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A Deeper Look into Time Slot Management

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on the benefits of time slot management. In that article, I highlighted the importance of the network effect on time slot management and related technologies, as well as the main benefits of a time slot management application. Time slot management helps to organize warehouse resources to prepare for an incoming truck. The warehouse needs to know who is coming and when, which begins with the estimated time of arrival. Beyond that, warehouse workers need updates on what dock the truck is arriving, when the truck is loaded, what papers they will pick up, what needs to be signed, and when they are leaving the warehouse or yard. While time slot management applications work as a stand-alone application, it is more valuable when it is integrated into with other applications on a common platform such as warehouse- and yard management or visibility solutions.

Here is a look at some more key findings from the survey completed with Transporeon, as well as my interview with Transporeon CEO Stephan Sieber.

Wait Times and Costs Can Add Up Quickly

As part of this research, we surveyed 106 individuals across a variety of industries and countries. When looking at time slot management, it is important to know how long a company’s drivers or carrier’s drivers are waiting per appointment from check-in to the beginning of loading or unloading the truck. The majority of survey respondents indicated the average wait time is less than 60 minutes, followed by wait times between 60 and 90 minutes. The average wait time for all respondents was about 70 minutes.

As Stephan Sieber pointed out in his interview, in Europe, 50 percent of carriers spend 3 or more hours of waiting per week and 20 percent spend 5 or more hours waiting. This all adds up over time, and there are costs associated with these wait times.

The question then needs to be asked, what is causing delays and increased wait times? The most common cause for wait times at warehouses as reported by survey respondents is peaks and troughs of arriving. For many warehouses and distribution centers, a lack of visibility into which trucks are coming and when can lead to congestion. This congestion can be exacerbated by trucks that are running late or early and arriving at unexpected times.

The second most common cause for wait times is a lack of predictability and planning. As warehouses and yards cannot predict when a truck will arrive, they are unable to streamline the process. Traffic jams and road construction, which are another leading cause for wait times can be minimized with proper planning and real-time ETAs.

Whether it is due to traffic jams, missed appointments, or a variety of other reasons, loadings and unloadings will need to be rescheduled on any given day. For all respondents, about 11 percent of loadings or unloadings will need to be rescheduled throughout the day. Those numbers can add up quickly and add to the backlog at the yard, especially if there are restrictions on the trucks and trailers that need to be rescheduled.

On a similar note, understanding the difference between industries is important. For example, retail has very specific needs depending on the products and the time for a slot to unload or load, while chemical companies have constraints such as what materials drivers can carry, what materials can be loaded or unloaded near other materials, and other regulations around the equipment that is used.

The Network Effect, Sustainability, and Automation

The network effect is at the heart of supply chain transformation, especially when dealing with change. As sustainability continues to be a hot topic around global supply chains, the network effect plays a role. Sustainability is a byproduct of the network effect, as load consolidation and route optimization mean less trucks on the road to deliver the same freight. This is important for reducing carbon emissions. Within that context, a time slot management application can promote sustainability, as less idle time in the yard or at the warehouse means lower emissions. While this may not seem like much on a per-truck basis, it adds up over time. Improved dock scheduling makes for quicker stopovers, reducing the time on the road, further reducing emissions.

Time slot management needs to be part of the larger supply chain network, which includes transportation execution, procurement, and real-time data for enhanced visibility. This is where the true power of time slot management exists. By using real-time data for tracking of assets on the move, warehouses can be better prepared for arriving trucks. Depending on congestion or whether a truck is going to be early or late, dock assignments can be adjusted based on the new ETA.

However, these updates will only prove beneficial to warehouses and drivers if the updates are made automatically. According to the survey, nearly two-thirds of respondents handle rescheduling completely manually. While close to a third of respondents reschedule appointments manually but with the use of rebooking recommendations, less than 6 percent of respondents handle rescheduling automatically. This is certainly a technology gap that needs to be addressed to improve efficiencies.

When these changes happen, companies need to be proactive. Technology can help to play a big role in this process. However, too many companies do not have adequate technology in place and have to rely on manual processes to make updates.

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