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How supply chain disruption makes it even more important to automate your docks

When everything is changing all the time, it’s impossible to use old, familiar tools and methods to manage operations. This is injecting a whole new level of risk into supply chain logistics. 

Just look at the unpredictability of global transport these days. During the pandemic we saw rates shoot up and getting a container onto a ship for an ocean crossing suddenly cost 10 times what it had just months before. And that was if you could even book a container, demand was so high. 

Now, those prices have declined, but we face different pressures as labor disputes are increasingly causing disruptions at ocean ports and other logistics hubs. Strikes have recently paralyzed West Coast ports in the U.S. and Canada, while national strikes in France have virtually shut the country down. Recent research shows these disruptions have climbed by over 130 percent in the past year. 

With a shortage of labor, employers have little choice but to bend to union and worker demands, thus increasing the likelihood of more such actions disrupting the flow of commerce. 

Source: protolabs.com

Managing unpredictability

The unpredictability of labor disruptions adds risk to supply chain operations. If you don’t know a work stoppage is imminent, you can’t make alternative plans to move your freight.

As a result, many companies are moving to a just-in-case model of inventory management. Previously, many relied on just-in-time deliveries to keep production lines moving and customers supplied. But if you do not have insight into possible delays, or control over every link in the transport chain, you are at risk of shutdowns and unhappy customers.

Using the just-in-case model means companies keep more safety stock on hand, whether that’s parts and raw materials to feed manufacturing lines, or finished goods for direct-to-consumer or wholesale distribution. If you need to keep more inventory, that means you are going to need more space, and more space means increased complexity in your operation. 

Essentially, it substitutes the risk of being caught without inventory with a new set of challenges: Getting more warehouse space and managing more inventory within it. We are seeing an uptick in warehouse construction along with increased demand for automation as companies shift to the new model.

Warehouses-Added-to-Global-Building-Stock-1536x864 (1)

Controlling what you can

But these are challenges that are within our control. And that’s where an easy-to-use and implemented digital solution comes into play. Using dock scheduling to control the flow of goods into and out of your distribution center is a surefire way of managing increasing volumes and complexity.

If you are handling your DC’s truck arrivals and departures manually, and try to ramp up and expand, you may run into trouble. At the very least, you’ll need more staff to update spreadsheets and work the phones. 

With a digital solution, like C3 Reservations, which is a cloud-based scheduling system, you take the human errors and guesswork out of managing the ebbs and flows at your docks. It will synchronize appointment requests with available time slots, while taking into account your special needs and rules. By automating communications C3 Reservations takes the human error factor out, and also collects critical performance information that you may not have captured in the past.

Dock scheduling boosts productivity, speeds up turnaround at the doors and lets you manage your labor efficiently because you know exactly when it’s needed at the docks. It allows you to manage more flow – better – by giving you improved visibility and insight.

C3 Reservations is a powerful tool that smart logistics managers employ in the quest for ever-more productive operations. It lets them focus on managing the other challenges that pop up in day-to-day operations, instead of wondering where trucks are and when they’re going to arrive. 

Get the right tools for our new reality

Supply chains have enough risk in them already these days, from natural disasters, to international conflict, to labor shortages. Everyone is working hard to reduce these risks any way they can. But even the new supply chain models aren’t without risk, you just need to know how to manage them.

By using manual processes to schedule trucks at your docks – tracking on a spreadsheet, etc. – you introduce risk that doesn't need to be there. But when you employ digital tools like automated scheduling by C3 Reservations to eliminate human error, you can gain efficiency, and save time and money for your operation.