In the worst case, 20 to 25 trucks jammed in front of the factory gates of Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG in Künzelsau, Swabia. The waiting times were at least as long as the faces of the truck drivers, who had to join the line anew every day. The Swabian trading company has got the situation under control with time slot management.
Würth is not an exception. For years now, the trade ramps in particular have been the subject of repeated criticism. According to a study by SCI Verkehr in Cologne, more than 60 percent of freight forwarders complain about long handling times at the ramps, compared with only 14 percent in industry. All players have high hopes for web-based time slot management systems. In a special report on the situation at the loading ramp, the Federal Office for Goods Transport even recommends the allocation of timeslots as the “most promising” measure to alleviate the ramp problem.
Pioneer in Timeslot Management
Pioneer in time slot management is Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG, specialist in the trade with assembly and fastening materials. More than 100,000 products are listed in the product range of the Swabian family business – from screws, chemical-technical products and tools to workwear, the sales force sells everything craftsmen and industrial customers need. A total of 450 tons of goods arrive daily at the company’s ramps. In the main plant in Künzelsau alone, it was not unusual for 20 freight forwarders to unload at the same time at 7 am. “We did not want to come to terms with this situation,” says Richard Wunderlich, head of incoming goods department at Würth. The head of the company and owner Reinhold Würth is said to have been personally concerned about the dismantling of the truck traffic jam. At the beginning of 2009 the measurement was finally full and the decision was made for a time slot management system.
The systems available on the market work in a similar way. They are usually operated with an interface to the enterprise resource planning system (ERP) of the ramp operator or as a stand-alone version. The consignee enters his free loading times in the electronic timetables for the ramp, the forwarding agents book their desired delivery time and pay a booking fee. Carriers do not require any technical infrastructure, Internet access is sufficient.
Quick System Selection
After a comparison of the systems, Cargoclix was quickly chosen, explains Bernd Arnold, process developer in logistics at Würth. Based in Niefern, Cargoclix is well-known for its logistics tendering platform, on which more than 20,000 users are registered. The second major business area is the “Time Slot” time slot solution, which is used by companies such as Daimler, Develey, Bosch, Müller Drogerie, MEG, Gerolsteiner and Douglas across all industries.
An open system is important, explains IT expert Arnold. One would simply profit from the fact that such an application is constantly being further developed by all users. “Flexible, transparent and a good impression”, he answers the question about the reason for the choice, and adds: “the favourable price of 50 cents”. Anything else would have been out of the question, stresses Wunderlich, because there was neither a technical nor any other reasonable reason to demand more money from the freight forwarders. The amount includes all booking processes, data transfers and free support for industry, trade, forwarders and carriers.
Bookings from 60 Forwarders – No Problem
Würth Hausspediteur is DHL for all domestic general cargo transports, but the majority of all deliveries arrive free domicile. This means that Würth has no contracts with forwarders and freight forwarders. Their reactions to the new system had been quite different. “Why only now, the Austrians said, the Germans were sceptical at first,” says Arnold laughing.
In the grown plant in Künzelsau, a total of 25 ramps with the electronic timetables are organised at five different unloading points. That makes about 80 bookings daily through 60 different carriers. The ramps in the Adelzheim logistics centre will soon also be connected to the time slot management system.
“The registration of a timeslot is mandatory,” explains Wunderlich. In practice, an unregistered truck is unloaded, but has to accept longer waiting times. At the Würth gates, all arriving trucks are first registered by the doorman. The name of the driver, the company and the registration number of the vehicle are already stored in the system or the doorman completes the data, for example if the driver has changed. Then the clock starts ticking. If the vehicle leaves the premises again, the last status is activated and the process is completed.
“How long a timeslot is, each ramp operator can determine for himself”
“Each ramp operator can decide for himself how long a time window is,” explains Dr. Victor Meier, Managing Director of Cargoclix. At Würth, this depends on the number of pallets. When booking, the service providers specify how many pallets they deliver. The system then automatically determines the length of the time window required for this number of pallets. “This requirement was already a challenge back then; today, the standard function in the system is also used by other companies,” reports Meier.
But not only the ramps are planned per time window, but also the complete site management, i.e. also the car traffic on the site. The doorman books a virtual time window for visitors who want to enter the grounds by car.
Manageable Investments, High Acceptance
About 30 people work with the system at Würth: at the three incoming goods ports, the five receiving points as well as some users in warehouse management. A large part of the hardware was available, only the internet access had to be activated. “A manageable investment that has brought us a great deal,” Arnold sums up. “We have a regulated unloading flow, a better distribution on the day, no more traffic jams in front of the access roads and the average waiting time is also only one hour at the most. Problem solved.