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.
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