What does it take to become a shipper of choice? One of the most obvious answers is to reduce dwell. It’s a win-win for everyone involved: Drivers make more, carriers make more, shippers save on fines and fees, and the industry frees up more capacity. Actually making it a reality, however, is much easier said than done.

Dwell is an issue with multiple stakeholders and numerous contributing factors. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it can’t be solved in a silo. That’s why I recently joined Marjorie DePuy, Senior Director Supply Chain and Sustainability for the Trading Partner Alliance; Keith Olscamp, Director, Industry Affairs, Consumer Brands Association; and Chris Cunnane, Research Director, Supply Chain Management, ARC Advisory Group, to talk about the role that strong cross-functional collaboration can play across organizations in order to make real strides in reducing dwell for everyone involved. 

As with most common supply chain headaches, you can’t solve what you can’t see

Collaboration is key

I’ve written about the problem of dwell time in the past, as well as some of the best practices we’ve found for bringing it down. This time I’d like to highlight the critical role that collaboration plays in tackling this thorny issue. 

Perhaps the biggest component of an effective dwell time strategy is the effort you’re willing to put into it. That’s why when we set out to help reduce dwell at four pilot facilities, we were fortunate to work with highly involved supply chain leaders that pulled out all the stops. We had weekly calls with over a dozen participants and stakeholders, including TPA and FMI leaders, carriers, representatives from FourKites, McKinsey, and all four facilities. Each week, we at FourKites presented an updated data set showing dwell time performance for the past week, and drilled down into key metrics and factors we believed might be impacting that performance. Having these weekly, cross-functional calls was undoubtedly the single biggest driver of this pilot’s success. 

We’ve made this point before: Transportation is not a zero-sum commodity, and collaboration even among competitors stands to increase the available capacity to everyone. In reality, the primary result of better data and analysis is better communication, greater flexibility and enhanced ability to plan your actions in the most efficient way possible. Successfully slashing your dwell times as an organization requires full-spectrum engagement and cross-company collaboration. It’s a tough ask to make, but since dwell is such a pervasive issue, everyone stands to benefit from eliminating it once and for all.

The number one factor driving dwell times is late arrivals. It’s kind of the bane of our existence. 

Keith Olscamp,

Director, Industry Affairs, Consumer Brands Association

Every company is unique – and so is its data

As was asked during the Q&A, what if you don’t have the time or resources to devote to a dedicated, cross-functional call each week? The best answer to that question is to simply start by collecting the data. Find out where it leads you. You may be surprised to learn that there are opportunities for operational improvements right in front of your eyes.  

Every facility is different, and so is its data. The best practices we’ve uncovered to date are far from comprehensive – and, in fact, they’re just the beginning. The most critical pain points affecting dwell times varied widely across our four pilot facilities, and finding the correct levers to pull is the first step in achieving long-term improvement that’s tailored to your operation. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; rather, if you want to make a meaningful dent in your dwell, you need to take a look at the data you’re working with, within the context of your entire business ecosystem, and act accordingly. 

There’s such an evolving level of what’s possible to automate. 

Marjorie DePuy,

Senior Director Supply Chain and Sustainability, Transportation Partner Alliance

Everybody wins

While all of this makes sense on a theoretical level, we can also take that down to dollars and cents. During the webinar, Keith compared dwell time to a “death of 1,000 cuts.” In other words, we all knew there were areas for improvement, but seeing the full value of those improvements was a pleasant surprise for everyone. 

Putting our new best practices into play paid major dividends almost immediately. Land O’Lakes, for example, had a pre-pilot median dwell time of 89 minutes. By the end of the pilot period, they had brought that down to 70 minutes. What could you do with almost 20 extra minutes per day? From the carrier perspective, the answer is obvious: One hour of downtime is equivalent to 50 miles on the road. So the more dwell time we can reduce, the more capacity we can create. 

Overall, we determined that better, more data-driven dwell time management has the potential to improve available capacity by a total of 2-4%. As was said during the webinar, that may not seem like a game changer at first, but when you consider that CPG is a $2 trillion dollar industry responsible for 20 million American jobs and 20% of all global freight, it starts to become apparent just how big of an opportunity this represents.

There were too many great insights shared to go into all of them here, but I’d welcome you to listen to the webinar yourself and let us know if you have any questions or input of your own! We’re always looking for feedback from our customers, partners and members of the logistics community as a whole.

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