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February 18, 2022 | Insights

Dealing with Supply Chain Fluctuations in Your DC with Dynamic Scheduling

February 18, 2022 | Insights

If there is one thing that has been the hallmark of logistics and supply these past few years, it has been fluctuation. Supply chains start and stop unpredictably because of a number of factors outside of our control: Weather hazards, labor shortages, supply chain kinks… you name it. These fluctuations can cause chaos at a distribution center (DC), as they make forecasting and scheduling that much more difficult.

While these macro trends tend to be out of your control, what you can control are the operations within your own warehouse or distribution center. This starts with your own yard management. With proper yard management, warehouses and distribution centers can scale up (or scale down) operations as needed, ensuring that goods are processed efficiently so that the yard becomes neither a bottleneck nor a cost sink.

Modern yard management begins with something called dynamic scheduling. Dynamic scheduling enables a yard manager to adjust capacity to align with the throughput needed at a distribution center, and it has the following five ingredients:

1. Upstream Visibility

Data is the key to evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of logistics operations. Having visibility into inbound and outbound trailer flow, as well as any off-site storage yards, helps to identify bottlenecks and forecast trends. An investment in the right kind of technology here can make a big difference, as visibility is ultimately what enables rapid change.

2. A Structured Format for Scheduling

All DCs do volume forecasting at some level, and scheduling needs to reflect anticipated volumes. For example, here at NSSL, we make volume predictions and determine schedules using a weekly scorecard. The scorecard aligns scheduling and equipment needs with the anticipated flow of goods so that the yard can hit appropriate benchmarks.

3. Real-Time Adjustment

Even with structured scheduling, things can change rapidly. This, again, is why visibility is so important: Having real-time data allows yard managers to make adjustments and tweaks as the day’s situation evolves. These kinds of adjustments are at the heart of dynamic scheduling.

4. A “Deep Bench” and Cross-Trained Workforce

Even with the right tools in hand, dynamic adjustment cannot happen unless you have the people who can make it happen. A seamlessly working yard has what is known as a “T-shaped” workforce, meaning that the pool of operators is deep enough to handle most volumes, and those workers are cross-trained in a number of different areas. Without the proper number of people or proper training, on-the-fly adjustments in the face of fluctuations become almost impossible.

5. A Robust Equipment Strategy

All functioning DCs have already made a capital investment in equipment. The needle has to be threaded here, too. A shortage of dry van trailers or shunt vehicles can easily delay operations, but having too much equipment on hand means that some pieces go unused, even as they tie up capital. A robust equipment strategy would suggest purchasing enough equipment to handle average needs and then renting additional equipment during heavy periods to fill in the gaps.

Making Yard Operations Seamless

Fluctuations in your DC are not just occasional problems—they are quickly becoming the “new normal.” It does not take more than a few small issues to bog down the entire operation.

Having better visibility, structured scheduling (via scorecard), the capacity to adjust, a deep bench of qualified operators, proactive cross-training, and a robust equipment strategy are all key requirements for providing a seamless operation in today’s logistics landscape.

This is exactly the formula we follow here at NSSL. To learn more, or to request a free yard assessment, contact us today.

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