multiple workers. It is readily apparent that this information processing paradigm is too slow and is in need of improvement. Summary of the Invention

The present invention seeks to alleviate at least one of the problems described in relation to the prior art.

The present invention may involve several different broad forms. Embodiments of the invention may include one or any combination of the different broad forms herein described.

In a first broad form, the present invention provides a method of visually tracking work order status information in a work place, the method being operable using a computerised system including a processor communicably connected via a communication link with a memory store, an input means, and, a plurality of output display terminals positioned so as to be visually accessible by the workers, wherein the method includes the steps of:

(i) the workers entering into the computerised system via the input means, the work order status information representing a status of work orders being performed;

(ii) storing the entered work order status information into a memory store of the computerised system; and (iii) dynamically outputting the entered work order status information via at least one of the plurality of output display terminals.

Typically, the work place may include an auto workshop and a plurality of workers may perform different tasks relating either directly and indirectly towards servicing the customer work order. For instance, the auto workshop may include at least one of the following workers:

• a receptionist responsible for receiving a customer request for the status of the customer's work order;

• a customer adviser responsible for communicating the status of the customer work order directly to the customer; • a technician responsible for performing at least one task required in servicing the customer work order; and

• a workshop controller for assigning tasks to, and/or, supervising the tasks of the operator during servicing of the customer's work order.

Typically, the output display terminal may be adapted to display the work order code to identify the work order, and, a series of icons next to the work order code which represent the status of different tasks which are needed to be performed in order to complete the customer work order. For instance, and by way of example only, a particular customer work order may include the tasks of changing the vehicle's tyres, tuning the engine, and painting the vehicle. Thus, the icons displayed next to the customer work order code may therefore include a tyre icon, an engine icon, and a paint brush icon. Each icon may include a variable colour characteristic wherein the colour shown at any given time may be indicative of whether the task has yet to be started, is in progress, or has been completed.

Typically, each of the output display terminals may include its own processor and input means via which workers are able to enter work status information into the computer system. Typically the input means may include at least one of a keyboard, a mouse, and a touch-screen keypad. Typically, the output display terminals may include an electronic monitor or screen.

Preferably, each of the workers may be assigned its own specific output display terminal. However, in certain circumstances multiple workers may share a common output display terminal - for instance, where multiple workers work in proximity to each other and/or assist each other in performing common tasks in the auto workshop.

Typically, the output display terminals may be strategically dispersed around the workshop. For instance, in an auto workshop, an output display terminal may be mounted in proximity to each technician, at reception, and, in a vicinity of each of the workshop controllers. Advantageously, by mounting the output display terminals in proximity to key workers in the work shop, each worker may be able to keep dynamically updated in regard to not only their own work orders, but also, work orders being performed by other technicians and/or in other parts of the work shop. Furthermore, the present invention provides a method of dynamically displaying realtime work order status information on a plurality of display terminals accessible by any or all workers at any given time.

In some forms, work order statuses can be variable and can indicate a level of completion. In additional or alternate forms, the work status can indicate a worker who is responsible for the work order. In further additional or alternate forms, the work status may include one or more workers who require an alert require the status of the work order.

The communication link may include a hard-wired or wireless communication link. Typically, the hard-wired communication link may include the use of Cat5 connections. Typically, where the communication link is a wireless link, it may be implemented using a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth protocol.

Preferably, the present invention may include a central server which is communicably connected to the output display terminals and which is adapted to centrally store status informations entered by the plurality of workers.

Preferably, work order status information is entered into the computerised system by a worker whenever at least one of the following events occurs:

• the worker identifies the status of a work item associated with the work order; • the worker identified a new task is needed to be performed - for instance, this may arise where a previously unforseen problem with the customer's vehicle is detected which may need to be addressed;

• a predetermined time interval elapses.

Whenever a new work order status information is entered into the computerised system by a worker, the work order status information may be archived in chronological fashion within the memory store of the central server so as to provide not only a documented "history" of the work order as it is performed by one or more workers, but also, to provide assistance in forming a "productivity history" of the worker(s). Typically, this archived information may later be searched and retrieved by other workers and the workshop controller by reference to a work order code or a worker identification code. Advantageously, the archived information may assist other workers in learning more about a particular customer's vehicle. This is an improvement over the prior art in which hand-written updates regarding customer work orders would be archived for later retrieval. The present invention is substantially more efficient, orderly and reliable in its handling of work order status information given that paper records are susceptible to being misplaced

Preferably, the present invention includes a step of selectively outputting the status information to only specific output display terminals. For instance, when a first worker enters a status information regarding a work order into the computerised system, the processor may identify which other workers are currently working on different aspects of the same work order, and, may selectively output the status information only to the output display terminals in proximity to the selected workers. This may avoid cluttering output display terminals of worker's with irrelevant "work order" information.

Workers themselves may be able to selectively configure their own output display terminals to enable them to automatically display status informations of each work order that is of interest. Thus, the workers may not be required to view each and every status information that is entered in to the computer system, but only the relevant updates as they are entered in real-time by other workers. Typically, each work order that is performed in the auto workshop will have its work order code number. The computerised system may be adapted to automatically identify the matter code number entered with each status information update as it is entered by a worker. Alternatively, an administrator may be responsible for configuring the output display terminals of each worker centrally by editing settings via a control interface running on the central server.

