July 16, 2021

Time Is Money in Ground Transportation

A Case for Time Slot Management

Time is money. But how much do we coordinate our ground transportation around this valued principle? Do we manage our time slots like time is money? Do we accept that time slots are a finite resource? Do we believe we can make their value grow or shrink depending on how they're managed? Join me. This shouldn’t take long.


Let’s imagine a world without time slot management. A world where “daily” is the extent of time’s granularity, and where “first come, first serve” is the prevalent theory behind scheduling. In this world, the most dedicated among us show up prepared to wait no matter what. And without time slot management, arriving early is a constant gamble between waiting hours before a facility opens to load your truck, or waiting hours for those who managed to queue before you. It’s a world where your scheduled pickup could take place at 8:15am, 4:45pm or any time in between. Sound like a nightmare? Unfortunately, It’s not a dream. It’s probably happening right now at your facility.

Let’s say there are 27 deliveries scheduled to be shipped to and from your facility on any given day. That’s 27 trucks that are going to be headed your way to pick up or drop off. Some of these deliveries are smaller and able to be loaded in a matter of 15 minutes, others are quite large and may take as much as a few hours to load properly. Will this process lead to wasted time? That depends. Do you have the tools to properly manage your time slots?

If you aren’t scheduling time slots, these 27 trucks are going to be coming by whenever it’s convenient for them along their routes. It’s possible that two dozen trucks could show up at your facility within an hour of each other—and you only have four loading docks. That means you could have quite the lineup of trucks waiting to get loaded, which is not ideal for you, not ideal for your team and certainly not ideal for the drivers with hours and hours of driving ahead of them.

No. Time is money. And since time is money, you can expect to get charged for those trucks waiting in line. What’s more, your loading teams are now subjected to the unnecessary pressure of stressful rushes, your grounds are clogged with trucks, and your facility is at its most vulnerable—let’s hope everyone keeps their cool and we don’t have any accidents, mistakes or flare-ups.

The right kind of time slot management tool can be a game changer for these nightmare scenarios. The Elemica MoveTM Time Slot Management module pairs product, location and resource constraint information with scheduling preferences to suggest appointment times for loading and unloading. With a little setup, it can allow you to seamlessly collaborate with carriers through a shared calendar, automating and optimizing the pick-up schedules for these 27 trucks, saving you on site logistics costs.

There’s also a case to be made for safety. Roads are more dangerous than facilities, and an optimized schedule can decongest thoroughfare, reducing the number of trucks driving at once. This reduces stress, decreases the risk of accidents and allows your teams to move around more freely.

And when it comes to creating lasting value, the power of proper time slot management can also open up a world of insights. This puts your facility’s loading and unloading schedule as well as carrier-related tasks at your fingertips, allowing you to make adjustments for early or late arrivals. This also can help you reduce shipment lead-time variability, granting better inventory planning and higher OTIF levels. And with shared calendars, everyone can now see real-time milestones for loading and unloading, also allowing you to monitor and assess carrier performance. Over time, you can capture a variety of carrier analytics, providing valuable data to promote informed decisions when it comes to sourcing the right carriers for your needs.

Let’s summarize. Time is money. And in order to get the most value out of ground transportation, you need to manage time slots at your facility like you would manage your money. After all, time is also a finite resource, and you can increase its value by optimizing its potential for good returns.