Have you ever heard of speed docking? Unless you are a Dutch retailer or wholesaler, the term might be a new one for you. Speed docking is a competition between retail and wholesale distribution centers that originated in the Netherlands. With logistics service providers (LSPs) unhappy about excessive wait times at loading docks, it was decided that a friendly competition might help boost efficiency and cut dwell time. The main goals of the initiative are the acquisition of data and disclosure of optimization potentials in the truck supply processes. Based on this data, the waiting and inactivity times of trucks at the loading and unloading docks can be recorded and analyzed. Within ten weeks, after analyzing the data, a benchmark of ramp process efficiency can be generated. The distribution center with the lowest average weighted cycle time wins a weekly prize, and the one with the lowest average cycle time over the whole period of ten weeks wins the competition.
Through cycle time measurement, the speed docking competition shows how inefficient the receiving goods process really is, but also shows how it can be improved. This type of out-of-the-box thinking can bring together supply chain partners, manufacturers, LSPs, and retailers to discuss the improvement of these processes.
Huge potential for improvement
Speed docking has revealed there is not only potential for improvements in optimizing kilometers and loads, but also processing times. Therefore, the potential not only lies in better planning, but additionally, for example, in combining frequent deliveries of small orders from different manufacturers to full truckloads, or in using chain conveyors to speed up the unloading process. Here, digitalization can help simplify these processes and reduce waiting in and around the plant. Furthermore, the transporters and their clients can find an optimal way to work together. Speed docking shows off these potentials of the digitalization process.
I remember Chris Godfrey getting to the heart of the problem at the ECG last year. The general manager for outbound engineering at Renault Nissan Alliance Logistics Europe called the automotive logistics industry dinosaurs that have to change. He emphasized that we, as an industry, are moving too slowly, and if we continue to do so, we will be overtaken by Amazon or someone like that. He demanded paperless logistics processes. According to Godfrey, although many means of transportion used by automotive logistics parties have on-board systems with telematics, not one of the 40 auto transporters carrying Renault Nissan´s finished vehicles offered to use the systems for tracking the deliveries. Therefore, Renault Nissan, as well as BMW and Jaguar Landrover are testing how they can benefit from using the telematics already in their vehicles for their efficient distribution. In his opinion, those responsible for automotive logistics need to keep up with the changing times and be proactive, not reactive. And I agree.
There are already some examples showing how truck supply and loading processes can be paperless and sped up.
Waiting trucks should not be the normal practice when supplying a production facility. The following examples show how the supply and load processes can be smoothened. These solutions can be used to inspire and help find a perfect combination of technology applications for the best possible supply process.
1. Quick check-in at Rotterdam port container terminals
At the Rotterdam port container terminals, an e-gate app is used, which offers real-time status information about containers at other inland terminals such as TCT Venlo or TCT Belgium. The app was introduced in 2012 and offers the option to check real-time information via smartphone and tablet about visiting deep sea, feeder and inland waterway vessels, trains and containers at ECT’s three deep sea terminals in Rotterdam.
In addition, the app allows users to check if a container is present on the inland terminal, so as to prevent unnecessary trips and improve everyone’s planning.
2. E-gate at ICO Zeebrugge
International Car Operators (ICO), specialized in roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) cargo handling, is challenged by processing many incoming/outgoing trucks on a daily basis. Another challenge is sending the RoRo-ships, which can contain over 5.000 vehicles, to the designated dock. ICO´s goal is to store the vehicles as efficient as possible at the desired location. Investments in barcode scanning and RFID, combined with positioning services via GPS signals, allow ICO to manage the terminals even more accurately.
Since 2014 ICO is using gates where truck drivers can use computer terminals to announce their arrival, like checking in at an airport. Using E-gate technology, transporter wait times have been reduced by 50%. Automating these processes improves the operational efficiency and enables quicker transactions without human intervention.
3. Inbound check-in at Audi
Another innovative example from the automotive industry comes from Audi. The vehicle producer was able to reduce its process time from 3 to 1.5 hours at its Ingolstadt, Germany location by improving its truck supply control. Trucks and inbound material are coordinated by geo fencing, a simple GPS technology to track the location of delivery trucks as they pass certain geological check-points. In Ingolstadt, the trucks can easily check-in and announce their cargo through the geo fencing technology, which then connects directly to Audi´s control system. This simplified process massively reduces paperwork as the truck can directly enter the plant and move to the docks or the adjacent logistics center to deliver its cargo. This avoids further processeses upon a truck´s arrival and they can move directly to the unloading docks.
In conclusion, and in my opinion, there are many options (and combinations of options) that can be used to speed up the truck supply processes. A competition such as speed docking has the potential to be a catalyst that detects the processes with the most potential. Although speed docking has originated from the distribution and wholesale centers, it shows that there is huge potential in optimizing truck supply process times. Digitalization, paperless transport documents, e-gates and quick check-ins help to reduce the handling times in outbound and inbound logistics.
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