I often hear this objection from warehouse managers; “we can’t implement a rigorous scheduling process because we would never refuse a load anyways.”
Large retailers, for example, can impose strict guidelines and will in fact refuse to receive trucks if an appointment hasn’t been made. Due to their bargaining power with their vendors, they’re also able to impose penalties on late arrivals or those who don’t meet the entire criterion listed in their merchandising/receiving policy.
This is not the case for most warehouses, particularly contract and public warehouses. Even if the loads don’t all arrive with an appointment pre-booked, many realize the benefits of scheduling. Scheduling is foremost about planning, and although it would be ideal to have 100% of the loads booked by appointment, it isn't absolutely necessary.
How to manage unplanned arrivals
If you can estimate the percentage of loads that do not book appointments, then you can start by including some buffer (time slots) into your schedule to accommodate them. In reality, having 70 to 90 percent of the loads arrive with an appointment should be sufficiently high enough to prevent congestion and driver wait times. Keep in mind that the higher the volumes, the greater the burden unplanned arrivals will have on your dock operations.
Normally, a good dock scheduling tool will also provide you the means to track, among many KPIs, arrival times, unplanned arrivals, and no shows. This information will allow you to track the percentage of loads that arrive without an appointment. You should be able to determine whether there are common characteristics between all these, such as product classes (i.e.: fresh produce), load types (i.e.: floor loaded or breakdown loads) and supplier groups. With this information, you’ll be able to work with your supply chain partners to find ways improve the appointment rate.
The use of reserved time slots (standing or recurring appointments) for preferred carriers or couriers is also a means to manage regular inbound shipments for companies that refuse or can’t provide advanced appointment notification.
The data obtained through a scheduling tool will help you build reports on historical arrival times and also give you the basis to build trend reports. These trend reports are the best tools to work with your supply chain partners in order to improve performance, including the percentage of appointment bookings.
Therefore don’t let a few exceptions prevent you from considering initiatives that would improve the efficiency of your dock operations – go ahead and stop the scheduling madness!