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Crescent Crown Distributing in Phoenix needed a solution to its delivery and dock-scheduling dilemma. The beer and beverage distributor did not schedule delivery times, which created frequent back-ups of trucks and long lines that often stretched outside its facility and down the street. In some instances, as many as 45 delivery vehicles attempted their drop-offs at the same time. A more efficient and effective method of scheduling these deliveries became a "must" for the distributor, considering the impact it had on staff resources and overall operators. Like many distributors, warehouses, retailers and other facilities nationwide, it turned to online dock-scheduling software for this important-yet oftentimes tedious and time-consuming-task.
Many facilities that receive inbound deliveries do, in fact, rely on some form of dock scheduling to manage and track their shipments. However, the scheduling method they utilize can create issues similar to the ones mentioned above. Think about the inefficiency of phoning in delivery times or scheduling docks in a paper book, file or spreadsheet. These outdated methods require a considerable amount of staff time to accomplish; at larger operations, it may involve one or more workers specifically devoted to this task. In most situations, traditional scheduling methods can result in significant time and monetary expenses.
The versatility of online dock-scheduling software, along with its ease-of-use and accessibility, makes it a perfect complement to an operation's transportation management system.
Online Dock Scheduling Software Defined
The widespread use of internet-based applications and programs among drivers, suppliers, distributors and other individuals and facilities involved in inbound shipping logistics makes Web-based dock-scheduling software a logical consideration to incorporate into a transportation management system. Most Web-based scheduling software is what's commonly known as Software as a Service (SaaS), whereby a provider offers a specific service through a Web site or online portal. Envision online banking, Web e-mail or social media. It's the same concept. Users simply type in a URL, access a Web page and securely log into their account.
On the distributor's end, he or she accesses the online scheduler for a variety of purposes. During the initial set-up of the scheduling software, the individual commonly performs such tasks as assigning docks, specifying delivery times, and adding services. Depending on the functionality offered by the software provider, dock staff may also utilize the application for record-keeping tasks and compiling delivery and shipment reports. Because dock-scheduling software typically centralizes all entered information, accessing the data can be as easy as a "point-and-click" on the computer screen. There's no need to manage paper files, folders, spreadsheets or other data-recording materials.
For the driver or supplier, scheduling software offers the convenience of scheduling his or her deliveries online and at any hour of the day. All that's required is an internet connection. Additionally, some online dock-scheduling applications offer automated e-mail and text message reminders. Sent prior to the schedule delivery date and time, these can reduce the number of late or missed deliveries. They're also appreciated by many drivers and suppliers.
As most inbound facilities and their suppliers are keenly aware, there are a seemingly endless array of transportation management programs and platforms on the market today. Some are Web-based, while others are of the more traditional variety and come either pre-packaged and available for purchase at retail outlets or downloadable from Web sites. Although both may contain features beneficial to the operations of distributors, retailers, warehouses and other locations, Web-based software offers functionality unavailable in many traditional software packages, such as online driver and supplier self-scheduling and automated e-mail and text message reminders, both of which require a Web interface or connection to properly utilize.
An invaluable benefit-and one that makes Web-based scheduling programs stand out from more traditional applications-is accessibility. Besides allowing for online driver self-scheduling, it also gives dock staff the ability to access their schedules from locations outside the facility or when away from a stationary computer. This can be extremely beneficial to dock managers and administrators that manage numerous docking locations and require a scheduler they can manage from a PDA or other mobile device.
Another benefit could be cost. Although price varies among the many dock-scheduling providers, most are affordable and do not require any long-term contracts. Some even provide for month-to-month payment options, as well as e-mail and phone support. In contrast, the cost of traditional software packages and custom programming-which often involves licensing, installation, server, maintenance and support fees-can easily run into the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the scope of the system.
Equating a time or monetary savings can be difficult to illustrate. Online dock-scheduling software is one of a handful of programs where users can clearly see the savings, based on the improved efficiency of their operations.
Take, for instance, Georgia-Pacific. One of the world's leading manufacturers and marketers of tissue, packaging, paper, pulp and building products and related chemicals, it's utilizing online dock-scheduling software for inbound shipments at approximately 40 dock locations. Like many businesses, it previously scheduled its deliveries over the phone, with the carrier calling the location before his or her arrival. Given an average of 10 daily deliveries per dock location, this method proved inefficient and time-consuming for both staff and drivers.
Incorporating a dock-scheduling application into its transportation management process has allowed the company to save an average of 80 hours and $2,000 daily at its 40 locations. It's completely automated their scheduling procedures by offering inbound drivers and suppliers the convenience of scheduling their deliveries in advance and at any hour of the day. Dock workers previously devoted to scheduling and managing inbound shipments can now focus on other tasks.
Perhaps one of the most important factors contributing to both money and time savings is a reduction in overtime pay. Although common in many industries that implement online scheduling software and its self-scheduling functionality, this is very apparent in the transportation and shipping industry. Facilities that receive a large number of shipments throughout the day and night often require extra man hours to properly accept and manually manage these deliveries. And this includes communicating with inbound drivers and supplies, checking dock availability, scheduling the delivery times and properly recording delivery and shipment information.
Crescent Crown Distributing, the beer and beverage distributor whose dock-scheduling experience was briefly detailed above, saw an immediate improvement in on-site operations by automating the delivery process. By doing so, it has decreased its overtime costs by $500 to $1,000 weekly. The reason why: Less manpower is needed to accomplish the tasks.
Online scheduling software technology is fast becoming an important component of many business operations. One of the reasons for this is its versatility, as it can be incorporated into a wide array of different services and organizations. The logistics of dock scheduling mesh seamlessly with the functionality of Web-based transportation applications, making it the logical-and cost-effective-choice to improve delivery transactions.
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