The present invention may also be adapted for use as a messaging system for sending messages between workers. Messages may be entered via the output display terminals assigned to the respective workers. The central server may

function as a message database for storing messages. Typically, an RSS reader application may be utilised to automatically check for new messages stored in the central server, and to automatically push these messages to the appropriate worker's output display terminal. This may alleviate the need for worker's to regularly log into their message accounts during a busy work schedule.

In a second broad form, the present invention provides a method of generating a real-time report indicative of a worker's productivity in a work place, the method being operable using a computerised system and including the steps of:

(i) the worker entering work summary information into the computerised system indicative of the worker's performance over a selected time period; (ii) comparing the work summary information with a predetermined productivity threshold; and

(iii) displaying a report including a visual indicia which is indicative of the comparison between the worker's performance and the predetermined productivity threshold. Typically, the work summary information may be entered into the computerised system using at least one of the plurality of output display terminals.

Typically, the work summary information recorded by the worker may relate to at least one of the following categories of performance;

(a) an amount of work that has been performed by the worker;

(b) the type of work that has been performed by the worker;

(c) an amount of work still pending for completion by the worker;

(d) a total amount of time taken to perform the work;

(e) information indicative of a starting and finishing time of the work performed by the worker;

(f) a number of vehicles upon which the worker has performed work;

(g) an amount of revenue generated as a result of the work performed by the worker.

Typically, the amount of work may be defined in terms of work orders completed, and/or, tasks completed which comprise the work order(s).

Preferably, the predetermined productivity threshold may be predefined by a workshop controller responsible for managing, supervising and/or monitoring work activities of the worker.

Typically, the comparison may be represented in terms of a percentage of the predetermined productivity threshold that has been achieved by the worker based on the work summary information recorded by the worker. For instance, if the work summary information indicates that the worker completed 4 customer work orders of a particular nature (eg. re-wiring an electrical system of a vehicle) in the given time period, and, the predetermined productivity threshold requires that the number of this type work order which should be completed in the time period is 5, then the result of the comparison may be indicated as 80% productivity in this aspect of the worker's work performance.

The comparison which is made may additionally, or alternatively, include a comparison between the amount of time spent by the worker in performing "productive work" as opposed to "non-productive work". Whether work of a particular type is designated as being "productive" or "non-productive" may be arbitrarily predetermined by programming the computerised system to automatically recognise "productive" and "non-productive" work codes entered by a worker.

Preferably, the report may also display at least one of the following:

(a) information indicating a percentage of work orders and/or tasks of a specific nature which the worker has completed within the predetermined threshold time frame;

(b) information indicating a percentage of work orders and/or tasks of a specific nature which have been completed by the worker after a customer designated completion time;

(c) information indicating a percentage of work orders and/or tasks of a specific nature which have been commenced by the worker after a customer designated commencement time;

Typically, the present invention may also be adapted to generate a report in which work performances of multiple workers may be compared against each other simultaneously by reference to work summary informations recorded by each of the plurality of workers. For instance, this may involve charting an average time taken by each of the workers to perform a particular task in a series of bar graphs in side-by- side fashion. Typically, the graphs may also include a visual indication as to a predetermined minimum time and a predetermined maximum time that should be taken to perform the particular task. Advantageously, this may provide a convenient and readily discernible comparison of a worker's performance against both the predetermined productivity threshold as well as against the performance of other workers.

Typically, an alert message may be automatically generated and sent to a predetermined recipient such as a workshop controller whenever the comparison indicates that:

(a) the predetermined productivity threshold has not been met by the worker's performance; or

(b) a minimum percentage of the productivity threshold has not been met.

(c) the worker has achieved the predetermined productivity threshold too quickly which may indicate that the worker's quality of work and attention to detail may be deficient.

Typically, the alert message may be sent in at least one of the following messaging formats:

(a) an SMS;

(b) an e-mail;

(c) an Internet-accessible web page posting; Typically, the predetermined event at which the worker is required to record the work summary information may include:

(a) whenever a work order or a task comprising the work order is completed;

(b) whenever the worker has ended his/her work shift regardless of the completion of a work order or task comprising the work order.

Typically, the output display terminals mounted around the workshop may also be selectively programmable to dynamically display worker productivity information in real-time.

For instance, each output display terminal may be programmable to dynamically display a worker productivity history of each worker in the entire workshop, or of a specific worker in the work shop, in real-time, wherein the worker productivity history for each worker may include at least one of the following:

(a) information indicating work currently being performed by each worker;

(b) information indicating past work performed by each worker;

(c) information indicating future work that is scheduled to be performed by each worker.

Preferably, the worker productivity history for each worker may be displayable on the output display terminals in graphical format. In particular, the worker productivity history for each worker may be depicted in the form of columns which are comprised of sequences of blocks wherein each block in the sequence may represent a particular type of work performed, and, the duration of that type of work performed. The column associated with each worker may be charted against a time line such that the time spent by the worker in performing a particular block of work may be readily ascertained by visually comparing the block against the adjacent time line.

The nature of the work that is indicated by a particular block in a column may be represented in terms of a colour characteristic. For instance, the block may be coloured green to indicate that the work was considered to be "productive" work, or "red" to indicate that the work was considered to be "non-productive" work.

