Smart Dispatching System Overview
This is the biggest upgrade to dispatching we’ve ever made, we have completely rebuilt dispatching from the ground up to now include all events, not just flights. There is a lot of new permissions, settings, features and changes coming on Monday the 7th of August, let's take a look at some now.
We have completely redesigned, and rebuilt dispatching from the ground up. It has been expanded to now include all events, not just flights. This brings a significant increase in functionality and over 30 new settings for highly specific customisation to suit your organisation. As such it is important to take some time to review these changes and how they will impact your organisation.
If there is only one thing you take away, make sure somebody is prepared to update the organisations permissions on Monday the 7th of August. If you don't update your permissions, you will not be able to dispatch.
Why The Change?
In short, because you requested it, and your feedback is very valuable and something we take seriously at Smart. Dispatching in Smart has always been focused on flights, but we know that many organisations also use dispatching to effectively manage and control other bookings, such as briefings, ground school, meetings and so forth.
We also learnt that for some organisations, dispatching is often more nuanced and less binary than a straight dispatch & return, requiring additional processes, checkpoints and controls to suit how operations occur on the coal face. There was also feedback around the need for authorisation, SARTIMES, custom checklists, and so much more that when the team weighed it all up it was apparent that to deliver a solution, a comprehensive overhaul and rebuild would be required to provide a cohesive experience.
One of the biggest changes is the addition of six new permissions for dispatching, they are:
- Preflight Dispatches
- Authorise Dispatches
- Dispatch Dispatches
- Return Dispatches
- Verify Dispatches
- Cancel Dispatches
In order for anyone to use the dispatching system, you must update your permissions. We have made these new permissions to allow you total control over who is allowed to do what with the new dispatching system, and to ensure only those who are allowed by the organisation to perform certain tasks are able.
The Dispatch Lifecycle
There are many new features and changes with the new Smart Dispatching System (SDS). One of the biggest is the expansion of the Dispatch lifecycle, or statuses. Previously dispatches could be pending, dispatched, returned or cancelled. There are now three new statuses organisations can optionally use, they are preflighted, authorised and verified, bringing the total lifecycle to 7 if you opt into all of them.
These additional statuses give more control should you need them, to allow for appropriate checkpoints before the event, and after. The dispatch can also be saved, independent of advancing the status, for situations where maybe you want to add some notes, or start completing the checklist, and don’t want to actual dispatch, but save your progress. This decoupling allows for far more flexibility and the ability to adapt “on-the-run”, for example if you dispatch, and forget to set the SARTIME, just open the dispatch and save, rather than having to cancel and re-dispatch all over again.
What Is Preflighted?
A preflighted dispatch does not literally mean the aircraft is preflighted. It is designed to be a way to precheck, hence preflight, the dispatch to find problems ahead of time, before the event is due to take place. We received feedback from people saying that it wasn’t until they went to dispatch a flight that the system would then block because something was expired, or a task was not complete, or something else, and that often caused a logjam of operations.
Dispatch Preflighting allows you to find out the problems ahead of time, by default automatic preflighting is enabled for all organisations, which means overnight the system will automatically check the next days dispatches for problems and record them, so when the first person logs onto Smart in the morning, they can see all the potential issues straight away across all the dispatches at a glance, without having to open up each dispatch individually, allowing them to take appropriate action, such as notifying pilots, rescheduling and so forth, reducing and in some cases eliminating costly down-time and under-utilised resources.
You can turn preflighting off, however we recommend you try it, it’s not meant to be a “hard stop”, it’s the canary in the coalmine, giving you a heads up and increasing situational awareness across the organisation, as it largely runs autonomously out of the box there is no real risk or impact to trying it out.
What is Authorised?
Authorising dispatches is designed for organisations that require an additional checkpoint before an event can be dispatched, there are many situations where this can apply, such as a senior instructor needing to authorise dispatches before junior instructors can dispatch. Another is where instructors can authorise solo dispatches that students dispatch themselves. However your organisation uses this feature, if it all, it brings another layer of compliance and integrity to operations.
Dispatch Authorisation is disabled by default, as we know not everyone will need this level of control, however it’s easy to enable in the organisation’s operations settings if required. You can also configure whether the authorisation has an expiry, or is authorised indefinitely, and whether it’s set automatically or the person authorising can set a custom expiry.
