Regional Vice President
WFS started using the Slot Booking application when it was launched early 2018. The application connects ground handlers with freight forwarders and trucking companies to streamline pick-up and delivery operations. Says Claesen: “Prior to using the Slot Booking application, drivers would show up unannounced at our premises, often several at the same time. This lack of visibility together with peaks and idle times made it hard for us to plan manpower correctly, which resulted in long waiting times for drivers and congestion at the grounds.” Using the Slot Booking app, WFS now makes time slots available in view of their capacity, which can then be booked by truckers and forwarders. The system automatically matches supply and demand, and suggests alternatives when needed. This has generated a wide range of benefits for both WFS and its customers.
Immediate 5-10% productivity increase, with potential for further improvement
and idle times
for handling staff
Early adopter & other benefits
Joining BRUcloud was a deliberate choice that was not only inspired by WFS’ belief in the power of digitization and automation. According to Marc Claesen “Getting on board early gives you a head start that can be leveraged long term. You can influence the development of features and gain a deep technical knowledge of the solution. We also stepped in because we immediately saw the benefits this could generate for the WFS network.”
"Getting on board early gives you a head start
that can be leveraged long term."
Using the application generated direct benefits for both WFS and its customers. According to Marc Claesen "these are incremental, the true benefits will be seen on the longer term as more stakeholders are using the app. And, to tackle a misconception: “the Slot Booking app does not just generate opportunities for those airports struggling with long waiting times and congestion. Also when you're not struggling with congestion, this is relevant. Considering the benefits, as a ground handler I would like to see this implemented at every airport.”
Immediate 5-10% productivity increase
“One of the major benefits is that we have visibility on planned pick-ups and deliveries and can arrange manpower accordingly. This has generated an immediate 5-10% productivity increase, with a clear potential for further improvement.”
Reduction of idle times
"As the application is matching slot supply and demand, peaks and idle times are smoothened. We already have seen the first effect of this and expect this to increase as more people are using the system."
Less stress for handling staff
An important yet underestimated advantage is the improvement of the working conditions of the warehouse operators. Says Claesen: “Our staff is a lot less stressed since they know in advance which truck is to be handled first. This avoids the often heated discussions that arise when several drivers arrive at the same time and they all want to be served first.”
"Our staff is a lot less stressed since they know in advance which truck is to be handled first."
Faster handling, less idling
"Drivers who use the Slot Booking app are prioritized: they don’t stand in line and are helped right away. As staff is informed about the expected pick-ups and deliveries they can prepare goods pro-actively and serve customers faster. All this reduces congestion of the hub.”
With detailed info at hand and more time to (un)load the trucks, less mistakes are made, which is beneficial for all parties involved.
Better use of resources
Not only WFS can make better use of its manpower, as operations are more coordinated and predictable also trucking companies can plan their activities better.
Key lessons learned
“We are very happy with the outcome so far, but as always every change comes with some challenges", Claesen explains. "When stepping in the project we were aware that certain investments would have to be made to make the initiative a success." This is how they approached it:
Adaptated organizational structure
Before using the Slot Booking app a WFS operator would take care of both reception and the handling activity. "To streamline operations we have now split these tasks over two separate functions: acceptance staff is receiving and checking in the truckers at the counter, while operational staff is focused on handling the goods. "For us this meant we had to hire some additional staff, however, it still allowed us to generate an immediate 5-10% productivity increase."
Drivers who have booked a time slot will enjoy priority treatment: they are assigned a gate and staff straight away. When a driver arrives unplanned, it’s up to the staff’s experience to judge whether there is capacity to manage them immediately or if they go in a queue. Many drivers still struggle to understand why they can’t be helped when they see a ‘free’ gate (which in reality is reserved for a time slot that is about to start). Says Claesen: "We’re still working out the best way to deal with this, but the whole purpose of the slot booking is to get everyone on board so these situations can be avoided. Clear communication is key, to ensure everyone understands the system, how it works and the benefits it generates."
Provide enough gates
Says Claesen: “The more gates you can make available for Slot Booking, the more people are incentivized to book slots and benefit from the system. We didn’t have a lot of gates available when we joined, we started off with only 4, but we wanted to step in from the start.” Following the opening of their brand new facility of more than 9000 m², today 11 gates are reserved for slot booking, with specific gates for import, export, and ULD’s.
"The more gates you can make available for Slot Booking, the more people are incentivized to book slots and benefit from the system."
Invest in training
“We have involved our staff from the start but still underestimated the importance of training. Over time we have augmented our training efforts as this is a critical factor for success.”
Communicate on what is happening and how things are going, internally and externally. At WFS, staff are incentivized by giving visibility on performance. And also externally, amongst other via the Air Cargo Belgium community, we share the results of our efforts.
"We expect the value generated by the app will grow further, as more people get on board", says Claesen. The Slot Booking system in itself is also generating opportunities for alternative business models. For example, we are considering if we could offer slots during typical idle times cheaper compared to ones during peak hours or the (expensive) weekend.
With the Air Cargo Belgium cargo community we continue to work on extending current applications and launch new ones. For example, we have recently launched the Freight Management application, which turns the paper-based process around release notes into a fully digital process. Integrated with the Slot Booking app this drives new important benefits in terms of efficiency and security. It’s only one of the many applications featuring on our digital roadmap, which shows our ambition to maximize the full potential of our digitization efforts.