Typically, each block in a column may be interactive whereby, by clicking on the block with a mouse cursor for instance, further detailed information relating to that block of work may be displayed on to the output display terminal. For instance, the further information may indicate a specific duration of the block of work, the start and finish times of the block of work, the identity of the vehicle that was being worked upon, information identifying the customer, and, an indication of the actual expected time that should be taken to complete this type of work, amongst other things.

The information that is used to chart the columns in the worker productivity history graphs on each output display terminal, may be obtained by workers periodically entering information concerning work orders currently being performed, work orders completed and so on.

Conveniently, a work shop administrator, work shop controller or the like, may be able to visually inspect the productivity histories of a specific team of workers simultaneously, or an individual worker in real-time throughout a working day in order to make more informed people management decisions.

In a third broad form, the present invention provides a method for use in booking a customer work order for servicing by a service provider, the method being operable using a computerised system, and including the steps of: (i) receiving a request to perform a customer work order, the customer work order being defined by at least one requirement;

(ii) determining whether a predetermined resource allocation criteria is able to be met by allocating an available resource of the service provider in performing the customer work order in accordance with the at least one requirement; and

(iii) recording a booking for the customer work order if the predetermined resource allocation criteria is able to be met.

Typically, the customer work order may include a specification of at least one of the following requirements:

(a) that a specific service be performed on the customer's vehicle;

(b) that a specific starting time and/or completion time be allocated for the customer work order;

(c) that a loan vehicle be provided to the customer as a replacement for the customer's vehicle while it is being serviced.

Typically, service provider resources required to perform any given customer work order may include at least one of the following categories of resources:

• manpower - eg. in terms of the number of available technician's to perform the customer work order;

• expertise - eg. in terms of the number of available technician's that are trained to perform a particular task required of the customer work order; • time - eg. whether there is sufficient time available on the requested day which can be allocated for performing the customer work order in accordance with the customer work order requirements;

• space - eg. whether there is sufficient parking space able to be allocated in order to accommodate the customer's vehicle;

• loan vehicles - eg. often it will be the case that a loan vehicle will be provided to the customer as a substitute whilst the customer vehicle is being serviced. The auto workshop may typically only have a limited number of loan vehicle available at any given time.

Preferably, the present invention may include the step of maintaining a resource record detailing a current and forecasted availability of each service provider resource for various working days in real time. Preferably, the resource record may be updated dynamically whenever a new booking is made, and/or, whenever an event occurs which has an effect upon the availability of the resource at a given time. For instance, a non-booking event may arise where the auto workshop controller decides that on a particular day in the upcoming month, half of the technicians scheduled to work that day may be given the day off. This would affect the availability of resources on that particular day in terms of the manpower and expertise which is available to service customer work orders, and this may be reflected by dynamically adjusting the record of available resources accordingly for the relevant day.

Preferably, prior to performing step (ii) of the first broad form, the present invention may include at least one of the following preliminary steps:

(I) identifying which resource(s) is/are required to actually perform the customer work order; and (II) determining the availability of the required resources in accordance with the customer work order requirements - eg. whether the required expertise will be available on the day requested by the customer. Typically this step involves referring to the resource record.

Thus, after the preliminary steps are performed, step (ii) of the first broad form may then be applied to determine if the predetermined resource allocation criteria would be met if the booking were made. That is, even if a particular resource may be available for use by the service provider to service a customer requested work order on a given day, the service provider may not wish to actually allocate the available resources to service the customer work order for various reasons on that day. Preferably, the present invention also includes the step of the service provider predefining the resource allocation criteria before step (ii) of the first broad form.

The resource allocation criteria may be dynamically adjusted by reference to forecasted worker absences recorded in the worker absence calendar in the other broad forms of the present invention. For instance, if a technician is expected to be absent on a certain day, the resource allocation criteria for that day may be dynamically adjusted to take the worker absence into account when deciding whether to allow certain customer bookings.

Similarly, the total available time for performing customer work orders on a particular day may be limited not only by the actual number of hours the auto workshop will be opened on the requested day, but also by reference to the estimated number of "productive" hours the technician scheduled to work on that day will provide. The total number of "productive hours" which will be available on any given day can be ascertained automatically by the computerised system which can examine the productivity history of the worker scheduled to work that day. That is, if the workshop is to be opened for 5 hours on the requested day, but the technician scheduled to work that day is recorded as having a work efficiency of only 80% (that is, he is only productive 4 out of 5 hours), then the time resource for that day may be reflected accordingly as only being 4 hours rather than 5 hours.

Preferably, the present invention may allow for the service provider to predefine different resource allocation criteria for different days of the year. For instance, the service provider may in some cases seek to group multiple bookings together on a common day which require common tasks to be performed where for instance it may be more efficient and/or economical to perform several tasks of a common nature on a single day rather than separately on different days. Conversely, the service provider may seek to limit the number of bookings that are made on a certain day despite the actual availability of the resources to perform the service - for instance, where it may not be cost effective to have a number of work orders having relatively "long" estimated durations booked in to the same day as it would result in overtime being paid to employees to complete several "long" work orders in a single day. Thus, advantageously, the auto workshop may be able to selectively control the inflow of bookings that are made not simply based upon the availability of resources for performing customer orders, but also, in such a way which may be consistent with the efficient and economic operation of the auto workshop.