This can help instructors authorise say the weekend’s flying for their students ahead of time, or put an expiry before an expected weather change or risk of exceeding last light is too high. There are no doubt other situations and scenarios that may prove useful to have authorisation as well.
What is Verified?
It’s not uncommon for a dispatch that has been returned to have an error, perhaps the maintenance time is wrong, or the landing count is off, and for that error to flow downstream and end up in an invoice that then has to be corrected very late in the process, typically causing a headache to operations and finance as they find the problem numbers and rectify the issue.
Dispatch Verification works to solve that issue by adding a proactive step rather than reactive, when enabled, verification ensures that invoices do not move to draft until the dispatch return has been verified, placing this additional checkpoint on the inbound side of the process provides that same layer of compliance and integrity that authorisation offers on the outbound side.
When using verification, logbook entries and the flight breakdown in the aircraft maintenance section also show blue check marks to indicate the flight they came from has a verified dispatch. This can make it smoother between departments, and ensure the integrity of information remains high. Think of it like a cross-check or a “dupe”.
What Settings Should I Use?
By default we configure your organisation with the dispatch settings we think are most suitable for most organisations that ensure a good mix of compliance, control and flexibility for those using the system. There is no one size fits all, and that is why the dispatching system has over 30 settings to control its behaviour to suit how you operate. We do encourage you to experiment with the different settings as you see fit.
These settings are extremely powerful, and have the potential to either relax things to a point where compliance is very loose, or so heavily constrained that it can feel impossible to move things forward. The way a solo ag pilot sets this up, vs a large multi-base flight training organisation will obviously be different. We have made our best effort to document and detail what each setting does, however if you want help configuring these settings to suit your organisation, contact us for some one on one advice.
Some settings as you peruse them may seem a little strange, and for most situations they likely are, but there are situations which while they may not be abundantly clear, do have their place. We can’t list all those niche edge cases here, but trust us, we did think about them, and like some things in life, just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should.
When you view the new dispatch settings, which all live under the “Operations” tab of the settings manager, you will notice there are a lot of settings that control the dispatching system. Some notable settings that you may wish to take advantage of, include:
- Dispatch Events
- Dispatch Meetings
- Sign to advance
- Enforce SARTIME’s
- Per event type checklists
There is now much more flexibility when it comes to checklists. You can now configure specific checklists for each event type you have setup, as well as separate checklists for dispatch and return. We think this will be helpful for situations like “Is the aircraft tied down”, “Has the SARTIME been cancelled” and so forth. You can also configure event types to fall back to a master checklist if required.
While Smart does a lot of things, it doesn’t do everything, and you might need to put links on your dispatch, return or both, such as weather forecasts, radars, flight notification systems, SARTIME nomination services, circuit booking systems, external risk assessments, FBO’s, flight planning tools, fuel services and the list goes on.
How to use filters?
If you have access to the new Dispatches manager, depending on the screen/device you are using, you will see different information designed to accommodate that size screen, and one thing you will often want and need to access are the filters. On larger screens, toward the top right you will see a button called “Filters” and on smaller screens, it’s the same button, in the same place, but just has an icon of little sliders. If you press that button an overlay containing all the available filters will open up and you can pick what you need.
Whenever any filter is applied, there will be a little pink dot on the button to indicate one, or many, filters are enabled. On large screens you will also see many of the filters in the toolbar to make quick and easy selections from. With the “Type” and “Status” filters, just beware that if you only have a few selected, a dispatch may “disappear” from the screen as you advance it, until you enable that respective type/status, which may be what you want, otherwise ensure all or none of the type & status filters are selected - alternatively, open the filters overlay from the top right, and press “Reset” at the bottom to clear all filters.
We are always here to help, and have written comprehensive documentation on the dispatching system that will come out when it is released. If you have any questions, or require additional training then please contact us. We look forward to seeing how everyone uses the new dispatching system and all the features it brings.
Thank you to all of the people who have contributed to the development through feedback, meetings, demos and consultation. This system is a direct result of what you have told us you need on the front line has been built to solve those problems for you, we hope you like it.