If you are reading these words, chances are you are looking for ways to optimize your current appointment management process. You might be in the process of evaluating some off-the-shelf dock appointment scheduling systems available and perhaps considering building an in-house system.
Of course you are checking a list of features: web access, automated email confirmations, integration capabilities, etc. – but you also have budgetary considerations and need to establish a return on investment. For this you need the answer to this question:
How much is your company currently spending on dock appointment management every year?
Is it as simple as adding up your schedulers’ wages? Most probably not as these employees typically do not spend 100% of their time managing appointments as such and typically participate in the receiving process.
Here are some matters you may wish to consider in your calculation.
1. Back-and-forth Communications
Determining how much time your schedulers spend on the phone or reading/answering/sorting emails and faxes for a single appointment and applying this to the number of appointments you process every week could be a good starting point. As you will see in our evaluation below, this task can be extremely time-consuming. Forget the exceptions and the complicated internal queries. We are referring here to time spent managing routine requests, perhaps even confirming standing appointments; basically time that could easily be saved by implementing an automated process.
2. System Updates
For every appointment taken, what systems need to be updated? For most companies the answer will be the schedule itself (calendar, spreadsheet) and another system such as a WMS. How much time does that take?
3. Change Requests
The above scenario refers to straight-forward appointments. In reality, what percentage of appointments actually get rescheduled or cancelled? How many calls or emails are then generated? How many systems and spreadsheets need to be amended?
4. Internal Communications
Appointment scheduling takes place in between the purchasing process and the receiving process. This often translates into a black hole for the information systems in place so many stakeholders – buyers, customer service reps, managers – thus rely on the schedulers to give them an up-to-date status on the expected delivery dates. How come that product was not delivered yesterday? Did the carrier reschedule? Answering these queries, again, takes time.
Another aspect of appointment scheduling is reporting. So a schedule was built; but how did it actually execute? Did carriers show up? Were they on time? Were there issues with the loads or the paperwork? Gathering and reconciling this information from various sources can be extremely time-consuming.
How does this add up?
Let’s use this small operation as a reference example:
- 20 appointments/day
- Receiving opened 5 days/week
- 5 minutes / appointment (phone calls or email thread)
- 5 minutes / appointment to update schedules and systems
- 10% of rescheduled appointments
- 5 calls/week from buyers
- 1 activity report / week (2 hours of work)
This adds up to 20 hours of work per week to manage a single schedule of 100 appointments.
Added to these management costs are the costs of not having a proper appointment management system in place:
- Dock staff overtime due to poor workload balancing
- Missed hot loads
- Double-ordering due to lack of visibility
- Failure to compile (and potentially charge back for) non-compliance issues
Of course a dock scheduling system may not replace the need for a scheduler but imagine the time that could be saved if this process was automated – even partially; time which could be invested in more proactive tasks such as measuring and enforcing vendor compliance for example.
Would you be curious to see how this calculation could apply to your operation?