Typically, the predetermined resource allocation criteria may require that at least one of the requirements of the customer work order do not exceed at least one of the following service provider defined operational parameters:

(a) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of vehicles which the service provider wishes to accommodate in the car park on the requested day is not exceeded;

(b) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of loan vehicles which the service provider wishes to supply to customers on the requested day, is not exceeded;

(c) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of working hours which the service provider wishes to operate on the requested day, is not exceeded;

(d) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of work-stations which the service provider wishes to operate on the requested day, is not exceeded;

(e) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of work orders of a specific nature which the service provider wishes to perform on that day, is not exceeded;

(f) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on a requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of work orders having an estimated duration for completion which the service provider wishes to perform on the requested day, is not exceeded;

(g) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined earliest starting time during the day for booking in a customer work order, and, a latest starting time during the day for booking in a customer work order, is adhered to;

(h) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of express and standard work-stations which the service provider wishes to provide on that day, is not exceeded. An express work-station may be defined as a work-station at which multiple technicians are designated to operate at, and, a standard work- station may be defined as a work-station at which only one technician is designated to operate at.

Typically, the service provider may seek to apply different limits on the minimum and maximum numbers of work orders of different estimated durations. For instance, different limits may be placed on the number of work orders that are booked which are expected to take approximately 0-1 hours for completion, 1-2 hours for completion, 2-4 hours for completion, 4-8 hours for completion, 8-12 hours for completion, and 12 hours or more for completion.

Preferably, the present invention may include the step of the service provider selectively defining different resource allocation criteria for different calendar days. Typically, a default resource allocation criteria for all calendar days may initially be set, whereby the service provider may then be able to selectively modify the resource allocation criteria for certain days as required. Typically, a searchable record of all resource allocation criteria for each day may be maintained.

Preferably, the present invention includes the step of displaying on the computerised system a booking calendar having a plurality of calendar elements. Typically the calendar elements may represent a series of calendar days having icons representing the actual availability of a resource on a given day, or, the actual limits on available resources that are to be allocated to bookings on the given day based on the assigned resource allocation criteria for that particular day.

Typically each icon in a calendar element may include a visual symbol representing a particular service provider resource. For instance, the icon representing available time on the day in question may be represented by a clock face.

Typically, the degree of availability of each of the service provider's resources may be indicated symbolically by shading the appropriate icon with a particular colour.

For instance, if the time resource is shaded with the colour green then this may indicate that the time resource is still available on that day. Conversely, if the time resource icon were shaded with the colour red, then this may indicate that the time resource is limited on the given day. Alternatively, instead of indicating the availability of a resource by changing the shading colour of the resource icon, the availability of the resource may be indicated by a surface area of the icon which is shaded. For instance, a fully shaded resource icon may represent that the resource is unavailable whilst a partially shaded icon may indicate that the resource is only partially available. It may further be desired to provide a percentage indication of the resource in the calendar element. However it would be appreciated that the use of shaded resource icons may conveniently provide a simple and readily identifiable way of visually representing the availability status of service provider resources.

The present invention may further include the step of dynamically adjusting the appearance of the resource icons in the calendar elements to reflect changes in the availability of the resources or resource allocation criteria for the relevant day. Typically, the resource icons may be automatically adjusted whenever a new booking is recorded, and/or, whenever a non-booking event arises which may affect the availability of one or more resources for the relevant day. For instance, the parking space of the auto workshop may be partially occupied on that day for refurbishment and the corresponding parking space resource icon may be half- shaded accordingly.

Preferably the present invention includes a step of automatically identifying a particular day having the available resources to perform a customer order, and/or, a predetermined resource allocation criteria which would be met by the requirements of the customer work order. Typically, the step may involve identifying the earliest available day having available resources, and/or, a predetermined resource allocation criteria which is met by the requirements of the customer work order. Typically, this step may involve the customer submitting its work order including the particular requirements of the work order, automatically searching the record of available resources and/or the record of predetermined resource allocation criterias and then, automatically matching the customer work order to the earliest suitable day.

In a fourth broad form, the present invention provides a calendar for use in displaying work absences of a worker, the calendar being displayable on a display means of a computerised system and including: a plurality of calendar elements indicative of work sessions; and a means of adjusting a visual characteristic of a displayed calendar element to indicate a forecasted absence of the worker at a work session represented by the calendar element.

Typically, the work session may include any one of a work shift, a working day, a working week and so on.

Typically, the calendar elements may be adjusted automatically by reference to worker absence information which may be stored in the computerised system.

Typically, the visual characteristic of the calendar elements which are adjusted to indicate an absence of the worker on the corresponding day, may include a colour characteristic. For instance, an ordinary working session for a worker may be indicated by a green colour on the calendar element whilst an absence on that day may be indicated by changing the colour to red. Typically, the visual characteristic of the calendar elements may be adjusted into a range of colours indicating not merely an absence, but the nature of the absence. For example, different colours may be assigned to the colour characteristic for sick-leave, annual leave, work training, and for a public holiday.

