How many times a day do you hear the word “efficiency” thrown around in regards to your warehouse or dock? Admit it, how many of you even cringe a bit when your boss uses the “E” word? If so, you’re not alone.
As a scheduling efficiency analyst who consults with dock managers on a daily basis, I’m going to be frank with you: the need for yard operational efficiency is a pain point that’s not going away anytime soon. The good news is that there are some simple tricks of the trade you can use to control chaos, effectively avoiding the type of congestion that leads to those ugly overtime and detention fees.
But first, I want to tip my hat to the dock and warehouse managers I speak to every day. Their sheer ability to squeeze productivity out of what would otherwise be a mad shuffle is impressive. Especially considering the fact that for many of them, their tool set includes white boards, spreadsheets, and good old pen and paper. Yet, using these resources (and communicating by email and phone), they eke out a scheduling process that gets the cows to the barn, every day.
In my role as a scheduling software expert, I’ve been fortunate to talk to logistics clients while wearing a variety of different hats, including as a training and implementation specialist, a technical support liaison, and a sales consultant. Along the way, I’ve listened to dozens of use cases and had hundreds of warehouse managers tell me about their pain points, and have been lucky enough to partner with them on ways to simplify their scheduling processes.
A quick fix? Maybe not, but these tips – gathered by a team of scheduling experts with a combined 20 years of experience in the logistics and supply chain industry – have been proven to control the chaos (and yes, increase the E word) across the multitude of scenarios with which we’re presented.
1. TAKE BACK CONTROL OF YOUR DOCK BY ESTABLISHING ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE TIMES
First things first, establish the maximum number of arrivals allowed at your facility at any given time throughout the day. I bet you can think of a few of your larger carriers that frequently visit your dock.
Now imagine if your team controlled their arrival, load, and departure times. Doing so will combat those pesky detention fees and bring much-needed order to the warehouse. A clearly defined appointment scheduling process goes a long way toward reining in dock chaos.
2. ENFORCE AN APPOINTMENT SCHEDULING POLICY FOR CARRIERS ARRIVING AT YOUR DOCKS
It’s all well and good to establish arrival times and maximums. But if they’re not enforced, you’re back to square one (chaos). Let’s be honest, enforcing a scheduling policy might be a challenge initially. But as it becomes the norm on your docks, carriers will expect and appreciate the organization they're getting from your operation (according to a recent survey on the DAT Load Boards, 63% of drivers surveyed say they routinely get detained more than 3 hours per stop).
What’s more, scheduling software puts power into the hands of the carrier, allowing them to self-schedule their arrival times, and avoid the nightmare of yard congestion. The result? Organizational efficiency for you, and a quicker turnaround time for carriers. It’s a win-win for all involved.
3. MAXIMIZE YOUR WORKFORCE EFFICIENCY BY ESTABLISHING DOCK PREDICTABILITY
None of us can plan for every sick day or school assembly, but providing visibility to truck arrival times can go a long way toward effectively managing your team’s schedule. What if you were able to predict which days you’d need extra dock staff based on an influx of scheduled loads? Or if you could establish a norm for your team’s schedule on a weekly basis?
The need for efficient scheduling is increasingly important in today’s logistics labor market. The Wall Street Journal recently reported national surges in hiring in a range of logistics jobs, but difficulty meeting the need for labor, especially in already busy transportation hubs.
In addition, new labor laws regarding regulation of driver time have led some industry experts to predict a negative impact on the already sky high turnover rate in the logistics industry, which means even more reason to keep your current team reliably scheduled with clear communication.
Stress-free scheduling is tough, but it’s not a pipe dream! Automating your scheduling allows you to take back control of your workforce planning, eliminating unplanned overtime and bringing continuity to your team’s lives. Yet another win-win!
4. USE AUTOMATED REMINDERS TO MAKE SURE CARRIERS STICK TO SCHEDULED TIMES
The best scheduling software tools offer a host of features, like the option to send your carriers automated email reminders that include key appointment identifiers. This allows folks on both ends of the dock to easily find a record of the shipment (nothing like a paper trail when you’re trying to prove a point!).
Advanced scheduling applications also allow you to include a link in those emails, taking carriers to a landing page where they can cancel or reschedule shipments, or even log in and see future activities. This helps make scheduled arrival times easier to enforce.
5. ENABLE YOUR TEAM TO TRACK INSIGHTS ON DOCK ARRIVALS, LOADS, AND DEPARTURE TIMES
Remember the old adage that timing is everything? It’s never been more true than when it comes to yard management. The ability to track a dock’s activities enables your team to combat detention fees, monitor employee efficiency, and provide line of sight into how long certain activities take.
It may seem benign, but aside from knowing the status of a load, you can take data to a more granular level. Utilizing reporting features in the scheduling solution, dock efficiency insights are at your fingertips. Want to see how many times a particular carrier arrived late? Click your mouse twice, and wa lah! Want to see if certain load types are trending toward longer unload times? Again, two clicks of the mouse and you’re there.
6. GIVE YOUR TEAM INSIGHT INTO WHAT'S COMING DOWN THE PIPELINE
Once you’ve got it, flaunt it! Project your dock schedule onto a prominently placed monitor so that the entire team can understand the day’s agenda. They’ll love the to-the-minute updates, and I know you won’t miss scribbling on a whiteboard.
Let’s face it: at the end of the day, who couldn’t do with an extra 30 minutes, or one less angry phone call debating the merits of a charge? Incorporate these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to controlling chaos, simplifying your operations, and maybe even getting a pat on the back from your boss for increasing the E word.