Manage and Execute Dock Activities Using SAP BN4L – Freight Collaboration

dock activities sap bn4l freight collaboration

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Dock Appointment Scheduling, Dock Appointment Management and Gate Operations are key processes for smooth logistics operation. This article shows the capabilities of the SAP Freight Collaboration module in BN4L.

Dock Appointment and Gate Operations Management as Essential Part of Logistics Execution

SAP gives Dock Appointment Scheduling (DAS) a significant role within its Freight Collaboration (FC) module in the Business Network for Logistics (BN4L) environment. While Dock Appointment Management and Gate Operations Management may appear as smaller components within Transportation Management (TM), their pivotal role lies in facilitating seamless physical interactions between carriers and shippers.

Fig 1: Dock Appointment Scheduling Screenshot from SAP Freight Collaboration
Figure 1: Dock Appointment Scheduling Screenshot from SAP Freight Collaboration

The attention given to this sub-process within Freight Collaboration is rooted in the fundamental need for efficient collaboration. The success of any logistical operation hinges on the smooth coordination and cooperation between the parties involved. The slightest hitches or inconsistencies in this collaboration can disrupt the entire operational flow.

An Almost Perfect Day

Let us dive deeper into the business perspective of these processes to illuminate their bearing.

Imagine a day when multiple carriers have been engaged for the pickup of your goods. By using your Freight Collaboration System, the corresponding freight orders are seamlessly distributed from your TMS to the carriers.  Carriers can confirm their acceptance directly through the system’s portal, expediting the confirmation process and ensuring prompt logistical arrangements.

As a shipper, managing the nuanced landscape where carriers operate under varying restrictions and diverse pickup requirements, is a familiar aspect of your operations. Fortunately, your DAS-supported processes eliminate the need for individual handling of these day-to-day business nuances through email or phone communication – which saves time and energy.

Efficient and Integrated Booking

Upon confirmation of a freight order, a carrier promptly reserves an available loading timeslot through direct booking, which becomes visible within BN4L and in the associated transport document. In cases where the carrier does not have a BN4L tenant, access can be granted via a guest account, or the shipper can book the time slot on behalf of the carrier.

Integration capabilities extend to the synchronization of dock appointment scheduling between BN4L and external systems like SAP Extended Warehouse Management on SAP S/4HANA and SAP Transportation Management, or even non-SAP systems. This enables the creation and cancellation of bookings from various points in the logistics framework.

Once booked, comprehensive details of the dock appointment are readily accessible. This includes crucial information such as the linked freight order number, carrier identity, license plate details, appointed date and time, and a status update reflecting nuances like delayed arrival or check-in beginning.

Fig 2 Detail view of dock appointments
Figure 2: Detail view of dock appointments

Responsive Cancellation Handling

If a carrier encounters a scheduling conflict, leading to the cancellation of a previously confirmed transport request, the system seamlessly manages the necessary process: The cancellation triggers an automated response, initiating the cancellation of the corresponding dock appointment, and promptly marking the time slot as available for reallocation. Adjustments to the pick-up time within the TM freight order can then be reissued to the carrier for confirmation, enabling the initiation of a new dock appointment upon their approval.

Fig 3 Overview of available time slots for dock appointment
Figure 3: Overview of available time slots for dock appointment

Adaptive Rescheduling

Another carrier, connected to a visibility provider via BN4L, provides an ETA for pick-up, significantly delayed from the agreed time. With the system in place, there is no need for separate calls or internal notifications. Simply accessing the DAS app reveals available time slots for the chosen docking location in a calendar view.

Fig 4 Reallocating dock appointments per dock location and ramp
Figure 4: Reallocating dock appointments per dock location and ramp

A quick assessment shows full slot utilization for the day. The next day offers open slots. To block a suitable slot, adjust the pick-up date in the freight order, and forward it for carrier confirmation.

Figure 5: Block a time slot as reservation for carrier dock appointment
Figure 5: Block a time slot as reservation for carrier dock appointment

Flexible Gate Operations and Check-in Handling

Image a carrier arrives at your gate without having a time slot booked. As a gate operations manager, the Gate Operations Management app becomes your key tool in this situation. It enables you to efficiently access all freight orders and appointments queued for yard check-ins and check-outs.

Fig 6 The Gate Operations Management App offers all necessary details in the Gate Logbook
Figure 6: The Gate Operations Management App offers all necessary details in the Gate Logbook

Within the app, you locate the gate logbook details for arriving vehicles. Verifying associated appointments and freight orders, you initiate the check-in process. Your worklists provide an overview of trucks awaiting check-in, those already checked in, and those checked out.

In case of an unconfirmed arrival, you can flexibly perform the check-in within the app by requesting a dock appointment, accurately registering the truck, and processing its arrival. As the vehicle checks in, the system automatically updates the relevant documents. Similarly, the app catalogs gate logbook details for departing vehicles, ensuring a record of yard activities.

Fig 7 Record of Yard Activities tracked in each Freight Order in SAP Freight Collaboration Module
Figure 7: Record of Yard Activities tracked in each Freight Order in SAP Freight Collaboration Module

At day’s end, you take stock. Despite the usual number of changes and unforeseen events, adept management ensured a seamless execution of all pickups on that day, maintaining efficiency without any time loss.

How Would This Day Have Gone for You?

Consider the impact of this day on your operations: How many calls and emails would your team have juggled? How many valuable time slots might have gone unused due to delayed arrivals? Picture the inefficiencies and delays in admitting unannounced trucks—wasting time, and money, and creating unnecessary stress.

Dock Appointment Scheduling, Dock Appointment Management, and Gate Operations are just a few of the capabilities within the SAP Freight Collaboration module in BN4L. Whether SAP Freight Collaboration or another system, the possibilities for optimally embedding and supporting your yard management in the context of the entire transport management process are manifold.

Working towards Your New Freight Management

Camelot offers concrete project experience in TM and Freight Management with various providers. The optimal solution naturally depends on your business processes and the feasibility of individual requirements, be it tactical planning of slot bookings monthly, carrier or product-specific restrictions per dock (e.g., dangerous goods), or bookings without SAP reference documents. Our clients benefit from vast experience in the definition of collaboration strategies, designing efficient processes, and implementing these processes using SAP logistics solutions, bringing the expertise and resources required to support you in defining and implementing the appropriate solution. In short, Camelot offers businesses major value-adds when it comes to optimizing your logistics and supply chain processes.

If you want to learn more about SAP BN4L Freight Collaboration capabilities, read our blog series:

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