Why automating the freight dispatch process is unavoidable

Allocating freight shipments to a shipping carrier’s resources – drivers, lorries, equipment, routes – is a highly complex process. There are numerous operational and strategic considerations and uncertainties the dispatcher in charge of this task must bear in mind.

On the one hand, he must utilise the available resources in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. On the other hand, he must ensure customer satisfaction. These two objectives can easily collide. A dispatcher has only a few hours per shift to resolve these conflicts and account for all of the relevant factors: Operating territories specified by subcontractors, operational restrictions related to commissioning and the warehouse structure, driver and vehicle availability, traffic conditions and many others.

Then there are strategic criteria to consider in addition to the operational ones: Planning territories, purchasing resources in advance or as needed, estimating shipment volumes. Processing all this information is extremely labour-intensive, exposing dispatchers to enormous daily stress levels.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in online shopping, pushing the entire logistics industry to its limits. As a consequence, dispatchers can hardly be expected to perform their work in a rational, judicious manner. Rather, they must resort to ‘management by exception’ to handle the increased workload: Pressed for time, they have to make many compromises which ultimately neither improve efficiency nor customer satisfaction. More staff, larger warehouses, more vehicles and drivers would certainly be helpful but are harder to find today than ever before. There is one alternative, however: digitalising processes which cost dispatchers disproportionate amounts of time and energy. The unique expertise these experts possess should be fully dedicated to maximizing efficient operations and ensuring customer satisfaction. Tasks such as (pre-) commissioning shipments at the warehouse, assigning freight to vehicles, and planning trips should always produce the most cost-efficient outcomes.

But since dispatchers are constantly working at their limits, they have no time to research or test alternative methods or software. Taking several days or even weeks to become acquainted with a new solution that could replace their current tools is not an option in these circumstances. Yet there can be no doubt that advanced software could accelerate many of their daily processes and activities.

Automated solutions could help them include many operational parameters from a variety of sources into their calculations effortlessly and reduce processing times. Manual data entry and coordination processes could be replaced by software, delivering and checking results faster and applying them with a click on a mouse button. The dispatchers’ irreplaceable human intelligence can be freed up to focus on the most challenging aspects of their work, including customer satisfaction, by leaving nerve-racking repetitive tasks up to computational algorithms.

All this can be realised without causing major disruption to a dispatchers’ daily routine by integrating advanced software tools into the existing TMS software and letting it do its magic in the background, enhancing efficiency where it makes the biggest difference.