This month our guest blog is from Francois Dorval of C3 Solutions in Montreal. C3 Solutions provide dock scheduling and yard management solutions for logistics companies, retailers, hospitals, and parcel post companies. I met Francois in Boston two years at a conference, we had a lengthy discussion on integration and the challenges companies had tying systems together. That conversation prompted me to reach out to Francois and ask him to be a guest blogger for us.
Data integration connect the dots
As a specialty software provider in the realm of yard management and dock scheduling, I often get asked about the possibilities of exchanging data between our applications and other complimentary systems. Since it does require extra effort from the customer’s IT department, the operations people I speak with question whether this falls into the category of ‘’nice to have’’ or ‘’can’t live without it’’? What’s the return?
We have some great examples – I could probably write a whitepaper filled with case studies. This week, however, a simple and obvious example came about which I couldn’t resist to share with my friends at Virtual Logistics.
The Case for improvement
To put the reader in context, we are about to implement our SAAS based appointment scheduling application at a third-party warehouse. Despite their attempt to schedule traffic in and out of their warehouse by traditional means (politely asking vendors, customers and carriers to collaborate via emails, phone calls and excel spreadsheets), there was no set structure and little visibility at the dock level. Our scheduling tool will resolve this, I am proud to say.
At the same time, they’re an SAP shop and use their warehouse management system (WMS) module, including the labor management (LMS) suite. The challenge for a multi-tenant warehouse is to be very responsive, inexpensive and transparent to the customer. The inbound and outbound volumes may vary greatly from day to day and thus these warehouses are often populated with temporary workers. The LMS provides them a tool to quickly plan the amount of labor they require during each shift – provided the information arrives on time.
Our appointment scheduling application allows the different users (the 3PL, carriers, customers, vendors) to access the appointment calendar through a portal – where everyone enters the basic information required such as PO#, pallet count, etc. Whether it is entered online, called in or emailed, the 3PL will ensure that the information about the upcoming deliveries and pick-ups is centralized in our application.
Can you see where this is going? Through the “magic” of web service calls, the PO#, quantity, pallet count and date will be automatically sent to their LMS. The warehouse foreman will immediately have the data at his finger tip – thus able to easily plan his labor requirements in the coming days. No more guessing. No more calling the CSRs and drilling them for more information. To paraphrase the operations manager, the ability to better plan the labor requirements will save them money (reducing the number of days where there are too many workers, or from paying overtime when there isn’t enough) and an administrative headache.
The problem however is that to link all these applications together is not self-evident. On the surface it is, but as you peel the onion its is less so.
The actual proof of concept is being done by uploading the PO information from a spreadsheet and exporting reports for the labor management side. As part of this first phase, the operations will have verified that the fields being exchanged and its respective process responds to their business requirements. Once this is completed, the web service inbound and outbound integration project will be assigned to the IT team.
Stay tuned for the second part to this story – the actual savings. In the mean time you can read up on Dock Scheduling and Yard Management here.
François (Frank) Dorval
Solving the Scheduling Madness One Warehouse at a Time