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Tequila and Transportation – Labor Planning Discussion

Learn what CornerstoneEdge Principal, Brian Carlson, and Tony Wayda, principal at JBF Consulting had to say about appointment scheduling and how it is best performed from a Warehouse Management System (WMS), Transportation Management System (TMS), and Yard Management System (YMS) perspective. Why tequila and transportation? Well, they’re both good at forging connections! Watch a recording of the webinar now, or see below for a transcript (which has been edited for clarity and length).

Tony: Hello and welcome to Tequila and Transportation, thanks for joining! I’m Tony Wayda, principal at JBF Consulting, and I’m joined by my esteemed colleague,  Brian Carlson, Principal of Cornerstone Edge. So, last time we met for our whiskey and warehousing chat and many viewers asked if we were actually drinking whiskey, and we were! And we discussed whether we should be drinking tequila for this call today, and we decided the conversation would be too short if we did, so we’re saving the tequila for later! So, we’re going to jump right into it. Today we’re going to talk about appointment scheduling and how it can be performed in a warehouse management system, transportation management system, and even in a yard management system. As we all know, appointment scheduling is a critical part of supply chain planning and is essential for labor planning and flow control in and out of the DC.

Brian: Absolutely, Tony. I can tell you that from the WMS perspective, while appointment scheduling can be done, it’s not always done perfectly. Some systems are able to execute inbound scheduling perfectly but are lacking when it comes to outbound, or vice versa. I’ve found that appointment scheduling is often handled externally, which means people rely on spreadsheets or other manual systems. This leads to gaps in business requirements if you’re just using a warehouse management system by itself.

Tony: While a TMS typically has more information about what is happening with carriers and they tend to interact with a shipper’s TMS more than any other system, the TMS seems to be a natural place for carriers to set appointments. However, most tier 1 WMS and Yard management systems support appointment scheduling too, but a Yard Management system includes some additional functionality.

Brian: Right, yard management systems can help by filling in any gaps a WMS or TMS may have, but that also means more integrations, more chance of potential errors, added effort, and additional cost. And even so, a yard management system may not even address all the missing gaps, so it can often feel like a middleman that doesn’t pull its own weight.

Tony: And while it may seem like implementing and integrating a TMS and WMS from the same vendor should be the winning solution, even that can present issues.  But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a solution, it just means a more strategic approach needs to be taken to determine what works best for your operation. And that starts with asking the right questions.

Brian: Going back to what you said about integrations. Recently we worked with a client who selected a WMS system and thought it would be best to add the same vendor’s TMS system at the same time. But when they went down that path, they saw the vendor didn’t integrate their own TMS with their WMS, but a competitor had, so that’s who they went with instead. The actual vendor hadn’t integrated with their own product! Not necessarily any value in going with the same vendor,l especially depending on what your business needs are.

From the operational perspective, start with the basics and determine who within your operation drives/controls the appointment schedule and available time slots in a day. It’s likely the distribution center (DC) personnel since they’re the ones who plan the labor needed to load and unload and control the dock doors. But the challenge here is that inbound and outbound resources, even at a DC, may not always communicate effectively.

Tony: For sure, and that can significantly impact inventory flow. The operation needs to balance inbound flow vs. outbound flow to ensure efficient use of space and at the same time, they need to prioritize inbound inventory that is needed immediately to fulfill orders.  Simply put, a WMS thrives on deliveries that are timed perfectly and that won’t require additional storage time, whereas a TMS is focused on moving items quickly and efficiently to reduce transportation costs. The goals are misaligned. So, if you were to have a WMS, TMS, and yard management system, they need to be integrated!

Brian: Oh yes, they sure do, all three need to be talking to each other.  If you just have a TMS and a WMS then you would only need to integrate those two. But that doesn’t mean all the right info is being communicated effectively, so there may still be gaps.

Tony: Right, right… Let’s pivot a bit and discuss how drop appointments and live appointments are managed differently.  So, live loads need to be coordinated with the utmost accuracy to ensure there are available doors and labor to deal with the delivery. Yard drops are more flexible as no doors or labor are needed for the drop to complete. This is where having a strong connection between the yard management system and the WMS or TMS can help, as the system will always know what has arrived, when, and where it is located on the yard.

Brian: Tony, you’re the TMS pro here. Tell me, how do I coordinate inbound and outbound appointments to better utilize carriers?

Tony: Right, I think this is a challenging area. Ideally, matching the carrier’s inbound deliveries to outbound loads would be your best bet. But,  I don’t believe this is being done well systemically.  Most shippers that have repeatable inbound and outbound moves have a drop trailer program so they just need to ensure the outbound trailer is loaded before the carrier’s delivery appointment.

Appointment scheduling is typically a very manual process for carriers.  They are usually required to utilize a shipper’s appointment portal to visualize available time slots and schedule an appointment.  Synchronizing a live unload and live load is much more difficult than utilizing a drop trailer program.  Finding two adjacent slots is not always easy and we know not arriving at a location on time can have significant financial implications.  On-time is defined differently by clients and many will charge fines for delivering too early.  Walmart vs Target

Given the overlap in functionality between TMS, WMS, and Yard management systems, which system should control appointment scheduling?

Brian: In my experience, the best decision is based on which team, WMS or TMS, has a stronger voice rather than optimizing the best of both systems. Even working with one vendor that has both systems tends to still present problems as they have historically operated as separate teams with their own approach from their systems’ perspective. I believe the only way to address this is to identify what the business requirements are and then determine which systems have the least amount of gaps to help resolve the issues upfront. And as much as I’m a WMS guy, I think TMS systems have a lot to offer in that realm too.

Tony: Right, it seems like the common theme here is the business requirements, that’s always our approach and the one we recommend. Take stock of the business needs, your unique business requirements, do ample research into what systems resolve what gaps and go from there. Choosing a WMS or TMS means really understanding every aspect of the business and determining what works best, the systems out there are not one-size-fits-all, so it takes time and research to find the best solution for your needs.

Brian: Tony, I think that about wraps it up, don’t you? Thank you for your insights, and thanks to all of you for joining us today. So, we did whiskey and warehousing last time, and tequila and transportation today, so we’re thinking mauve next time we’ll be covering Sake and the supply chain! We look forward to seeing you all for that next event.

Tony: Right, I think probably by the end of this series we’re probably going to be doing one called AA and automation, ha ha! We appreciate you all joining! If anybody watching has any questions, reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help. And stay tuned for our Q3 conversation, Sake and the Supply Chain!


If you’re looking for guidance on what WMS or TMS to invest in, we can help! Check out our WMS Buyer’s Guide, or download the TMS Buyer’s Guide from JBF.



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