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Dispatcher Can Help Company Grow, Circumvent Problems With Customers
Dispatchers: The right dispatcher can help a pallet company exploit new businesses opportunities and revenue sources and make a company function much smoother; Clarence Leising covers must-know information about successful dispatching.
By Clarence Leising & Dick Burns
Date Posted: 7/1/2007
(Editor’s Note: Clarence Leising has been a popular writer on recycling topics in Pallet Enterprise and a speaker at industry meetings. In this article, he collaborates with his friend and mentor, Dick Burns, who has had management responsibilities and performed truck dispatching functions in pallet recycling companies.)
Pallet companies have to arrange delivery to their customers and delivery from suppliers of lumber or pallet cores. Operating a small or large fleet of trucks is nothing new to a pallet company, but many of them have not exploited their dispatchers to add profits and create business opportunities.
When a pallet company is certified to haul freight, this allows them to truck other goods in addition to pallets. They can haul all kinds of freight, which gives a dispatcher more options to avoid costly running of empty trailers. A truck that delivers a load of pallets can be dispatched to go to a different customer and pick up a load of freight for the return trip. Your trucks also can haul freight for customers and pick up pallet cores on the way back.
There are a lot of options. Utilizing your trucks fully requires being innovative, talking with your customers about what they need and how you can help them, and thinking outside the box. For example, if you have extra yard space, you can ‘spot’ trailers in your yard; for a fee, other companies can store their trailers in your yard to be picked up at a later date. If you are freight certified, you can also move these trailers to other locations as needed for a fee.
In fact, the recycler’s trucking capability can be developed into a profit center for the business, but it requires an innovative, creative dispatcher who can take advantage of the opportunities.
A dispatcher is 100% responsible for all drivers. He should have a class A driver’s license and have the same level of skill as the drivers. Otherwise, they will not respect him. A dispatcher does not necessarily have to have the same amount of experience as other drivers, but he should have the same amount of skill. He has to know everything the drivers are expected to know and more.
Many pallet companies have three departments: new, used, and recycled. Pallets and wood are constantly moving between departments; forklift drivers are constantly loading and unloading trailers and moving pallets, and trailers are constantly coming into and leaving the yard. The one person who ties all this together is the dispatcher.
The dispatcher has to have a good working relationship with customers and the sales staff. If he is not familiar with the customers, he will have nothing but problems. He has to know what time they open and close, their expectations for quality, and more. In fact, the dispatcher should know what is going on with each customer every day.
Profitable dispatchers have to handle a variety of responsibilities. For example, they should periodically check on the timing of a driver’s rounds; the dispatcher should do this personally and not let anyone know when he does.
When the phone rings with a problem or complaint, who gets the call? The dispatcher, of course. If there is a problem with a truck, a driver or a trailer, who gets the call? The dispatcher, of course. If a customer gets some bad pallets and calls to complain, who gets the call? The dispatcher, of course.
However, as soon as a dispatcher handles a problem, his next move probably is going to be to find the person in the shop who was responsible for creating the problem and to deal with that individual.
Some customers will inspect every single pallet you deliver; they will spot any problem and call the dispatcher to complain. Some customers will take whatever you send and will not bother to inspect the load. Your dispatcher needs to know how each customer responds. For the ‘picky’ customer who will scrutinize every pallet, he can tell the forklift driver who is loading the truck to select the best looking pallets; for the customer who is less choosy, he can tell the forklift driver that quality is less of an issue.
Coordinating the movement of pallets each week requires the dispatcher to have good organizational and communication skills. The dispatcher must communicate with the sales team to know how many loads need to go to which customers and when. The dispatcher must organize and plan the delivery schedule, then communicate with the drivers to get it all done. If a company has eight or 10 trucks and 90 trailers and there is not a well thought-out delivery plan or schedule, there are going to be serious problems.
If all the shipping and scheduling is delegated to the dispatcher, he can coordinate it and plan it and then turn it over to the drivers. Suppose that you have a salesman, though, who schedules a pick-up or delivery; he tells a customer the truck will be there at a certain time but he forgets to tell the dispatcher. You are looking for a problem, and the dispatcher can probably expect a phone call from an unhappy customer.
Efficient handling of all incoming wood and pallets, outgoing pallets, and all the trucks, trailers and employees will make money for the recycler. Conversely, a dispatcher who does not have a good handle on these things will cost the recycler money. You may occasionally have a load of pallets that a customer refuses for a quality problem, but this should be rare. The dispatcher needs to be someone who can orchestrate organization and coordination from the chaos.
The dispatcher should have a back-up employee. In case the dispatcher is absent, you need someone who can fill in and get the job done. If the dispatcher is gone, the company still must do business as usual.
In addition to knowing everything that goes on in the shop, it is also vital that the dispatcher know how to perform every job in the shop. He may need to move trailers, deliver a load, run the hog — you name it. Dispatchers also should know all the employees — who hustles and who may need some extra help.
Drivers should call the dispatcher when they are about a mile from the yard; the dispatcher can tell them where to put the trailer and what they should do next. Do not let the drivers park the rig and walk into the dispatcher’s office to find out where the trailer should go; they will need to go out and move the truck again.
Every trailer should have a small box to hold paperwork — registration, the paperwork for the load, etc. The forklift driver can retrieve the paperwork as he unloads the trailer.
When working out the details surrounding a potential sale, it is important to coordinate the logistics requirements as well as the product details. A company may have several sales people. All of them should be aware of the importance of the dispatcher’s role in helping close a new deal as well as working out details of changes as they relate to existing customers. Depending on the situation, several sales people may be involved. When a major account is being settled, the dispatcher should go with the sales rep because he understands the transportation side of your company and can help smooth out the details before problems develop.
(Clarence Leising is a sales representative for Eagle Metal Products. He is the author of Pallet Head: A Hands-On Guide to Pallet Recycling, and is writing a second book that is expected to be published by Industrial Reporting later this year. Clarence may be reached through Eagle Metal Products at (888) 490-4300. Dick Burns is the owner of Western New York Pallet.)Page 1 Page 2 Page 3