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Dock Scheduling vs. Appointment Management

Streamlining scheduling of shipments of export cargo and import cargo in international trade.

Dock Scheduling vs. Appointment Management

So you have reached the conclusion that you need some help to optimize your appointment process? You are now searching for possible solutions that will streamline scheduling operations between your business and your vendors as well as your carriers. Which system out there will meet your needs?

But wait…do you know what you need? Various solutions can be found. They usually can be divided in two main categories: appointment management and dock scheduling.

Appointment Management

This usually takes the form of a spreadsheet or commonly available online calendar (such as Outlook) that tracks the time slots your carriers want at your dock. It has to be managed by a human scheduler, who keeps track of changes, conflicts and keeps it up to date.

An appointment management system can definitely save money by preventing bottlenecks at the dock and ensuring labor levels are adjusted to meet expected demand. In the hands of a skilled and attentive scheduler such a system can work quite efficiently.

However, its drawbacks include the challenge of keeping an up-to-date version where various internal stakeholders can access the information it contains; carriers still have to be notified by phone or email when a change is needed; communications errors can happen in a manual system, especially when things get busy; you need to have more than one full-time scheduler on staff; and if your scheduler gets sick or quits, you’ll be scrambling.

Dock Scheduling

Dock Scheduling moves beyond appointment management by enabling sophisticated prioritization of customers, suppliers, loads, product types, carriers, and more, depending on your specific business needs. In essence, it’s a capacity planning tool or a smart-schedule.

It allows direct communication between the system and carriers, and enables real-time visibility via a web portal to anyone who needs it, including carriers, suppliers, internal staff, or customers. Its communications abilities mean that phone calls, faxes and emails between your staff and carriers are eliminated.

A dock scheduling system can also have reporting capabilities that include audits on loads delivered, enabling quality assurance information to be recorded and transmitted.

Now, you might have the following questions. How to determine whether you need a dock scheduling system? What are your potential cost savings? Where should you start? Which solution is best for your business? What are other businesses doing?

These are all questions addressed in our latest white paper.

Greg Braun is senior vice president at C3 Solutions Inc., a supply-chain execution company specializing in yard management and dock scheduling.

The Internet of Things will be used in logistics to process shipments of export cargo and import cargo in international trade.

Safeguard Your Privacy and Security In The Internet Of Things World

Security and privacy are huge new concerns in the age of the Internet of Things. With objects talking to each other, transmitting information about where they are and what’s happening to them, the opportunity for criminals to intercept and steal data is expanding exponentially.

Massive data breaches are already a threat as hackers seek to steal private information stored in corporate and government customer databases. Add to that the risks inherent in using a smartphone for transactions such as banking and tap-to-pay applications, and the stakes rise even higher.

It’s no wonder then that the average person is worried about their ability to maintain their privacy in this environment. A survey conducted in 2015 by the Pew Research Center showed that for 93 percent of Americans it is very important that they control who can get information about them.

And yet, confidence in those collecting the information is low. Government agencies and telephone companies received only a 31 percent vote of confidence that they would keep private records secure. Credit card companies are viewed somewhat more highly, with 38 percent expressing confidence in the security of their data.

The pressure is on for companies to ensure they have the best possible protection for their data, and that entrusted to them by clients.

With the rapid evolution of the Internet of Things, “the attack surface for adversaries is target-rich,” according to a report from the IoT Security Foundation.

In other words, every time a new application is born there is potential for exploitation by the unscrupulous. Data security needs to be as important as the application that uses that data.

A little more unsettling is the notion that existing technology vendors may have forgotten some of the security lessons learned during the early years of networking and cloud computing. And new vendors pushing into the market have not learned them yet.

That’s why a group of developers has come together to create the Internet of Things Security Foundation. It’s a non-profit, vendor-neutral and collaborative effort “designed to propagate good security practice, increase adopter knowledge and raise user confidence.”

“When adopting IoT it is crucial for businesses to factor in security aspects from the start of the initiative,” says Foundation member Elevenpaths in its paper Insecurity in the Internet of Things. “Creation and employment of procurement standards for IoT devices is essential, particularly in this nascent stage of the lifecycle, applying lessons in network, application and cloud security.”

The good news is that because of the Internet of Things’ immaturity—it’s not likely to reach widespread implementation for five to 10 years—there is time to ensure that security by design is reinforced as a key principle in IoT technologies.

