I recently had an interesting conversation with a prospective customer regarding their current dock scheduling process. When asked how they currently managed carrier appointments, my prospect quickly responded, “At our operation, it’s Christmas every morning”, to which he replied to my bewildered look “Each morning it’s a surprise on who shows up.”
This particular company did not have any appointment process, which incidentally is not that uncommon. All too often carriers just show up and the operation does its best to unload trailers as quickly as possible. Start-up volumes for most warehouses are usually modest, so a “first come first serve” approach might initially be manageable, however as the business grows and traffic volumes increase the need for an appointment scheduling system becomes more and more apparent.
Three Areas of the Operation that will be Improved with Dock Scheduling
- Labor planning: without a proper schedule it is impossible to adequately staff your dock operation for the appropriate volume of activity. Furthermore, an unbalanced distribution of work can have negative effects on productivity (i.e. your morning shift gets swamped with all floor loaded containers and now your dock is congested for the rest of the day).
- Carrier Relations: initially trucking companies might find it an advantage to deliver to your warehouse - since no appointment is needed. They will soon realize that your warehouse is a truck driver’s black hole. Trucking companies will soon be sending you invoices for detaining their drivers and managing frustrated truckers will become an important activity at your operation.
- Business Growth: the business is growing and now congestion and chaos at the warehouse has become a serious bottleneck. Management recognizes it has to be addressed; otherwise future expansion will be at risk.
Managing change should never be taken lightly. Understandably, much of the resistance that we see related to companies improving their dock scheduling processes stems from a general fear of change. However, I also hear a lot of false assumptions on why implementing a dock scheduling system is not practical and consequently not a priority. Here are a few of the more common objections.
Four Misconceptions about Implementing a Dock Scheduling System
Our operation prides itself in servicing our vendors, we will never turn away a vendor delivery; we don’t want to implement a process that punishes vendors.
- Don’t kid yourself; your existing process is not as ‘vendor friendly’ as you think. Granted you won’t turn anyone away, but does it make sense that your most important vendor that delivers every day, has to wait in line with a vendor that delivers once every 3 months?
Implementing a scheduling system is going to cost valuable resources in both time and money.
- Historically, appointment scheduling systems have been relatively expensive and required involvement from your IT department. Today there are several web based systems that offer subscription fees that correspond to your actual activity. A web based carrier appointment system can be implemented in less than 2 weeks and can function in a stand-alone mode.
We don’t have enough volume to warrant an automated system.
- There are solutions available that don’t require an upfront financial commitment and ultimately the system cost is based on your volumes. Even if your current volumes are low but you expect to grow soon, it is worthwhile to implement a structured process as soon as possible.
The Carriers will never go along with it.
- The main concern for any trucking company is to maximize the use of its drivers. Waiting to be unloaded at a customer’s warehouse is extremely costly; demurrage fees never fully cover the cost of the drivers’ time. More and more companies are using some form of a web portal to manage appointments, so your carriers are used to the idea and will probably welcome it.
Christmas is a great time of the year to spend with family and friends. Nothing matches the look on your children’s faces when they find their presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Let’s keep Christmas morning as it’s meant to be and not let your dock operations be a daily surprise.
If you’d like to have more information on all the options available to improve your dock operation, I suggest you download our white paper “Understanding the value of Dock Scheduling”.
On that note, and on behalf of everyone at C3, I wish you a joyous holiday season for you and your family.