Top 3 Dock-Scheduling Challenges Facing 3PL Warehouses Today

Date: March 16, 2020


In today’s highly competitive warehouse logistics market, leading 3PL warehouses recognize the need to keep operational costs low in order to maintain their margins and effectively serve their customers. One cost lever that warehouses can control is fees caused by inefficient dock scheduling. We will share the top 3 challenges preventing efficient warehouse appointment scheduling and how to overcome them by adopting dock scheduling best practices with SmartDockTM.

Challenge #1: Inefficient Appointment Scheduling

Many third-party logistics warehouses track carrier appointments using outdated methods such as:

  • Whiteboards
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Google Sheets

As warehouse operations grow, customer service representatives must schedule and manage more dock appointments. When appointment volume overextends warehouse staff, they struggle to keep track of appointments without dock door scheduling software because not everyone has access to the latest version of a dock’s schedule and updating appointments requires staff to respond to carriers’ phone calls and emails.

Consequently, updating dock schedules manually can be tedious and introduces opportunities for human error. Not only do manual processes overburden staff, but these processes also result in warehouse workers overbooking dock schedules without appointment booking software. Overbooking dock doors produce long lines of carrier trucks waiting outside to load or unload cargo. Carriers pay truck drivers by the hour and can’t afford to wait and risk missing other time sensitive deliveries, charging warehouses expensive detention fees for every hour a truck waits in line to dock.

Challenge #2: Operational & Labor Inefficiencies

Once a warehouse’s docks are booked near capacity or over capacity, warehouse staff rush to unload trucks to avoid traffic congestion and detention fees. Lack of accurate visibility of upcoming appointments also makes it difficult for warehouses to plan labor for peak traffic times and allocate sufficient space to receive incoming cargo. This high volume of inbound and outbound shipments can overwhelm staff and cause warehouse operations to break down. With warehouse workers too few and far between, 3PLs can’t afford to burn out employees and increase employee turnover.

Challenge #3: Expensive Carrier Fees & Traffic Fines

The negative impact of not managing dock scheduling well also causes warehouse operational costs to balloon. If warehouses do not effectively manage their dock appointments, they can incur expensive detention fees and traffic fines. According to DAT, 63% of drivers spend more than 3 hours on average waiting to unload their or load their cargo. Since warehouses have a limited warehouse space and dock doors to unload cargo, traffic congestion can build up near warehouses if staff can’t unload trucks fast enough. This traffic can cause accidents and local authorities can fine warehouses or shut down operations until traffic is cleared, costing warehouses thousands of dollars in lost productivity. 3PL Warehouses can’t afford the cost of not having a truck appointment booking system.

The Solution: Adopt Dock Scheduling Best Practices

Thankfully there is a simple and effective tool to help warehouse managers efficiently manage dock appointment scheduling. With 3PL Central's new dock scheduling software solution, SmartDock, warehouses can now automate their appointment scheduling and operate more efficiently. SmartDock helps 3PLs to easily manage and change appointments of their docks, create efficient dock schedules to maximize productivity, and lower costs with best practice dock scheduling techniques. It’s time for warehouses to try one of the best docking software on the market and practice smart warehouse scheduling to better serve their customers more cost effectively. See the product launch press release here.

Efficient Appointment Management

Warehouses can schedule or change appointments in seconds with SmartDock’s online dock scheduling tool, saving warehouse staff hours of time previously spent manually responding to carrier emails and phone calls.

  • Online Appointment Management: Warehouses and carriers can schedule and manage appointments from any web browser or iOS / Android mobile device.
  • Real-time Supply Chain Visibility: View upcoming dock appointments across the entire supply chain (carrier, broker, warehouse) in real-time and plan labor accordingly.
  • Access to Multiple Warehouses: Carriers can book appointments at multiple warehouses that you can register for free with SmartDock.

3PL Central SmartDock Appointment Calendar

Enhanced Operational Efficiency

In addition, by allowing carriers and brokers to use online, self-service portals, warehouses have reduced their staff’s time spent on customer support and carrier management by up to 90%.

  • Automated Schedule Rules: Schedule deliveries only when dock space is available. Shipping scheduling software eliminates long lines of trucks, labor overload, and high detention fees.
  • Self-Service Portal: Carriers can schedule their own appointments through a self-service portal, reducing the need to rely on CSRs to manually schedule them.
  • Generate Appointment Reports: Export Excel or CSV reports to view appointments scheduled for a specific day or customizable time period.

3PL Central SmartDock Appointment Window Setup

Lower Costs

Ultimately, SmartDock enables warehouses to potentially save hundreds of thousands of dollars in carrier detention fees and fines. These completely avoidable costs come from traffic congestion and can be ameliorated by efficiently managing the logistics of dock scheduling. 3PLs bypass high detention fees from carriers when avoiding long lines of trucks in the first place.

Besides keeping costs low, SmartDock can also help you turn the tables and collect fees from carrier late deliveries through in-depth vendor delivery reporting. Offering complete visibility of a warehouse’s upcoming appointments in report form, SmartDockTM can help warehouse managers plan labor accordingly to reduce potential fees.

  • Load Leveling: Spread out shipments across a week to balance your warehouse workload and prevent labor shortages, preventing unnecessary overtime fees.
  • Vendor Delivery Reports: Generate vendor reports highlighting on-time shipments by vendor. Hold vendors accountable, collect fees for late deliveries, and track a warehouse’s on time delivery rate with accurate delivery data.
  • Web-based Scheduling: The appointment scheduling application is accessible from any web browser, so there is no need to buy IT infrastructure or computer servers.

3PL Central SmartDock Vendor Statistics Report

In short, the 3PLs who will thrive in the hyper-competitive warehouse logistics market must effectively manage warehouse operations and keeps costs low by efficiently managing dock scheduling with SmartDock.

To learn about how SmartDockTM can help your 3PL maximize your dock door’s profitability while also lowering appointment scheduling and labor costs, request a demo today.


3PL Central

Written by 3PL Central

The first cloud-based WMS solutions designed for 3PLs. Powerful, flexible, scalable, and specifically designed to help 3PLs and warehouses grow to the next level.