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Every industry, every profession, every job, all has its own unique inefficiencies – those mundane but critical tasks that tend to take up far more of the workday than we’d prefer. But we slog through these things because no one’s yet been able to figure out a better way. Sometimes I think transportation and logistics professionals have been saddled with more than their fair share of these humdrum routines! Case-in-point: appointment scheduling, the bane of shippers, carriers and receivers alike.

Let’s take a look at how appointments get scheduled today. A simple, but common scenario: “Shipper A” needs to schedule a move to “Receiver B” via “Carrier C.” Step 1: The carrier calls the pickup location and secures an appointment time; or, the shipper communicates an appointment proactively to the carrier. If the latter is the case, the carrier needs to call back to confirm or request a different time. Given that the average carrier is working with hundreds of shippers, it’s not hard to imagine the dizzying number of calls and back-and-forth required to schedule routine shipments. That’s the first inefficiency.

Then we move on to the receiving location. The carrier either calls the receiver, or logs in to the receiver’s appointment system to get a drop-off time. The carrier then needs to enter this appointment time into its own system. Inefficiency #2.

Next, the carrier either calls or sends an EDI 214 (industry parlance for a status message on a shipment) to the shipper. Typically, the shipper has its own transportation management system (TMS) and its own appointment scheduling solution. So now we’re getting into the related problem of multiple manual entries into various systems, all of which are prone to human error. Inefficiency #3.

And so it goes, hundreds and thousands of times per day across the industry, day in and day out. Everyone is impacted. If you’re a carrier, how many man hours do you spend every day chasing down appointments? What’s the impact of inaccurate appointments on your scorecards? For shippers and receivers, how much time do you burn chasing down appointments? What’s the impact on your transportation planning due to inaccurate appointments at the locations you don’t control? And perhaps most importantly, think about the sheer amount of time and energy used to schedule these appointments… Aren’t there better uses of your time??

Everyone feels the pain of the appointment scheduling hairball. So what are the root issues that need to be addressed to break this cycle?

Issue #1: There are too many appointment scheduling systems. Shippers and carriers have to log in to multiple systems to create and edit appointments. This requires double entry to keep systems in sync.

Issue #2: Appointment systems charge you for setting up an appointment. Simply setting up an appointment or maintaining an appointment matrix can cost as much as $1.00 per appointment. That adds up rapidly, piling on overhead to everyone’s transportation costs.

Issue #3: Many appointment systems are not built for the logistics industry. There are so many appointment systems out there that are built for scheduling doctors’ appointments and other routine tasks. But they are ill-suited for a complex logistics industry with its own unique terminology and data structures. The result is a sub-optimal experience for shippers, carriers and receivers.

. . . . . .

These are issues that we’ve been discussing at length with our network of leading shippers and carriers. Everyone feels the impact of these inefficiencies, and everyone agrees it’s high time to bring modern solutions to bear on the problem. Stay tuned – more to come!

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