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14 missed calls, 11 new emails and all that while you were away for lunch. Sounds familiar? Then our guess is that you are still booking loading docks in a traditional way - making phone calls, sending emails and waiting for confirmations. Manual dock scheduling is a classic, but 9 out of 10 logistics and warehouse management specialists will say that it can be a nerve-racking and tedious task.
You’d be surprised how many distribution centres, stores, and warehouses still rely on manual dock scheduling and justify the extra costs that it brings. Even though web portals for dock scheduling are quickly gaining acceptance by receivers and carriers everywhere, the reality is that most reservations are still done manually.
We have prepared a summary of the extra costs that come from the manual dock scheduling. We do hope that it will help more carriers and receivers to understand the full costs of manual dock scheduling and search for solutions such as Dock management system.
Anyone who has been taking phone calls and replying to emails to reserve a dock for incoming trucks will tell you that it is a labour-intensive task (and that they would rather do something else since a warehouse is not a call centre).
Take for example a receiving area of a medium-sized store. Typically, workers at the receiving area have to do everything - unload trailers, look after the couriers, process freight when it comes in and also take calls to book a dock for the next shipment.
Now here is how it works in practice. A worker is using a forklift to unload the trailer, hears the phone ringing, stops the forklift, runs to the phone and writes down the next shipment details. Then he jumps back on the forklift and continues to unload the trailer until the phone rings again. And so the day goes on with constant interruptions. Yes, not all facilities require workers to do everything and some have dedicated responsibilities, but it is still a very common practice.
Such interruptions and multitasking can lead only to inefficiencies in what the worker was doing. For example, if one such interruption takes 10 minutes and you get at least a dozen calls a day, it adds up to 2 hours which after 5 working days ends up being 10 hours. In theory, this means more working hours and higher operating costs. But in practice, these hours are usually considered as one more thing that you have to do without realising how long it actually takes. In the end, it all falls on the warehouse worker and puts extra pressure to somehow complete everything in time.
Let’s not forget the fact that all this rushing and running around creates perfect conditions for a safety incident to occur. Falls, slips, trips and forklift collisions are the most common accidents in the warehouse. Getting distracted while driving a forklift or sprinting across the warehouse to answer a phone, doesn’t make the warehouse any safer.
Manual scheduling processes cost receivers visibility of their operations. It is like working in the dark because you can never see the full picture. You might know when the inbound shipments are coming, some carriers might have standing appointments and you can try to predict traffic for some weekdays but the minute something changes your plan becomes outdated. If a carrier wants to push a reservation by a few hours or you suddenly get a truck that has a strict deadline for when it needs to be ready, re-adjusting your plans manually, without compromising other reservations, can be challenging. As long as reservations are coming via phone calls and emails, it affects operations visibility since there is no real-time view of all reservations and their constraints.
Poor operations visibility complicates workforce planning. Having workers come in and no trucks to load is not an ideal situation for business. Same as keeping them after hours and paying overtime because trucks still need to be unloaded.
With manual scheduling processes and data across various formats, it is difficult to analyse, look for trends and optimise operations. Let’s not forget that when information is stored in emails, given over the phone or noted in paper documents, some of it can easily get lost or distorted. Needless to say, information credibility and traceability are critical, especially when something goes wrong.
Manual dock scheduling often results in poor dock schedule organisation which is one of the most frequent root causes for truck congestions at the warehouse. And congestions cause truck detentions that are costly and come out of the receiver’s pocket. We have explored the truck congestion and detention topic in our previous article here.
The total costs of manual dock scheduling for receivers adds up to:
On how to improve your warehouse processes read our blog "Your Warehouse Efficiency Killers and How to Avoid Them".
For carriers, manual dock scheduling plays a big part in their day-to-day operations. They are the ones that must make countless phone calls and send all those emails. In a perfect world, receivers would answer phones and emails on the first try and would give all information right away. However, various estimates and polls show that on average it takes from 1 to 4 hours to get an answer or confirmed dock reservation.
If 5 years ago you could show up without a reservation and still get your load processed, today everything is different. Reservations, whether made manually or through web portals, are mandatory. If your truck shows up without one or misses the agreed time slot, you should be prepared to wait. After all other shipments have been processed, your turn will eventually come but it can take an hour or even all day.
Late responses create a ripple effect and delay daily route planning and other load organization activities. When trucks are waiting or driving half empty, carriers are not making as much money as they could. And when reservations are done instantly, through specialized web portals, carriers can plan their routes better, faster and most importantly it allows them to maximise loads in trailers. Our experience shows that carriers gladly accept and quickly start using dock scheduling platforms provided by their customers.
The good news is that carriers and receivers can quickly turn the extra costs of manual dock scheduling into tangible benefits with our Dock scheduling platform. With it, all parties win - receivers can streamline their processes and avoid unnecessary costs, and carriers can maximise their efficiency. Here is what our customers say:
“We started using the Time Slot management tool just recently - but we saw the result in the early days. A handy management tool has helped optimise the process and give a clear view of warehouse loading/unloading performance.” - Justė P., Business Development Manager, Granulės
Not using a Dock scheduling platform for your operations? Book a quick call with our expert and we will demonstrate how it could benefit your operations.