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Improving Truck Turnaround Times - How do you Deal with It?

dock scheduling
If you catch your site manager saying ‘’Trucks simply show up and we deal with it’’, then it may be time to do a serious analysis of your dock operations.

Having worked in warehouse and distribution environments, I know what managers mean when they say when trucks show up, they simply deal with it.  Hearing that phrase recently was like a flashback for me; reminding me of those years working under constant pressure to get the job done as quickly as possible and ensuring the highest level of customer satisfaction.  I’ll admit that there is a certain level of satisfaction and pride when working under pressure, and so the phrase doesn’t simply have a negative connotation (stress) - people love challenges!

The degree of challenge in managing truck arrivals at sites is mostly dependent on volumes, which can be categorized in the following way:

  1. Relatively small volumes of trailers result in few occasions where drivers will wait.
  2. Relatively high volumes of trailers means an appointment scheduling process must already be in place for all live loads in order to mitigate the risk of congestion and manage the load priorities.
  3. Intermediate volumes of trailers (e.g., 10 to 40 per day) results in some sites deciding not to implement a dock scheduling system and thus simply ‘’dealing with it’’ when congestion occurs.

Facilities that are up for the challenge of ‘’dealing with it’’ (i.e., an overflow of incoming trucks) typically fit the third category.  However, rising to the challenge isn’t the question.  Sites should focus on what costs are incurred by ‘rising’ to the challenge.  To assess this, one needs to look at the disadvantages of managing an intermediate volume of trucks on a first come, first serve basis, such as:

  • Excessive driver wait times and delays due to a site’s inability to load/unload trailers creates the risk of chargebacks by carriers and inflated transportation rates due to a poor reputation.
  • Often it requires pulling warehouse staff from picking/put-away tasks thus disrupting their productivity.
  • Receiving unexpected volumes at the end of a shift may require overtime pay for the dock workers.  Conversely, there is the hidden cost of dock workers being idle during slow periods of the shift.
  • If some loads are floor loaded, receiving more than one at a time can most certainly throw off your resource planning.
  • Team members and management suffer unnecessary stress.

If a facility can evaluate the costs related to the disadvantages outlined above to be a few hundred dollars or more per month, then a dock scheduling system will definitely provide a positive ROI immediately.  Not only will the site save money, you’ll also have indirect gains in productivity due to visibility on the dock activity and reporting history for real KPIs.

In conclusion, I’m totally in favor of facilities taking pride in rising to logistical challenges such as peak periods at your docks.  However, don’t let pride throw money away unnecessarily - leverage affordable technology to improve your dock operations.