Arcus FM turn to Aston University to develop a unique Smart Scheduling System that can react dynamically to operational demands and give the company a competitive edge in the market. 

The Company

Arcus Solutions Holdings Limited is a leading facilities management company operating in the retail sector in the UK and Ireland. It provides cleaning and maintenance services for high-profile clients such as Sainsbury’s, Argos, Co-Op, Lloyds Pharmacy and Capita and has recently secured its first government contract with Central Bedfordshire Council.

The Challenge

Arcus has grown from a managing agent to delivering facilities management services to its nationwide clients. This has brought significant challenges in scheduling work. Before the project began in July 2020, Arcus was using commercially available management software to manage its operations, which was heavily reliant on individual operator input and unable to consider dynamic variables such as traffic to optimise scheduling.

The company needs a more sophisticated scheduling system based on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), optimisation algorithms and predictive models. While the company has a software development capability, it lacks the knowledge required to develop sophisticated technology.

The Solution

Arcus engaged with Aston to develop a unique Smart Scheduling System that can react dynamically to operational demands and put them ahead of their competitors. Aston recognised that the project would benefit from a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), a government-funded initiative that unites the company with an associate and the academic expertise and research facilities of the University. 

“We knew working in partnership with a university would give us the academic expertise and innovation we needed. Aston’s charter has specialist expertise in both Mathematics and Computer Science and novel and recent research will be crucial in pushing the boundaries on this project.” David Lane, Head of Technology and Innovation, Arcus.

Team Aston

Currently working on the project from Aston University is Dr Randa Herzallah, whose research focuses on control algorithms, signal processing, machine learning and bayesian inference methods to analyse data generated in real context by various IoT devices and solve real-world problems that change dynamically over time. She has direct industry experience, developing condition-based scheduling for BMW.

She is joined by Dr Aniko Ekart, an expert in the theory and application of artificial intelligence techniques with specialist focus on logistics, traffic data analysis, predictive modelling for smart cities and software engineering. She has vehicle fleet scheduling experience using predictive modelling to support decisions for
logistics, which is invaluable for this project.

Dr Felipe Campelo, who has expertise in optimisation and computational intelligence is also helping the project to achieve its goals. Completing the team in the Associate position is Dr Arezoo Vejdanparast, who will lead the project. 

“Working with an industry partner gave us the opportunity to apply the theoretical methods we developed to solving real-world problems, thus creating more impact for our research and benefiting our society.” Dr Randa Herzallah, Reader in Mathematic, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Aston University.

 

What’s happening?

Since beginning the KTP in 2019, Arcus now has three Aston MSc students working on their MSc dissertations at Arcus. One is from Computer Science looking at optimising the daily schedule of engineers, so that the company will have reliable and responsive ways to re-schedule work at short notice.

They are joined by two students from Aston’s MSc Data Analytics programme, who will be developing condition-based maintenance mechanisms for refrigeration systems, and looking at optimising power consumption and reducing the load during peak time for Arcus’s clients.

Next steps

The KTP is expected to complete towards the end of 2022 – look out for more updates by following us on Twitter and checking our webpage

For more information about Knowledge Transfer Partnerships or an informal chat, email ktp@aston.ac.uk or call 0121 204 4242.