Scheduling, routing, language barriers, and document management are the challenges Waelzholz faces in shipping logistics involving external trucking companies. An innovative driver check-in terminal is now helping truck drivers and Waelzholz shipping employees carry out truck dispatching processes in a reliable and time-efficient manner.
More efficient truck dispatching thanks to new driver terminal
When it comes to the production of its high-quality steel materials with precisely defined material properties, Waelzholz utilizes well thought-out and highly coordinated processes. The same applies to its shipping logistics – which today is quite a demanding task due to its high level of complexity. For example, up to 100 trucks arrive each day to the South Plant at the company’s headquarters in Hagen, Germany, alone in order to load coils of cold rolled steel strip and transport them to customers. “Significantly speeding up the dispatching process was one of our top priorities. Given the limited space available, this was the only way to create more loading capacity for future growth,” explains Dr. Ernst-Martin vom Bovert, Head of Logistics at Waelzholz. The logistics expert saw potential for improvement in a number of different factors:
- Uncoordinated timing of trucks that ended up arriving at the same time
- Unannounced pickups, meaning that goods weren’t ready for transport
- Drivers not having the necessary pickup documents
- Language barriers (drivers unable to speak German or English)
- Trucks going to the wrong plant (Waelzholz has four plants in Hagen, Germany, alone)
- Trucks arriving at the correct plant but going to the wrong loading bay
- Cost and effort of scanning and copying paper-based documents
Digital driver terminal: a milestone for pickup logistics
Waelzholz already implemented a system to manage pickup times back 2011 that is still used by the shipping companies today. It allows the shipper to book the ideal free time slot for the pickup within a predefined period of two to three days specified by Waelzholz. If the driver can’t make the selected pickup time due to issues such as the traffic situation, the carrier can rebook the time slot in the system accordingly. The advantage of this system is that it makes it much easier to prepare the goods for pickup and ensure they are available at the right time. As a result, the system increases capacity for Waelzholz and saves the trucking companies time, which is extremely precious in the shipping business. According to Dr. vom Bovert, “thanks to our optimized pickup time management system alone, we’ve succeeded in reducing the handling time between arrival and departure per truck from an average of three hours to 1.25 hours today. We were definitely one of the first companies in the sector to introduce such a system. Now, this summer, we’ve set another milestone for pickup logistics in the cold rolling industry with the launch of our digital driver check-in terminal.”
Optimized communication and reduced paper consumption
The new check-in terminal is clearly marked at the entrance to the Waelzholz factory premises at the company’s South Plant in Hagen in a specially designated area. There, drivers find two modern touchscreens with a large keypad for easy operation. Project manager Marina Schmeiser from Logistics knows what decisive advantages the new check-in solution offers: “The new system allows us to overcome language barriers, offer drivers better route guidance, and at the same time, simplify shipping document management. This is because the entire process is digital, reducing the need for printouts and also avoiding misprints. Documents aren’t printed until the driver is on site and has checked in through the terminal.”
Extensive assistance in numerous languages
Due to its international operations, shipping companies from all over Europe arrive at Waelzholz’s plants in Hagen, Germany, to pick up goods. That’s why the process at the terminal begins as follows: By tapping on one of 13 national flags, the driver selects their language. From then on, they are guided through the check-in process step by step. “On the one hand, we’ve designed our system to make it as simple as possible to request all the information required or provide drivers with the information they need. In addition, the driver check-in terminal provides assistance with numerous other challenges. For example, if the driver is at the wrong plant, a corresponding message is shown to them on the terminal and at the same time, they receive a printed page of directions that guides them to the correct location. This reduces the number of inquiries we receive – which are often complicated by varying levels of language skills – and saves time on both sides,” explains Schmeiser.
If a driver still has questions or needs assistance during the check-in process, they can always contact the Waelzholz dispatching staff via an intercom system. It is also possible to pick up deliveries outside office and terminal opening hours via a separate bell with a camera. With a pickup period from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Waelzholz offers excellent pickup times.
An overview of the check-in process at the driver terminal at the South Plant in Hagen, Germany
A high degree of customization – even for special requirements
Anyone familiar with Waelzholz knows that the company uses its internal expertise to optimize its production facilities and processes for highly specific requirements in order to achieve the best possible results. And the same was true for the new driver terminal – Waelzholz’s IT specialists individually adapted the yard management solution available on the market to the company’s specific requirements. As Schmeiser explains, “we not only had special requirements in terms of the shipping logistics, but also in terms of the interfaces and processes in connection with our ERP system. This began with the fact that we had to digitally reproduce a number of different pickup processes and extended through to the shipping documents, which have to meet completely different requirements depending on where in the world we’re shipping the delivery.”
Waelzholz already planning installation of additional driver terminals
The project team members assessed the results a few weeks after the driver terminal went into operation, and discovered that the new system is extremely popular with the truck drivers. Many are already familiar with similar functionality from their personal lives, such as bank counters or fast-food restaurants, and it has been positively received.
The logistics experts are now looking at implementing the system at Waelzholz’s other plants in Germany, where truck dispatching operations face similar challenges. This is because the driver check-in terminal as a special service is intended to make the arrival and pickup process on site as easy as possible for as many shipping companies as possible.