Inbound traffic control: coordinate truck trips and loading points better

Stefan Seufert, CTO/Vorstand EIKONA AG
Yard of a forwarding agency where trucks are loaded and unloaded with the help of Yard Management

Downtime does not enjoy a particularly good reputation. But it is just as unavoidable in logistics processes as loading and unloading are. To reduce downtime, logistics experts have developed management tools to keep everything moving: inbound traffic control and yard management.

Freight forwarders and carriers employ a business model based on moving goods. From any starting point to an agreed destination, undamaged and on time. The task sounds simple, but in practice it can be a challenge time and again because different participants have their own interests and will clash at many points along the process. Active communication and precise data sharing are the most important tools for coordinating these interfaces during loading and unloading as simply as possible for everyone involved. As a result, large consignees and shippers use inbound traffic control and yard management software to guide incoming trucks through their premises. This gives them the opportunity to keep sufficient docks available at all times and put loading personnel in all the right places.


Inbound traffic control and early information sharing

Pick-up points and destinations are the bottlenecks in transport processes where downtimes are unavoidable. Minimising these downtimes is therefore a particularly important logistics challenge. For inbound traffic control to work, everything has to be perfectly coordinated at the loading points. That way, shippers and consignees can efficiently organise their processes for providing or accepting and registering the goods in inventory. Likewise, carriers and freight forwarders also want to avoid unplanned downtime due to the rise of falling behind schedule on planned trips. This is why key stakeholders have established a system for sharing the information needed to keep the loading processes running smoothly:

  • Loading time slot
  • Transport start
  • Estimated time of arrival (ETA)
  • Actual arrival
  • Loading time and loading dock

With this information in their software, the loading entity can prepare the loading process, keep areas clear or prepare goods for transport and ask employees to be ready.


Yard management complements inbound traffic control

Because rough and detailed planning come together at the loading point, it makes sense to add resource planning to the daily and hourly schedule and coordinate everything with a process control system. This is what yard management solutions do. They support truck check-ins, loading dock assignments and the handover of the loading documents. This array of features enable medium-sized and large companies to control the flow of trucks making deliveries and picking up items at their site. For example: a freight forwarder has a master contract and receives specific transport orders three days in advance. Its dispatcher then reserves a time slot the day before the pickup. On the day of transport, the driver reports the start of the pickup trip from the vehicle. From this moment on, the vehicle's telematics system sends the truck's position and estimated time of arrival to the shipper at regular intervals. Once the truck is in the immediate vicinity of the destination, the system confirms the approach. The truck driver then receives drive-in permission from the plant logistics department, along with a code for authentication. At the plant gate, the system sends the truck information about the loading point and dock and the best possible route to get there. To communicate all this information and exchange the underlying data, vehicle manufacturers and forwarders in the automotive industry use solutions such as EIKONA WebApp or HABBL. Once at the site, the driver is called up to the dock through their mobile device. After loading is completed, the driver or a loader documents that the load securing equipment is in good condition. The customer then hands over the loading documents to the driver shortly before departure. The delivery trip begins once the truck exits the yard.


Process control with status updates and data transmission

The advantages of digitally coordinating inflow traffic are clear: with the data from the vehicle, planners in the shipper's plant logistics team and the freight forwarder's dispatching department know the transport status at all times. This allows them to check whether the trip is on schedule or if the plans needs to be changed. In addition, they can change ongoing processes in real time – and no longer have to put a vehicle fighting a traffic jam at the end of the queue, resulting in a long wait in front of the plant. Instead, they can authorise the processing of vehicles that have already arrived. This approach optimises processes, personnel use and vehicle service times. It also drastically simplifies coordination for everyone involved: all the communication that happens after the time slot is reserved and the trip officially starts is done automatically. Drivers do not have to respond to enquiries by phone, nor do they have to announce delays or reserve new time slots. In addition, the transport is automatically documented whenever a new status is assigned, including documentation of proper load securement. Using electronic consignment notes, the accompanying documents can also be transferred directly to the vehicle in digital form, creating an end-to-end digital process without hard copies having to change hands.

Conclusion

Inbound traffic control shortens downtimes and optimises processes

Software solutions for inbound traffic control and yard management improve turnaround times. When configured properly, they dramatically accelerate logistics processes as a control system. They reduce administrative effort, improve coordination and significantly reduce truck drivers' workloads. They have the potential to shorten downtimes and significantly increase operaitonal vehicle readiness.


Stefan Seufert
Stefan Seufert
CTO

As a design guru, the software developer delves into logistics service providers' requirements like no other. He is passionate about exchanging information securely and efficiently and thus speeding up the physical logistics process.


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