Typically, the present invention may include a means of automatically detecting a session in the calendar on which the worker will be absent and automatically sending an alert message to the auto workshop controller responsible for at least supervising, managing and/or monitoring the work activity of the worker. Typically the message may be automatically sent in the form of at least one of an e- mail, an SMS, or, an automated phone call.

Typically, the message may be sent prior to commencement of the working session from which the worker in question is to be absent.

Typically, workers employed to work in a work place may be required to "clock in" before commencing work in the work place so as to register the worker's attendance for work. Typically the step of clocking in for work may involve the worker submitting an electronic tag for scanning by the computerised system, or alternatively, by the worker keying in a unique pin number or password via an input means of the computerised system to register his/her attendance at work. Preferably, the present invention includes a means of automatically monitoring when a worker who is scheduled to commence work at a specified work session has not clocked in at a designated starting time for the work session, and, automatically adjusting a visual characteristic of a calendar element of the displayed work calendar to indicate the worker's absence (and preferably the type of work absence) for the working session.

The present invention may further provide a step of controllably allocating work to workers in the workshop in accordance with at least one of the following allocation schemes:

(a) work orders are allocated to workers by workshop controllers, supervisors, service advisers or managers. Typically work orders are allocated one-at-a time (that is, a new work order is allocated to a worker upon completion of a previous work order);

(b) all work orders having completion times meeting a particular criteria may be allocated to a specific worker; (c) multiple work orders may be allocated to a worker in bulk at any one time. This may be particularly useful where there are many work orders requested, some of the work orders have priority, and most technicians will be working on a vehicle;

(d) work orders may be self-assigned by a worker - that is, typically, a worker may be able to search for unallocated work orders stored in the computerised system and then to request that one or more work orders be allocated to him. The computerised system may be further programmed such that once a work order is self-assigned to the worker, all other workers in the workshop may also be allocated the same work order.

Preferably, the computerised system may be programmable such that it may automatically adopt one of the above-described work order allocation schemes for a specific group of workers in a workshop, or, for a specific sub-department within the workshop. Different groups of workers, and/or different sub-departments within the workshop may therefore be allocated work orders under different allocation schemes. Advantageously, this work allocation method may provide improved flexibility in the way in which work is allocated to workers in the workshop rather than blindly allocating work to workers regardless of their suitability for performing the work.

In a further broad form, the present invention provides a computerised system programmed to perform the method steps in accordance with at least one of the broad forms of the present invention.

Brief Description of the Drawings

The present invention will become more fully understood from the following detailed description of a preferred but non-limiting embodiment thereof, described in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

Figure 1A depicts a functional block diagram representing the interconnection of a central server with client terminals located a relatively remote work- stations within a common work-shop, in accordance with a first embodiment of computerised system.

Figure 1B depicts a functional block diagram representing a client terminal and/or the central server of the first embodiment.

Figure 2A shows a flow diagram of steps to be performed by a further embodiment of the present invention in dynamically displaying customer work order status updates on a "whiteboard" LCD's of client terminals dispersed around the work-shop.

Figure 2B shows a screen-shot of a user-interface running on each of the client terminals for workers to enter new work order status informations into the first embodiment computerised system.

Figure 3 shows a screen-shot of customer work order status updates being dynamically displayed on a "whiteboard" LCD of a client terminal.

Figure 4 shows a screen-shot of a series of customer work productivity histories displayed in side-by-side fashion on the "whiteboard" LCD of a client terminal.

Figure 5 shows a messaging interface in accordance with the first embodiment of the present invention, the messaging interface being adapted to send and receive messages to and from other workers, as well as being adapted to retrieve archived message "conversations". Figure 6 depicts a flow diagram representing steps involved in automatically generating a report on worker performance summaries compared against a predetermined productivity threshold.

Figure 7 depicts a screen-shot of a bar graph representing a comparison of worker performance summaries against the predetermined productivity threshold.

Figure 8 depicts a flow diagram representing steps involved in recording a booking for a customer work order.

Figure 9 depicts a screen-shot of a software interface running on the first embodiment computerised system.

Figure 10 shows a magnified view of a screen-shot of a booking calendar for booking customer work orders.

Figure 11 depicts a screen-shot of a worker absence calendar running on the first embodiment computerised system.

Modes for Carrying out the Invention

In a first embodiment, a method is provided for allowing workers to visually track the status of customer work orders being processed in an auto workshop.

The method is operable using a computerised system which includes a central server (1 ) such as a desktop PC communicably interconnected with a plurality of client terminals (2) as shown in the network diagram of Fig. 1A. The client terminals in this embodiment are also PCs. The central server (1 ) and the client terminals (2) each include a microprocessor unit (3), a memory unit (4) and a flat-panel liquid crystal touch-screen display (LCD) (5) such as is depicted in Fig 1 B. The LCDs (5) are adapted to dynamically display, amongst other things, real-time information concerning the status of work orders being performed in the auto workshop by various workers. The LCDs (5) also function as input devices into their respective client terminals (2) as they are programmed to provide an electronic keypad with touch-screen capability.

As shown in Fig. 1A, the client terminals (2) are each communicably connected with the central server (1 ) via a Wi-Fi enabled link with each of the workers in the auto workshop being assigned their own specific client terminal (2). The LCDs (5) of the client terminals (2) are mounted like "whiteboards" in proximity to each of their respective workers. By way of example, each of the client terminals (2) are located at 3 separate and relatively remote work stations (6) within a common auto workshop (7) so that the workers assigned to those separate work stations (6) have ready access to information relating to work orders being performed within the workshop (7) by others.

