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How Are You Recording Your Inbound Deliveries? Ditch the Manual Process with Online Scheduling Technologies

Monday, April 1, 2013

The physical arrival and departure of an inbound carrier at your distribution center, warehouse or manufacturing plant is just one part of the delivery process. There’s the scheduling of the shipment, the proper staffing to ensure enough hands are available on the docks when the goods arrive, and inventory procedures once the goods have been unloaded, among other steps.

There’s also the seemingly simple task of recording the actual delivery times and other details of each vehicle that unloads their shipments at your facility’s docks. This generally has been a manual process, with the dock manager or assigned staff writing down this information on a paper delivery log or an electronic spreadsheet.

While the above methods may suffice for smaller facilities or those that do not experience a high inbound activity on a regular basis, they can become unmanageable at large and medium-sized facilities with large numbers of inbound shipments or even smaller facilities with high inbound traffic and limited resources.

The problem can be further compounded for businesses that operate numerous inbound facilities, especially if this information must then be collected and centralized in one location for reporting purposes and analysis.

Fortunately for facilities that utilize a cloud-based scheduling system, the ability to instantly access and analyze data is a standard functionality found in online dock-scheduling systems.


As mentioned in past columns, an online dock scheduling application can dramatically improve the inbound shipping process by not only requiring specific delivery times from carriers, but also enabling them to schedule those times online instead of having to do so over the phone or by fax or e-mail. With this automation also comes the ability to efficiently manage appointment details for each scheduled delivery, a true benefit for facilities that rely on this information in their day-to-day operations and business planning processes.

Benefits of utilizing reporting and record keeping capabilities of an online dock scheduling application include:

  • It’s easier to record. All appointment details are instantly recorded when a delivery appointment time is scheduled, either by the carrier or the dispatcher. On some systems, the dock manger, dispatcher or staff responsible for managing inbound deliveries can even change the status of the scheduled delivery, such as indicating if they’ve been delivered, are late or missed the delivery time completely.
  • It’s easier to create reports and analyze appointment statistics. Using traditional recording methods usually requires a dock operator to compile data from several different sources (and even locations), properly sort the findings, and then manually decipher the results into a workable format. If graphs or charts are in the works, additional time and resources may be needed. Some online scheduling software systems provide instant reporting capabilities, which allow facility operators to get an accurate and detailed snapshot of their scheduled inbound deliveries with just a click. Some providers even offer “dashboards” that present delivery appointment data and other stats in the form of charts, graphs and other easy-to-read visuals.
  • It’s easier to access. As a cloud-based technology, online dock –scheduling software is easily accessible from any Internet-connected device, including smart phones and tablets. So unlike a paper delivery journal or spreadsheet confined to an individual desktop computer, records are accessible when the dock manager or staff member needs them, regardless of where in the facility they’re currently working from. They can even access this data when working off-site.
  • It’s more accurate. Manual input of data always leaves the door open for inaccuracies and discrepancies, especially during busy times or when data is added after the fact. An online dock-scheduling system automatically manages information when it’s entered or updated, thereby creating a more accurate database of pertinent delivery details. As long as all delivery information passes through the online scheduler, it can be the facility’s best source of accurate data.
  • It can reduce dock detention fees. An expected benefit of using online dock-scheduling software is as a tool to reduce dock detention fees. To successfully contest these carrier fees, a facility typically must provide documentation showing that the truck was not held at the dock for the length of time stated by the carrier. As mentioned above, some software systems give dock operators the ability to change the status of each scheduled delivery as it occurs. By updating the completion status of each delivery to reflect when the truck left the dock or bay door, the site now has a record to show its carriers, in the event they receive a dock detention fee.

When it comes to accurate record keeping and reporting of inbound deliveries, dock managers and personnel need not bang their hands in identifying the best solution. That solution is often right in front of them in the form of online scheduling technologies.

About the Author: Eric Richard is the senior technology writer at Appointment-Plus
(, the worldwide experts in online scheduling solutions and creators of the most flexible and feature-rich software application used by distributors, warehouses, manufacturers and other material-handling facilities to manage their deliveries. The online scheduling application has booked over 100 million appointments and reservations since 2001.