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Getting Smart with Mobile Devices PAGE 18 The More You Give, The More You Charrette

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IAQ in the Modern Built Environment

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www.fmjonline.com | SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2011 US$12.50 |

The Modern Workplace

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Utilizing Cloud-Based

Dock-Scheduling Technology

by Eric Richard

September/October 2011

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44

The delivery process is an important

component of the supply chain for any

facility that routinely receives inbound

shipments. Whether it’s a distributor receiving

its products, a manufacturer accepting

raw materials or supplies, or a convention

center increasing its food and beverage

inventory prior to a tradeshow, a proven and

efficient delivery process can mean the difference

between a well-run operation and one

that struggles to get carriers and drivers in

and out of docking bays quickly.

The process appears easy enough: A delivery

vehicle arrives at the facility, backs up to a

loading dock, facility workers unload the

delivery and the vehicle departs. Although it

may be this simple for a facility that receives

only a handful of shipments each week,

the task of managing deliveries is much

more complex for facilities that experience

dozens or hundreds of deliveries each week.

It requires a solution that helps facility and

dock managers streamline these procedures

and better manage worker resources.

A solution for many facility operators is

“cloud-based” dock-scheduling software.

The need for scheduled deliveries

Like most service-based businesses that

require appointments or reservations, a

“first-come, first-served” approach to

inbound deliveries can create more harm

than good. Although dock managers and

facility operators may be free of the tedious

process of scheduling these inbound

deliveries, they often face even more

daunting challenges that arise from not

knowing if and when the carriers will arrive

with shipments. They could face a backup of

delivery vehicles that all arrive at the same

time or long stretches between shipment

drop-offs. Either way, these scenarios

make it extremely difficult for managers to

properly schedule their dock staff. In some

cases, the lack of a scheduling procedure can

increase operating costs, as worker overtime

pay may be necessary to keep workers onsite

for any lingering deliveries.

www.fmjonline.com


Facility Management Journal

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A scheduling process of any kind is better

than none at all, but even traditional

methods of scheduling deliveries — such

as having a dispatcher contact the carriers

and drivers over the phone or by email —

can be inefficient. Placing a phone call, or

sending a fax or email does not guarantee

the carrier and its driver will receive it.

Additionally, inbound shippers may

misplace the information and not arrive

on their designated time. Not specifying a

time slot and allowing deliveries at any hour

during a time period or day also can result

in both long lines or extended periods of

inactivity — in the same manner as having

no scheduling procedure at all.

Dock-scheduling is much more involved

than many may think. But like most

operational processes, proper technologies

can quickly automate and streamline this

necessary task. Facility software applications

have jumped out of their “boxed” versions

found in retail outlets and electronics stores

and are now available right on the Internet,

often with robust functionality not found

in their outdated counterparts. A perfect

example of this — and one that can improve

dock-management and delivery mechanisms

— is cloud-based dock-scheduling

technology.

September/October 2011

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Turn to the “cloud” for dock-scheduling

solutions

No one can argue the role of the Internet

in today’s society, both on a personal and

business level. What initially started out as a

resource for looking up general information

and purchasing items quickly has expanded

into a global marketplace for just about any

business solution. This growth spawned

new technologies and cloud-based systems,

such as online dock-scheduling software.

Unlike more traditional software, these new

applications are accessible right through

the Internet, without having to install

components from a CD or download them

from a website or online portal. Known as

Software as a Service (SaaS), they function

in the same matter as online banking, social

media sites like Facebook and Twitter, email

and other Internet services familiar to most

of us. The software itself typically is housed

and maintained externally on secure servers

and databases.

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46

It’s the features found in this new technology

that can dramatically improve the dockwww.fmjonline.com


Facility Management Journal

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September/October 2011

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scheduling and delivery process for all

facilities, regardless of their size or scope

of business. Although functionality differs

among the numerous scheduling providers,

most include such components as:

• Online driver/carrier self-scheduling:

This feature in itself can completely

automate the delivery process at inbound

facilities by giving carriers and drivers the

ability to book their own delivery times

when it’s most convenient for them, 24

hours a day. A facility simply provides the

inbound shipper a URL link that takes

them directly to their online scheduler

(Facilities with a website or page can also

add a “Schedule Now” button with the

URL link.). Once on the scheduler, the

carrier or driver can view available delivery

slot and docks, select the appropriate

time and then confirm it. The system

does the rest without any additional

steps from facility staff or dispatchers.