The lesson is that IoT security needs to be a boardroom concern for companies embarking on IoT-enabled enterprise.

As the foundation points out, “with more than just reputations at stake, it is imperative that technology providers, system adopters and users work together to ensure security is fit-for-purpose. It is fundamental to the adoption of systems and reaping the social and business benefits.”

It’s clear that an extremely cautious, eyes-open approach is needed to ensure the success of any IoT venture. Your company’s reputation, and entire business model could be at stake and open for the taking if your security measures aren’t ready for a potential attack.

Greg Braun is senior vice president at C3 Solutions Inc., a supply-chain execution company specializing in yard management and dock scheduling.

IoT apps manage shipments of export cargo and import cargo in international trade.

How the Internet of Things Will Help Automate Supply Chains

One of the primary benefits the Internet of Things (IoT) will deliver for supply chain operations is improved visibility. End-to-end visibility has long been the holy grail of supply chain managers who know that it will enable efficiencies and drive down costs.

IoT applications will be so various that we cannot yet imagine what many of them will be.

What we do know is that in the realm of logistics the IoT is already proving to have useful applications. Ever since the invention of the concept, with the advent of RFID, the ability to track items and quickly take inventory was recognized as a massive boon.

And now, with everyday ordinary objects having the means to communicate with each other and with networks, visibility into supply chain operations is now simply a matter of deciding that you want it; the technology exists to deliver as much information as you likely could ever need.

As a recent Deloitte IoT research paper points out: “Modern supply chain management can be not only about getting products faster, cheaper, and of better quality but also about getting managers the right information at the right time, so that they can better make informed supply chain decisions.”

How can the Internet of Things bring value to dock operations and scheduling process?

At a busy distribution center there are costs associated with having trucks waiting around to be loaded or unloaded. Delays at the docks mean trouble for truck drivers who have limited hours in which to work, and get paid by the load. Chronic delays also can lead to poor relations with the carriers you count on to move your freight.

The lack of information about when shipments need to be loaded or unloaded makes efficiently scheduling of labor nearly impossible. Dock scheduling is not new, but with the availability of pinpoint-accurate, real-time tracking information, coupled with traffic congestion data, it has the potential to save companies big money in their logistics processes; especially for companies who don’t own the trucks and thus cannot leverage the benefits of a TMS.

You won’t have to rely on the human truck driver to check in with changes to his arrival time at the docks, but will get that information from an app that’s tracking his truck, allowing you to better manage your priorities and shuffle the arrivals at your docks automatically. Likewise, your own personnel who are at work can be readily located and notified of where they need to be, and when, using mobile apps linked to the central scheduling system.

We are seeing an increasing number of fully automated warehouses that de-palletize or palletize loads without human intervention. It may not be long until we see unmanned forklifts too. The day will come when companies will be able to automate the entire supply chain, providing efficient execution tools and visibility. This will be achieve not only by using traditional integration methods between information systems since complementary devices such as mobile technology and the Internet of Things will play a big part in this.

The demand is already there for tracking and auditing. Widely publicized programs, such as Farm-to-Fork, are initiatives by government agencies to augment consumer safety through better tracking and auditing tools. Importers are struggling to find cost efficient means to track and audit orders that are touched by several players. Perfect supply chain visibility is still difficult to achieve, but the potential for automating and tracking the entire ordering process is before us.

Wasted time and movements, lost productivity and inventory—these are all problems inherent in modern logistics operations that can be addressed through the use of IoT technologies.

Dock management systems can smooth the process of shipments of export cargo and import cargo in international trade.

Understanding Dock Scheduling

If you haven’t heard much about dock scheduling systems, it may be that, compared to warehouse and transportation management systems (WMS & TMS), dock scheduling is the poor cousin in the family of Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems.

Nonetheless, it is still an essential part of your business, and if not properly addressed, can be very costly to your operation.

Independent of the type of business you operate, dock scheduling relates to managing the timeliness of the shipments for both inbound and outbound traffic in your facility. Intuitively, one would think that scheduling is required only when the traffic exceeds the capacity to receive or ship. Although volume is important, it isn’t the only determining factor. In fact, dock scheduling is all about maximizing the efficiency of your dock operations, from the standpoint of your labor, equipment and business requirements.

