Success Story

DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH

Optimized shift planning for air traffic controllers
2024 Su So DFS Header

For the safe and efficient control of flight operations, it is essential to schedule the available air traffic controllers as optimally as possible to monitor the various airspace sectors. For DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, Accso has developed an optimizer for the automated creation of shift plans for the daily scheduling of air traffic controllers. The powerful optimization process is in productive use and accelerates workstation-related shift planning from approx. 30 minutes to approx. one minute.

What was the task?

The air traffic controllers assigned to shift duty must be allocated to the workstations to be manned. The assignment can change every 15 minutes, as can the workstations to be manned. The calculated shift schedules must comply with numerous safety-related regulations and collective bargaining agreements.

During a working day, it must be possible to recalculate the shift planning for selected periods of time in order to be able to react quickly to unforeseen air traffic or incoming sick notes, for example.

What was the challenge?

The number of possible assignments of air traffic controllers to workstations is astronomically large. The calculation of a guaranteed optimal shift plan would therefore require many years of computing time, even with modern computer systems. For operations, however, an optimized shift plan is required within a minute. A practical procedure must therefore come close to an optimal solution within this tight time frame.

What did we do?

The developed layer plan optimizer is inspired by an industrial process (annealing) for material optimization: Virtual heating and slow cooling of a layer plan causes the cells of the layer plan to move. Analogous to the optimization of the arrangement of atoms in a glowing metal, this results in a layer plan that is optimized with regard to several criteria.

Tests with real planning data in an operational environment have shown that the automatically calculated shift plans are created more quickly than manual shift plans and are of comparable quality. The implemented solution is already in productive use in some branches and is to be gradually put into operation in all branches as a component of the daily shift planning system.

How does this benefit the customer?

“The introduction of a standardized system to support the daily scheduling of pilots is a challenging task for us. A core component of this system is the shift plan optimizer, which must be both highly performant and adaptable to the specific requirements of the individual branches. It is therefore a key success factor for the acceptance of the system in operations. Accso has designed and implemented an innovative, flexible and highly efficient solution based on the latest scientific findings and technologies, which has already been very well received by the shift planners.”