• Automated email and text message

reminders: As service-based operations

can attest to, reminders of any kind can

be helpful in keeping appointments and

reservations. In fact, studies show they

can reduce the “no-show” rate by more

than 50 percent. Although not as common

a component of facility management

as other operations, they nonetheless

can minimize the number of late and

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48

missed deliveries. However, most facilities

do not have the manpower for this

task, regardless if it’s over the phone,

by email or through fax. Some online

dock-scheduling systems offer automated

email and text message reminders sent

out by the system at a specified time,

such as one day or three days before

the scheduled delivery time. As most

drivers have both Internet access and

a cellphone, they’re more likely to view

these reminder messages and, hopefully,

keep their scheduled drop-off times.

• Recordkeeping and reporting: Another

burden of traditional scheduling processes

is the time-consuming task of

recording and managing delivery information.

For many facilities, this entails

entering scheduled deliveries, times,

carrier information and other details

into paper schedule books, spreadsheets,

files and other documents. In some

instances, information must be entered

into several different places, which can

make reporting challenging as dock

managers and administrators must pull

data from multiple sources. Since online

dock-scheduling software maintains all

input information in one secure, centralized

spot, the facility quickly can locate

information without having to shuffle

through numerous pages and files. Some

systems come equipped with standardized

reports that management and staff

can quickly pull using specified criteria.

Despite the robust features found in many

online dock-scheduling systems, most come

with a low price tag that fits into many

operating budgets. This is in sharp contrast

to what many systems facility managers

and IT departments are accustomed to,

which are usually pricey and require a longterm

commitment. As with most SaaS

applications, online schedulers generally

operate on a “pay-as-you-go” platform with

no long-term contracts. Additionally, on-site

IT staff need not involve themselves in the

operation and management of the system,

as the service provider usually maintains

and manages the software on their end. This

includes conducting any updates or upgrades

to the program.

Measurable benefits of online

dock-scheduling

Saying that a new technology will improve

operations and actually seeing measurable

results is oftentimes two different things.

Although operational processes differ from

facility to facility, locations that implement

online dock-scheduling often experience

immediate measurable results.

www.fmjonline.com


Facility Management Journal

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One of the most apparent benefits is the

time savings. A reliable scheduling system

can ensure deliveries arrive at their specified

times, making it easier for dock managers

to better plan employees’ work schedules.

Without it, the facility could experience

periods of inactivity whereby staff wait

around for the next unknown delivery. This

trickles down to the carrier vehicles as well,

since they now can “get in and out” quickly

without waiting in line for docks to open.

Additionally, the online driver selfscheduling

feature can free up dispatchers

and other facility staff for more pressing

needs, instead of having to schedule delivery

times and docks over the phone or by email.

As the old adage goes, “Time is money,”

and this is certainly the case when it comes

to delivery supply chains. A proven dockscheduling

system and process can cut down

on operating costs, especially overtime

salaries that are common at facilities that

don’t schedule delivery times or have

inadequate processes. Late deliveries force

the facility to keep workers past their normal

work hours. Also, a facility may need to call

in additional employees in instances where a

backup of delivery vehicles occurs.

Another money-saving feature on cloudbased

schedulers is recordkeeping and

reporting functionality. Many carriers will

charge their inbound clients a fee for trucks

held at the loading dock for more than

two hours. These fees can range anywhere

from US$150 to US$200 an hour, and

it’s typically one’s word against another in

instances where the truck was unloaded and

released in less than two hours. Some online

schedulers let a facility track and monitor

the progress of deliveries, including when the

truck left the dock. This evidence has helped

inbound facilities avoid these unnecessary

and often unwarranted fees.

In addition to the measurable benefits of

online dock-scheduling system, there’s the

satisfaction this technology typically brings

to both dock staff and carriers alike. Like

many others, dock personnel and drivers

may prefer to conduct tasks such as booking

deliveries over the Internet instead of having

to pick up the phone or send a customized

email. Many of today’s scheduling software

programs are as easy to use as a social media

service or email that makes the process even

easier and more appealing to all involved.

This all equates into a new system most are

happy to adopt.

Scheduling inbound deliveries is not

rocket science, but it can be a tedious and

burdensome process for facilities lacking in

proven and dependable booking practices.

An online dock-scheduling software

application can be just the solution a site

needs to automate its delivery processes and

incorporate a system beneficial to staff and

carries alike. FMJ

September/October 2011

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50

Eric Richard is the senior

technology writer at Appointment-

Plus (www.appointment-plus.com),

an online scheduling software

system that has booked more

than 65 million appointments and

reservations since 2001.

www.fmjonline.com

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