Slot booking optimization in warehousing

Companies and consumers increasingly expect products to be delivered in a quick, flexible and reliable way. Losses and waiting times at warehouses and distribution distribution centers are now even more out of the question than ever before. That is why VIL has used the OptiPlan project to investigate the possibilities of optimizing the planning for loading and unloading. Solvice was chosen as a technology partner to facilitate this proof of concept and was able to decrease time spent on planning for all carriers drastically, as well as suggest optimal slot booking changes throughout the day.


The scheduling and subsequent realization of loading and unloading appointments doesn't always go smoothly, mainly because of all kinds of daily unpredictable factors. Some shippers use a static slot booking system in which the transporters can book a slot one day in advance to book a slot for unloading and/or loading. Other shippers don't use a booking system. Also, existing systems are often not coordinated with each other. Different data formats and communication systems make smooth system integration between the different applications is virtually impossible, especially if several companies are involved.  This results in long waiting times and even a lost day for the transporters and extra work for the warehouse staff.


Data research shows that trucks are on average 52 minutes early, while others are late due to e.g. traffic jams or long waiting times at a previous appointment. The POC that was developed and tested at OptiPlan uses real-time data from, for example, the GPS systems in the various trucks to calculate ETAs (Estimated Times). With this real-time data, infeasibility and opportunities can be detected at an early stage. Slots of trucks that will arrive too early or too late are dynamically adjusted. This can be done both by  swapping slots that are mutually exchanged - but also by shifting the slots to a different location. This saves a lot of time during loading and unloading.


Using real-time data intelligently to dynamically optimize the schedules of inbound and outbound shipments at shippers on a daily basis and avoid lost time creates a win-win for all parties. The carrier has to deal with less lost time. Nick Vercruysse, Transport Manager at Lux Logistics, believes this has a number of important advantages: "By dynamically monitoring and adjusting the slot planning, unnecessary waiting times are avoided. Not only does this allow us to make optimal use of our trucks and drivers, it also avoids unnecessary stress on our drivers and office staff." In turn, the distributor or retailer has greater certainty that the goods will be unloaded and/or loaded on the agreed day, which strengthens their reliability to customers. Johan Goossens, Head of Department Central Inventories at Colruyt Group adds: "With static planning and without full integration of the planning and tracking systems of all parties involved, longer queues of trucks occur. The dynamic adjustment of the planning based on the daily reality not only reduces these queues but also increases safety in and around the sites. In addition, it eliminates unnecessary stress on the drivers and our logistics staff."

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