What You Need to Know About Selecting a Dock Appointment Scheduling System

Q: What is dock appointment scheduling?

A: Dock scheduling is a means for managing the timeliness of inbound and outbound transportation (truck traffic) at your loading docks in order to maximize the efficient operation of those docks.

Q: What is the difference between Appointment Management and a Dock Scheduling System?

A: Appointment management usually takes the form of a spreadsheet or commonly available online calendar (such as Outlook) that tracks the time slots your carriers/suppliers want at your dock. It has to be managed by a human scheduler, who keeps track of changes and conflicts, and keeps it up to date.

A Dock Scheduling System moves beyond appointment management by enabling sophisticated prioritization of customers, suppliers, loads, product types, carriers, and more, depending on your specific business needs. In essence, it’s a capacity planning tool, or a smart-schedule.

It allows direct communication between the system and carriers/suppliers, and enables real-time visibility via a web portal to anyone who needs it, including carriers, suppliers, internal staff, or customers.

A dock scheduling system should also have reporting capabilities that include audits on loads delivered, enabling compliance information to be recorded and transmitted automatically, and authoritatively.

Q: What are the top five functions a Dock Scheduling System should provide?

A: Here are 5 essential functions anyone should be looking for in a dock scheduling solution.

  1. A web portal that is accessible by both carriers and suppliers. This 24-7 self-serve option would allow them to book their own appointments and update the schedule as needed.
  2. It should be possible to transmit automated notifications, such as appointment confirmations, to users by email. You should be able to choose which action should trigger a notification and which users should receive them.
  3. The ability to apply rules and constraints in order to transform the schedule into a smart planning system. Whether as simple as differentiating between palletized or non-palletized shipments, or with complex logic based on product type, POs, vendors, and more, you should be able to get a system that will work to the rules that will optimize your operations.
  4. Automation allowing for every request that fits within your schedule and constraints to be automatically processed without any user intervention. Permitting appointment requests to be automatically approved is a great feature, yet the level of automation should be customizable, allowing users to decide which carriers receive fully automated services and which still need hands-on attention.
  5. Standing appointments functionality that allows to not only book the loading dock space, but also preconfigure the labor and space requirements in the warehouse. You should also be able to configure expiration dates for cancellation and free up the slot for another user.

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