Workers are required to enter work status information into the computerised system via their assigned client terminals (2) either whenever they finish working on a customer work order, whenever a new problem with a customer vehicle is detected during performance of an existing work order on the vehicle in question, or, at the end of the working day. This step is broadly represented at block 200 in Fig. 2A. The status information includes both information relating to specific work orders which the worker has performed, as well as a summary of general work performance information including:

(a) an amount of work that has been performed by the worker;

(b) the type of work that has been performed by the worker;

(c) an amount of work still pending for completion by the worker; (d) a total amount of time taken to perform the work;

(e) information indicative of a starting and finishing time of the work performed by the worker;

(f) a number of vehicles upon which the worker has performed work;

Figure 2B depicts a screen-shot of an interactive user-interface which is presented on each client terminal (2) via which each worker is able to enter updated work order status information into the computerised system for processing.

In this example, it can be seen from the example screenshot in Fig. 2B that the worker can select his name in field (8), the relevant work order number at field (9), the identity of the vehicle worked upon at field (10), tasks which are currently being performed in servicing the work order for the vehicle (at field (11 )), and pending tasks which still need to be performed in order to complete the work order (at field (12)).

Whenever new work order status information is entered into the computerised system by a worker, the central server (1 ) detects the new entry. This step is represented by block (210) in Fig. 2A. The central server (1 ) then automatically pushes this information to all other client terminals (2) within the work shop (7) as represented by block (220) in Fig. 2A. In this way other workers are kept informed of developments in various work orders of interest to them but which they may not be directly involved in.

The workers can also program their client terminals (2) to display real-time status information relating to only a specific selection of work orders. Moreover, the workers can program their client terminals (2) to display status information of "high" priority work orders before "low priority" work orders. The programming of the client terminals (2) is able to be performed using a graphical user interface implemented on the client terminals (2). This step is represented at block (230) in Fig. 2A.

Real-time status information relating to work orders in progress are displayed on the client terminals (2). Figure 3 shows an example screen shot of real time information being displayed on a "whiteboard" LCD (5) of a client terminal (2). The work order code (13) for each work order being processed within the auto workshop (7) by various workers is displayed on the LCD (5) in a list. Next to each work order code is a description of the vehicle being worked upon (15), the customer name (16), the due time for completion of the work order (17), and, a series of icons (14) which each represent different tasks which are required to be performed as part of the customer work order. The extent of completion of each task for any given work order is indicated by the extent to which the icon (14) is shaded and/or the type of colour which is used to shade the icon (14).

In use, whenever a technician discovers a new problem associated with a customer's vehicle which was not originally envisaged in the customer work order, the technician is able to obtain an answer from the customer relatively quickly regarding whether to proceed with fixing the new problem. The technician is able to enter details of the newly identified problem into the computerised system directly via the client terminal (2) assigned to the technician. The work order status is immediately flashed on to the client terminals of all related workers including the customer service adviser. Thus the customer service adviser is able to immediately contact the customer for further instructions, the customer instructions are then entered into the computerised system by the customer service adviser, and these instructions are immediately made visible to the technician by the computerised system automatically updating the work order status of the work order on the technician's client terminal (2). Importantly, this embodiment of the invention assists in bypassing the chain of communication which is normally encountered in relaying a query to the customer and receiving the customer's response. Whenever new work order status information is entered into the computerised system by a worker, the status information is also archived in chronological form within the memory unit (4) of the central server (1 ) so that all work performed on the customer work order is able to be accurately documented for future reference by other workers if required. This archived information can also be used to track a worker's productivity over a specific time period.

The client terminals (2) are also programmable to dynamically display a work productivity history of a single worker, or, of all workers in the workshop in real-time. The worker productivity history includes each of the following:

(a) information indicating a work currently being performed by each worker;

(b) information indicating a past work performed by each worker;

(c) information indicating future work that is scheduled to be performed by each worker;

The worker productivity histories of each worker are displayed in the form of columns (19) which each comprise sequences of blocks (19A). Each block in the sequence represents a type of work performed, and, the duration of that type of work performed by the worker. Figure 4 depicts an example screenshot of a series of worker productivity histories displayed in side-by-side fashion on the "whiteboard" LCD (5) of a client terminal (2). These worker productivity histories are dynamically updated as new worker information is entered into the computerised system.

Each of the columns (19) are charted against a timeline (18) such that the time spent by each worker in performing a particular block of work is able to be readily ascertained by visually comparing the block against the adjacent time line. The nature of the work that is indicated by a particular block (19A) in a column (19) is represented in terms of a colour characteristic. Blocks (19A) that are coloured green or blue indicate that the work was considered to be "productive" work, whilst blocks (19A) that are coloured "purple" indicate that the work performed was considered to be "non-productive" work. One or more blocks (19A) may be coloured using other colours to indicate further characteristics of the work. For example, a block (19A) may be coloured with a predetermined colour to indicate performance versus predetermined expected completion times, customer pickup time, as well as other characteristics described herein.

