Championship efficient unloading: improving transport times

Mars Netherlands and HJ Heinz have jointly organized the Dutch Championship (NK) Speed Docking 2012. They initiated this logistics competition in order to accomplish a more efficient unloading process at the distribution centers of their customers. Speed Docking is about reducing the loading and unloading times of trucks at the distribution centers.

For nine weeks, the distribution centers of retailers and wholesalers were battling for the title. Who will become the 2012 champion by realizing the lowest average docking time. Eventually, foodretailer Jumbo in Veghel became the official Dutch Champion Speed Docking 2012 with an average time of 50 minutes. This meant a substantial improvement compared to the first edition in 2011, when the winner realized an average of 74 minutes. Overall, it has been an exciting competition with a deserved winner as the other Jumbo locations also scored pretty well.

Worth noting us that this year’s edition showed us that retailers or wholesalers performing well at a certain distribution center, also did well at their other locations. Apparently it’s in their DNA.  On October 2nd, 2012 participants will share their results with a bigger audience in Amsterdam!

Driver Shortage

Companies in Europe are facing a serious driver shortage: 21% of the current drivers retires before 2020. If the productivity of transportation does not improve rapidly, empty shelves and production downtime will be the result. Nowadays, approximately one out of five trucks in the European Union is driving around completely empty. As the average loading rate of the remainder is around 56%, the overall efficiency of European road transport is about 45%.

Furthermore, the average effective travel time of trucks is between 50 and 75%. The remainder is not only lost in traffic jams but merely a result of planning for waiting hours to load and unload at distribution centers. As sustainable trucks with a Euro VI standard or trucks running on LNG and electricity are more expensive per kilometer, the necessity of tackling these challenges increases rapidly.

With 25% fewer drivers, the transportation sector has to transport at least the same volume in 2020 as in 2012. This requires a huge improvement of productivity. Part of this can be accomplished by improving loading and unloading.

Dock Planning

Actually, the trucks are not waiting a quarter of their time but the transport planning departments use safety margins for loading and unloading in their transport schedules. In the field of logistics it is not the average time but the potential maximum time that counts. Otherwise, the planning departments have to revise their schedules on a continuous basis. The larger the variance, the more flexibility is required in dock planning. Consequently, this will increase the number of trucks on the road.

Process mining

The Dutch network orchestrator CAROZ applied “process mining” techniques (based on actual shipment data) to benchmark the docking process of distribution centers. Not only does unloading a truck take much longer than I ever imagined, also the dispersion of docking times is enormous.

This means that the planning departments of carriers must make their calculations using maximum docking times; extra trucks, high costs and anything but sustainable. Furthermore, it disrupts the flow of products to the shelves and especially these last few miles are crucial from a customer satisfaction point of view. Consequently, both retailers and wholesalers face empty shelves and obsolescence. Lesson learnt; actual docking data enables distribution centers to make a more accurate and efficient docking schedule.

Speed Docking combines innovative and sometimes complex concepts such as scanning pallet labels (SSCC), accurate preregistrations, geo fencing, dynamic slot time and dock planning (‘geo-docking’), data synchronization and reduction of truck movements through combining orders (also from different suppliers) with ‘Green Order’. The Green Order parameter indicates order sustainability in terms of CO2 emissions.


Speed Docking translates technological innovations into plain language to truck drivers and warehouse employees. The people on the floor are enthusiastically involved in the improvement process. In 2011, results were already inspiring and the 2012 edition illustrates that around 15% of the trucks driving in Europe is redundant. This pool of logistics innovations enables the transportation sector to remain competitive, also in 2020.


The Speed Docking initiative inspires. At the annual EVO conference I met a European Transport Manager from the chemical sector. They had also analyzed their loading and unloading processes and concluded that the European truck network is actually driving less than 60% of the total time. The remainder is lost because of (un)loading times and traffic jams. Speed Docking had opened their eyes. Also the construction- and agricultural sector have shown their interest in this innovative concept.

Compliments for the teams of Mars and Heinz, the carriers Nabuurs and Kuhne+Nagel, the data crunchers of CAROZ and especially for the employees of all retailers and wholesalers who worked hard to make the 2012 edition an inspiring success.

Walther Ploos van Amstel