As the supply chain moves into the data-rich, transparent Industry 4.0 era, it’s become apparent that distribution centres and their static Time Slot Management systems cannot cope with the mass of data involved in managing inbound and outbound logistics.
According to a January 2016 report about freight transport in the European Union, total inland freight transport in EU-28 was estimated to be over 2,200 billion tonne-kilometres in 2013 with 75% being transported by road.
But how many inbound or outbound logistics trucks to distribution centres, manufacturing units or warehouses arrived late because of traffic jams, truck breakdowns or similar? Information is sparse on the subject but some industry watchers believe that more than 40% of inbound transports arrive late.
In any given year, that’s 880 billion tonne-kilometres of supplies arriving late creating chaos and needless costs at distribution centres in the process.
Distribution centres use Time Slot Management systems to organise inbound and outbound logistics. In this way, information such as supply volume, loading point capacity, production requirements, shipment priority, storage capacity and the status of shipment material can be input into planning.
In theory, Time Slot Management systems are the ultimate link between loaders, carriers, collectors and manufacturers to bring about an organised supply chain with reliable throughput times for carriers and plant traffic and more stable transport schedules. The systems would also lead to more balanced use of loading resources, reduced demurrage charges or cargo rates, increased flow-rate, as well as even greater process safety.
That’s the theory, but the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of Time Slot Management systems in use by shipping and receiving operations are static, non-communicative systems and cannot deal with the dynamics of today’s transport logistics.
By moving to dynamic and automated on-line Time Slot Management systems, the industry allows inbound and outbound carriers to book time slots at facilities for pick-ups and deliveries. These solutions can spread loading and unloading activities more evenly throughout the day for faster dock velocity and quicker truck turnaround, helping to eliminate traffic bottlenecks and reducing wait times.
In addition, if shippers, carriers and receivers have access to and share real time tracking data throughout the supply chain, all parties can be instantly alerted on a 24/7 basis should a delivery problem occur. They then have the opportunity to ‘fill the gaps’ at delivery points in cancelled appointments. Rigid Time Slot Management systems do not offer this convenience and flexibility.
If distribution centres can improve operational efficiencies and optimise road carrier collaboration, they will be able to load and ship out a greater volume of orders in less time while increasing on-time deliveries and reducing delays. Not only will they avoid demurrage charges and retention fees, but transportation spend will be reduced through improved operational efficiency and utilization rate of hauliers’ assets.