Each block (19A) in a column (19) is interactive in that, by clicking on the block (19A) with a mouse cursor, further detailed information relating to that block of work is displayed on to LCD (5) of the client terminal (2). The further information includes an indication of the specific duration of the block of work, the start and finish times of the block of work, the identity of the vehicle that was being worked upon, information identifying the customer, and, an indication of the actual expected time that should be taken to complete this type of work, amongst other things.

The information that is used to chart the columns (19) in the worker productivity histories is periodically obtained from the workers themselves who will enter information concerning work orders currently being performed, work orders completed, and so on - this information being archived in the central server (1 ).

Conveniently, a workshop controller is able to visually inspect the productivity histories of all workers in a work shop simultaneously, a specific team of workers, or a single worker in real-time throughout a working day.

A messaging system is also implemented using the computerised system via which workers are able to communicate messages to one another without the need for labour-intensive paper-based messaging. Messages are entered by clients via a messaging application interface running on their assigned client terminals (2) wherein each time a new message is transmitted, the central server (1 ) automatically identifies messages relating to a common work order and archives these messages together. In this way, a series of chronological "conversations" regarding customer work orders can be archived in an orderly fashion. The messages conversations are stored in a message bank disposed on the central server (1 ) which are able to be retrieved by workers using the messaging application software at any time. These archived message conversations may be particularly instructive for technicians later called upon to work on a customer vehicle which has previously been serviced within the same work-shop by other technicians.

For convenient, an RSS reader running on the computerised system automatically checks for new messages whenever they are sent, and displays the messages on to the LCD (5) of the appropriate worker's client terminal (2). This alleviates the need for workers to regularly manually check whether new messages have been received.

Figure 5 depicts an example screen-shot of a messaging interface used both to send electronic messages between workers in the auto workshop (7), and, to retrieve archived message "conversations" between technicians in the auto workshop. In this example, it can be seen that the messaging interface includes a first region (20) of the interface adapted for accessing archived work order "conversations", and, a second region (21 ) of the interface adapted for sending new messages.

The first region (20) includes a first field (22) which allows an archived conversation to be retrieved by reference to the work order number. A series of information blocks (23) are arranged below the first field (22) which provide a listing of messages associated with the work order number in question. The information blocks (23) provide information indicating the date at which a particular message was sent, the identity of the sender, the identity of the recipient(s), and the content of the message.

The second region (23) includes a field which allows the worker to select the work order number (26) which is relevant to the message that will be sent, the intended recipient(s) (24) of the message to be sent, and, a further field (25) in which the actual message can be entered by the worker.

The computerised system is also used to generate real-time reports which are indicative of a worker's productivity in an auto workshop environment. As stated above, the workers not only enter specific work order status updates at various times, but also enter general work performance information reflecting their performance over a set time period (represented by block (600) in Fig. 6). This information is archived in the central server (1) for each respective worker and will be referred to hereinafter as the worker's "work performance summary". This step is broadly represented by block (610) in Fig. 6.

Specific aspects of each worker's work performance summary are periodically automatically compared against a predefined productivity threshold set by the workshop controller as represented by block (620) in Fig. 6. Thereafter, a report is automatically generated which visually depicts the comparison between each worker's work performance summary and the productivity threshold as represented by block (630) in Fig. 6.

The report (28) includes a percentage measure of the worker's performance level in comparison to the predetermined productivity threshold. The report is depicted in Fig. 7 as a bar-graph comparison of various workers' performances of a common type of task. Specifically, the report also displays at least one of the following:

(a) a graph indicating a percentage of work orders and/or tasks of a specific nature which the worker has completed within the predetermined threshold time frame;

(b) a graph indicating a percentage of work orders and/or tasks of a specific nature which have been completed by the worker after a customer designated completion time; (c) a graph indicating a percentage of work orders and/or tasks of a specific nature which have been commenced by the worker after a customer designated commencement time;

(d) the average time taken by the worker to complete a particular task.

By way of example, Fig. 7 shows a comparison of average times taken by different worker's in completing a particular task. Each column (27) in the report represents the time taken by a particular worker to complete the task in question. The graph also shows the columns (27) in relation to a first line (A) representing the average time taken by all workers in completing the task in question, and, a second line (B) which represents the expected time taken to complete the task.

A report interface (28) allows a user such as work shop supervisor to tailor the report output by adjusting the following:

(a) a field indicating the identity of the work shop in question (29);

(b) a field indicating the type of task for which the performance comparison relates (30); and

(c) the time period over which the performance summaries of the workers will be compared (31 ).

An SMS alert message is automatically sent to the workshop controller who supervises the worker whenever the comparison indicates that the worker's performance has not met the predetermined productivity threshold. This step is further represented by block (640) in the flowchart of Fig. 6.

The computerised system also is used to implement a customer work order booking system. The method includes the steps of, receiving via the computerised system a request to perform a customer work order; determining whether a predetermined resource allocation criteria is able to be met by allocating an available resource of the service provider towards performing the customer work order in accordance with the at lest one requirement; and thereafter making a customer booking if the resource allocation criteria is able to be met.

Firstly, when a customer requests a booking, he will typically mention a day on which he wants his vehicle serviced, as well as an indication of the type of service he wants performed - eg. changing the brake pads. The step of receiving the customer work order is represented at block (800) in Fig. 8.

