Lack of loading and unloading staff at the dock is a frequent carrier complaint that can increase delays and idle time on site, contributing to carrier capacity issues in the long run. But in an era when shippers are looking to contain costs, they are not always willing to increase labor resources, even to safeguard capacity.
Enter dock scheduling. An effective dock scheduling system allows for smooth, timely and efficient scheduling of time slots at your docks—even with the same number of labor resources—while remaining sensitive to your carriers’ needs.
Here are some steps to optimize your dock schedule by working with your fixed resources, such as dock equipment and the number of available personnel:
- Calculate how many time slots you can offer per day by taking into account all resources like staff, forklifts and other necessary equipment
- Determine if, on average, you have a sufficient number of staff to load and unload all trucks, even in a peak capacity situation
- Determine whether your operations are flexible enough to adjust your capacity to meet demand, such as adding additional shifts prior to holidays and peak seasons
- Do not make all slots available for booking: Reserve approximately 5% for unforeseen events like delayed trucks, last-minute fulfillment of key customers’ orders or unscheduled pick-ups
Remain sensitive to carrier needs
One of the biggest complaints from carriers revolves around idle time on site, which can affect their ability to plan trucks. With the restrictions on driver hours and the boom in U.S. manufacturing, carriers are experiencing extremely high demand for their services. Implementing a functional dock scheduling system will facilitate the ability for carriers to plan, making you a more attractive partner.
Having an understanding and being sensitive to your carriers’ needs during the transition to a dock scheduling system is critical. Try to facilitate a smooth transition to the new system, and remember that they will expect a significant reduction in idling and wait times. Establishing policies and procedures during implementation to set clear expectations for all parties involved will help:
- Define when trucks are considered on time and when they are considered late, and communicate these expectations to your freight carriers
- Define what happens in case of a delay: For example, whether the truck will be scheduled for the next available time slot or whether they’ll be handled at a later time, after all other trucks have loaded/unloaded
- Emphasize that trucks without a booked time will not be unloaded or loaded. You should, however, grant your freight carriers a transitional period of two weeks after the implementation before firmly applying this policy.
After implementation, you can expect that roughly 80% of trucks will be on time. The rest will arrive too early or too late, which will balance out your schedule.
Benefit from the flexibility that dock scheduling provides
Dock scheduling increases dock utilization and loading efficiency, allowing more trucks to be loaded in a shorter period of time. Use these inherent benefits to improve the way you manage inbound and outbound freight, optimize your team and increase scheduling flexibility.