We occasionally come across operations managers who are frustrated that their upper management won’t undertake the project of automating their dock scheduling process. If you are among those who share this frustration, here are a few reasons that could explain why management procrastinates.
Dock Scheduling is more than Appointment Scheduling!!
First, one has to recognize that dock scheduling is not merely about booking an appointment in a given time slot. Contrary to individuals who simply wish to book an appointment in, say, a medical clinic, scheduling trailers needs to take into consideration dock and floor space, equipment, labor, business priorities (production J-I-T to retail promotions) and then some. Therefore, from the start, one needs to recognize that scheduling trailers and containers in and out of a facility touches business processes, such as inventory, production, and customer orders. Therefore changing the scheduling system involves many players, in and around the warehouse. Managers may feel that finding a solution that satisfies all the team members’ requirements a daunting task.
"Doesn't our WMS do Scheduling?"
Companies commonly have critical systems such as ERP, MRP, WMS, and TMS. The ERP and MRP systems are usually top-down information systems that obtain high visibility since they touch all departments and are the core systems of the business. Often these core systems deal with the area of dock scheduling but at a high level. Historically, areas such as dock scheduling were not seen as being important enough to warrant a specialized solution. Hence management is usually reluctant to further invest in an area that was supposed to have been already covered.
"If I don't know it's broke why would I fix it?"
A dock scheduling system is the communication link between those who wish to pick-up or deliver at a facility and the people who manage the facility. The strength of this system is it improves the carrier turnaround times and maximizes dock throughput while increasing overall service to the business. It will often communicate directly with the core information systems, but never replace them. It is sometimes referred to as a mid-level enterprise solution. It is collaborative, highly configurable and strictly serves the purpose of improving productivity at the lower to mid-level of business operations. Precisely because it serves mid-level operations, top management isn’t exposed to the daily inefficiencies of their current process.
Still today, at least 75% of the companies that we talk to schedule loads through a manual process despite the fact that their company has invested in a solution. Schedulers and planners who receive emails and phone calls from suppliers and carriers usually need to consult their WMS, TMS, MRP, ERP systems relative to their paper calendar or spreadsheet, then confirm the appointment and finally enter key data again into the respective systems. In other words, they manage to get by – and that’s all that management sees.
IT is over taxed!!
Operation managers will sometimes turn to their IT department for help. Unfortunately for them, IT staff is lean and focused 100% on the already numerous projects related to their core systems. How could a scheduling system become a priority for this department? Clearly the operations manager would argue that efficiencies are to be gained by integrating data flows between the scheduling system and, say, the PO information. Even as a stand-alone system it would be better than the current spreadsheets and paper calendars – and this doesn’t require any IT resources to execute. But someone has to bless the project, and this will only happen if the top management provides the green light.
The common theme across all these situations is that mid-level operations managers aren’t able to create sufficient awareness with top management to get the improvement project approved.
- Are they seeing the hours of wasted labor duplicating data entry in multiple systems?
- How many hours per day are schedulers spending on answering emails and phone calls? Could they not be affected to more productive tasks?
- How much overtime labour is being spent because schedules are not efficient or carriers are not respecting schedules.
- If carriers are waiting beyond the one or two hour limit at your site and not charging you detention fees, how much more are you paying for the product or the carrier rates?
- Is your operation at risk of not having access to transportation resources because of you are excessively delaying drivers.
- How often are you caught off guard relative to labor planning because you don’t have good visibility on the incoming freight (how it’s loaded, piece counts, etc.)?
- Time spent answering internal questions from CSRs, buyers, etc.
It would be too easy for us to make an exhaustive list - it would go on and on. I suggest you make a list yourself, similar to the bullets above, and present it to your upper management. I’d also love for you to share some of your points with our readership in the comment section below.
Throughout my life playing sports, I’ve always been aware that paying attention to the smallest details is the only way to win a competition. Those who sail know that the smallest error can knock the wind out of your sails and make you lose the race.
If your requests to senior management for a dock scheduling software are hitting a wall it’s time to make management aware of all of the numerous opportunities to take your operations game to the next level.