The computerised system maintains a resource record of all available resources in the auto workshop. This resource is record is dynamically adjustable in real-time whenever a new booking is recorded, or, whenever a non-booking event occurs which will have effect upon the availability of certain resources.

The predetermined resource allocation criteria requires that all of the requirements of the requested customer work order do not exceed any of the following service provider defined operational parameters:

(a) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of vehicles which the service provider wishes to accommodate in the car park on the requested day is not exceeded;

(b) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of loan vehicles which the service provider wishes to supply to customers on the requested day, is not exceeded; (c) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of working hours which the service provider wishes to operate on the requested day, is not exceeded;

(d) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of work-stations which the service provider wishes to operate on the requested day, is not exceeded;

(e) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of work orders of a specific nature which the service provider wishes to perform on that day, is not exceeded;

(f) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on a requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of work orders having an estimated duration for completion which the service provider wishes to perform on the requested day, is not exceeded;

(g) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined earliest starting time during the day for booking in a customer work order, and, a latest starting time during the day for booking in a customer work order, is adhered to;

(h) that by booking the customer vehicle in for servicing on the requested day, a service-provider defined maximum number of express and standard work-stations which the service provider wishes to provide on that day, is not exceeded. An express work-station may be defined as a work-station at which multiple technicians are designated to operate at, and, a standard workstation may be defined as a work-station at which only one technician is designated to operate at. The step of the computerised system automatically comparing the received customer work order request against the predetermined resource allocation criteria is represented by block (810) in Fig. 8. When the criteria is met by the requested customer worker order, the computerised system automatically records a booking for the requested customer work order as shown by block (820) in Fig. 8.

A default resource allocation criteria is initially set for all calendar days but the workshop controller is able to selectively define different resource allocation criterias for different calendar days. Figure 9 depicts a screen-shot of a software interface (40) running on the computerised system via which the workshop controller is able to define different resource allocation criterias for different working days. The interface includes, amongst other things, the following: functionality:

(a) an adjustable field which sets the total number of vehicles that can be serviced in the workshop in a given day (32);

(b) a adjustable field which sets the operating hours of the workshop - ie an opening time and a closing time (33);

(c) an adjustable field which sets the maximum number customer work order requests having particular estimated durations for completion (34).

Figure 10 shows a magnified view of an example booking calendar interface (35) which is displayable on the client terminals (2). The calendar interface (35) includes a plurality of calendar elements (36) each of which represent a different calendar day. Each calendar element (36) includes a plurality of icons (37) wherein each icon is indicative of the actual limits on available resources that are to be allocated to bookings on the given day based on the assigned resource allocation criteria for that particular day. Each icon (37) in a calendar element (36) includes a visual symbol representing a particular service provider resource. The degree of availability of each of the service provider's resources is indicated symbolically by shading the appropriate icon (37) with a particular colour. For instance, if the a particular resource is shaded with the colour green then this indicates that the time resource is still available on that day. Conversely, if the resource icon (37) were shaded with the colour red, then this may indicate that the resource is limited on the given day.

The computerised system is programmed to automatically identify a particular day having the available resources to perform a customer order, and, a predetermined resource allocation criteria which would be met by the requirements of the customer work order.

The computerised system is also able to provide an electronic work absence

• calendar (38) for use in displaying worker absences over a given time period. An example screen-shot of a work absence calendar (38) is shown in Fig. 11. The work absence calendar (38) includes a plurality of calendar elements (39) representing work shifts. The colour of each calendar elements (39) is able to be automatically adjusted depending upon whether the worker is attending work or is absent.

The computerised system is able to automatically detect a session in the worker absence calendar on which certain workers will be absent and to automatically send an alert message to the workshop controller to notify him in advance of these absences.

The alert message is automatically sent in the form of an SMS.

This embodiment of the present invention is also adapted to controllably allocate work to workers in the workshop in accordance with any one of the following allocation schemes: (a) work orders are allocated to workers by workshop controllers, supervisors, service advisers or managers. Work orders are allocated one-at-a time (that is, a new work order is allocated to a worker upon completion of a previous work order);

(b) all work orders having completion times meeting a particular criteria are allocated to a specific worker;

(c) multiple work orders are allocated to a worker in bulk at any given time;

(d) work orders are self-assigned by a worker - that is, typically, a worker may be able to search for unallocated work orders stored in the computerised system and then to request that one or more work orders be allocated to him.

The computerised system is programmable to automatically adopt one of the above- described work order allocation schemes for a specific group of workers in a workshop, or, for a specific sub-department within the workshop. It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that numerous variations and/or modification may be made to the invention as shown in the specific embodiments without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention as broadly described. The present embodiments are, therefore, to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive.

The reference in this specification to any prior publication (or information derived from it), or to any matter which is known, is not, and should not be taken as an acknowledgment or admission or any form of suggestion that that prior publication (or information derived from it) or known matter forms part of the common general knowledge in the field of endeavour to which this specification relates.

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US934030410 Apr 201317 May 2016The Boeing CompanyAircraft comparison system
US949290015 Mar 201315 Nov 2016The Boeing CompanyCondition of assembly visualization system based on build cycles
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Classifications
International ClassificationG06Q10/00
Cooperative ClassificationG06Q10/06
European ClassificationG06Q10/06
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