The Importance of a Proven Dock-Scheduling ProcessTuesday, November 1, 2011
Appointments are a necessary component of any successful service-based business. Think about the last time you had a checkup at the doctor’s office or got a haircut. Chances are, you probably had an appointment for that service. And, hopefully, you were able to receive service at that scheduled time.
Now, think about what you would have encountered if you didn’t have an appointment: Waiting your turn in a long line, possibly in a cramped sitting area, not knowing when or if you’d ever see the doctor or the hair stylist.
A well-executed scheduling plan keeps a business running efficiently and keeps customers happy. And although you may not immediately think of dock and delivery scheduling when someone mentions the word “appointment”, the same principles that help a small service-based business function can apply to the scheduling of inbound deliveries at manufacturing plants, distribution sites, warehouses and other facilities.
THINK OF THE ALTERNATIVES
The delivery link of the supply chain is oftentimes overlooked and usually not given the attention it truly deserves. Yet, it can have a dramatic and negative effect on on-site operations, especially if no or inefficient scheduling policies are in place.
Let’s envision a distributor that does not require scheduled drop-off times from its carriers. When trucks flow in intermittently throughout the day, the delivery process works smoothly. Dock workers are not overwhelmed by deliveries, nor are they idling around for long periods waiting for the next drop-off.
Now, let’s hit the accelerator. Carriers begin arriving quickly and all the same time. Long lines soon stretch from the docking bays across the facility lot and out into the street, creating a caravan of idling trucks that cause traffic issues and bellow emissions into the air. Staff has to scramble to quickly unload each shipment; in some cases, dock supervisors may need to call in additional workers or approve overtime pay for dock staff working past their scheduled shift to accommodate all the deliveries.
Ease off the accelerator and slam on the breaks. Now, no carriers are arriving…at all. Not a single delivery all day long. Yet, the facility has dock staff on duty with little or no work to do.
You get the picture. Having a scheduling process in place helps dock managers and supervisors better manage both their dock staff and their inbound deliveries.
However, just having a scheduling process in place doesn’t guarantee an efficient operation. Take, for example, a facility that books deliveries in time frames, rather than on a specific time. This can give the dock manager a better idea of when a delivery will arrive, but he or she could be confronted with situations similar to the ones mentioned above. If four trucks from the same time frame all arrive at the very end of that time frame—and all four from the next time frame all arrive at the very beginning of theirs—the long lines and strained employees instantly appear.
If this is the case, a new scheduling practice that books individual deliveries at a specific time may be in order.
THE BENEFITS OF SCHEDULING DELIVERIES
Time is not just a measurement, as any business owner or operator will tell you. Time is money, and since time plays a crucial role in the delivery process, it most definitely has a monetary value.
The operational benefit of a scheduling process is apparent. This trickles down to the bottom line. A dock manager or supervisor who knows when deliveries will arrive can better schedule his or her dock workers. There won’t be a need to call in extra workers or pay overtime wages to those that work past their scheduled shift. The result is a docking operation that stays within its salary budget thanks to something as simple as requiring a scheduled delivery time for each of its inbound carriers.
Another way a docking facility can save money through proper scheduling involves hold fees typically charged by carriers when their trucks are held at the loading docks for more than a specified period of time. These can be as much as several hundred dollars per hour over the allotted time. A proven delivery-scheduling procedure ensures that drivers are “in and out” quickly, with the dock ready for the next inbound drop-off. (Facilities that utilize an online appointment-scheduling software system are able to accurately track the exact arrival and departure of the truck, leaving a record of the actual time in instances when a hold fee is in dispute.)
Scheduling appointments is not just for doctors, dentists and massage therapists. It can be an important item to consider when looking for ways of improving the delivery and docking process. And thanks to advancements in online technology, facility operators and dock managers can now easily and affordably incorporate scheduling procedures and tools into their operations without starting from scratch.
Make sure your inbound carriers have an appointment before arriving at your facility!
About the Author: Eric Richard is the senior technology writer at Appointment-Plus (www.appointment-plus.com), an industry-leading online scheduling software application used by distributors, warehouses, manufacturers and other inbound material-handling facilities to manage their deliveries. The online scheduling software application has booked over 70 million appointments and reservations since 2001.