Your business requires dock scheduling if: driver wait times are a regular occurrence and you are charged detention fees; unloading personnel receives loads at inefficient times translating into over-time labor charges; unloading personnel standing idly waiting for trailers; carriers refuse to pick-up or complain about long waiting times; and/or buyers and managers call the warehouse checking the status of incoming goods because they have no visibility.

Most businesses who’ve determined that dock scheduling is required won’t require a cost analysis – the pain is too great! Some may still need to convince themselves or their managers and will want to look at current costs in driver detention fees, dock crew downtime or overtime labor charges, premium transportation services and lost shipments. Don’t be afraid to factor in items for which you do not get a direct bill but that are still costly: internal communications, manual logs and reports, and time wasted in

looking for shipments.

You may need to crunch some numbers, and yes, implementing a dock scheduling process will require an investment of some sort; but the savings will surpass the costs.

Where do you start? Intuitively, appointment scheduling means requiring all external parties (carriers, vendors, customers, sister divisions) to book appointments. Dock scheduling, on the other hand, goes beyond simply booking trailers into a time slot. It implies managing your dock activity in accordance to your business priorities by being able to control your schedule; taking into consideration load types, standing appointments, preferred carriers, and labor and equipment constraints.

In other words, the external parties won’t be the ones dictating your schedule; rather you’ll have the necessary tools to plan which, where, when and how the traffic will be scheduled.

We therefore recommend, prior to simply asking all external parties to book appointments, that you evaluate your business process. This may involve meetings with the unloading personnel, warehouse managers, supply chain and logistics managers, and buyers.

You’ll need to establish: inbound and outbound appointment volumes; percentage of live unloads versus dropped trailers in the yard; percentage of collect versus prepaid shipments; merchandising priorities; load types that your warehouse can or cannot receive during specific times of the day; compliance issues; and labor and equipment constraints; and other issues.

Too often, companies select oversimplified systems for their dock scheduling and regret it soon after.

Your business process analysis is instrumental in helping you select the right system.

Greg Braun is senior vice president at C3 Solutions Inc., a supply-chain execution company specializing in yard management and dock scheduling. This article is based on a white paper which may be found here.

Use of yard management software allows logistics providers to more efficiently handle shipments of import cargo and export cargo in international trade.

Economic Benefits of a Yard Management System

Many large and sophisticated companies continue to use spreadsheets, chalkboards, or card systems to manage their yard operations. This simplistic approach may work some of the time, but the reality is that it only takes one or two human errors per week to result in significant cost issues.

Problems relating to manual yard management can quickly result in misplaced trailers that contain valuable merchandise needed to fulfill customer/store orders. The cost of sending a yard driver into the yard to search for a lost trailer is relatively minor. The real penalty is the negative impact on sales revenue when critical inventory is lost in the yard prior to a major promotional or seasonal event.

When developing the return on investment for advanced yard management software, it is important to understand the direct and indirect costs that may apply to your logistics operation.

Direct benefits are measurable operating savings that relate directly to the yard operation including yard driver labor, fleet equipment costs, and accessorial charges.

It is important to develop the operating expenses associated specifically to the yard operation. Companies that have deployed advanced YMS applications typically gain efficiency with yard jockey labor in the range of 25 percent to 35 percent because the software eliminates manual searching processes in addition to maximizing yard driver efficiency. Yard operations with advanced YMS typically enjoy an increase of two to three more trailer moves per hour.

Yard operations with advanced YMS also spend far fewer hours performing yard checks which provide a means of verifying data integrity in the yard operation. These efficiency gains typically translate into reduced labor requirements and less yard jockey truck requirements.

YMS users enjoy improvements in trailer utilization rates because of the significant improvement in how trucking assets are managed in the yard. The standard time required for trailers to pass through a main security gate is in the range of five to ten minutes. This time can be reduced to 30 seconds if the YMS manages all site check-in procedures while the load is in transit towards the site.

The ability to provide advance appointments to drivers combined with the optimized management of trailers within the yard typically results in a 10 percent to 15 percent reduction in the number of trailers required to support a large logistics operation. This can either translate into a reduced trailer leasing expense or a reduced capital investment into transportation infrastructure.

YMS can help avoid third-party carrier accessorial charges. A robust YMS application will go a long way to avoiding many of these expenses. Companies that deploy advanced YMS applications typically avoid these expenses by having the system closely monitor when third-party assets need to be liberated based on dwell-time limitations.

Dock scheduling system enables trailers to be assigned to the right door the first time, thereby avoiding having to move the trailer to another door due to human error.

Indirect benefits are subjective savings incurred due to yard operation improvements that are relatively difficult to measure, such as reduced warehouse wait times, warehouse labor efficiency, improved order fill rates, and reduced product spoilage. Improvements in order fill rates can be realized when trailers are expedited for receiving on the basis of assigning the highest priorities to loads containing inventory that is in high demand.

Reduced inventory losses come about when, for example, spoilage of perishables are avoided when YMS agents notify the control center that the refrigerated unit is low on fuel or that the temperature inside the trailer is too high. Trailers held in the yard with dated inventory can be prioritized on the basis of product expiration dates to prevent newer stock from being transferred before older stock.

Improvements in warehouse efficiency are common with companies that deploy advanced YMS applications. Warehouse loading delays, caused by trailers not being brought to the doors on time, can result in shipping dock congestion and inefficient outbound labor productivity.

Companies that deploy advanced YMS solutions report increases in warehouse throughput efficiency on the order of 10 percent to 12 percent for outbound operations during peak season. This benefit is directly tied to YMS because the application works to avoid delays incurred due to trailers not being brought to the shipping doors on time.

A trailer that is late in departing the distribution facility is also likely to be a trailer that is late in arriving at a retail store. The retail stores hire labor to unload trailers based on set delivery schedules. These labor resources may incur inefficiencies or overtime expenses as a direct result of late incoming trailer loads as a by-product of an inefficient yard operation.

Greg Braun is senior vice president at C3 Solutions Inc., a supply-chain execution company specializing in yard management and dock scheduling.

Yard management systems allow logistics operations to better handle shipments of import cargo and export cargo in international trade.

Knowing What You Need: Best-Of-Breed YMS OR WMS Yard Module?

There are numerous warehouse management systems (WMS) that offer yard modules as extensions to manage yard operations. For some companies, a WMS yard module may be sufficient to manage their yard operation, but for others, the benefits of a best-of-breed yard management system (YMS) are critical to the success of their logistics operations.

Perhaps the best way to explain the differences between a WMS yard module and a best-of-breed YMS is to use the following analogy based on the WMS market.

In the WMS market, there are inventory control applications that keep track of where operators have stored inventory in the past so that inventory can quickly be located when it is needed. These basic applications do not necessarily optimize the work being performed, rather they identify what has already taken place in the past as a means to controlling inventory. This is a very different scenario than a best-of-breed YMS that enables the optimization of personnel, equipment, and order picking/packing processes, to support world class operations at the highest levels of efficiency.

This same principal applies to the YMS software market. A yard module typically tells you where to find trailers in the yard based on where they have been placed in the past. This allows the yard driver to move trailers to dock doors without having to manually search for the trailer in the yard. This is the equivalent of an inventory control system in that the software tells you where the trailer was placed without any real intelligence aimed at optimizing resources or assets.

WMS yard modules typically manage the yard operation as an extension of the warehouse operation. WMS applications are principally designed to track and control the movement of inventory; optimize the storage utilization of the distribution center; manage labor resources; manage the execution of inbound and outbound orders; and optimize tasks assignment to workers responsible for picking and packing orders and moving inventory.

With a best-of-breed YMS, the application is oriented towards optimizing the use of labor resources and the movement of trailers within the yard. YMS applications are principally designed to track, control and optimize the movement of trucking assets; optimize the use of driver labor resources; manage the use of receiving and shipping dock doors and parking locations; manage communications between a centralized control center and all yard driver labor resources; forecast vehicle availability; and provide key performance indicators that managers can use to improve the quality, efficiency, and accuracy of their overall logistics operations.

Most importantly, best-of-breed YMS applications enable the establishment of user-defined rules to manage how the work is executed. For examples, there may be accessorial charges incurred on third-party trailers being held in the yard. The need to minimize accessorial charges may be a firm’s top priority by ensuring that the oldest trailers are prioritized for receiving first. This requires real-time visibility and status monitoring of trailer dwell time, accessorial charge tracking, email alerts, and carrier notification as soon as trailers are made available.

There are significant differences between the benefits of deploying a system-directed best-of-breed yard management system versus a more basic yard module extension of a WMS. It is important to understand the differences between these solutions in order to make the appropriate choice for your business.

Greg Braun is senior vice president at C3 Solutions Inc., a supply-chain execution company specializing in yard management and dock scheduling.