C.H. Robinson introduces new touchless appointments technology offering

C.H. Robinson introduces new touchless appointments technology offering

Minneapolis, Minn.-based global third-party logistics (3PL) services provider and freight forwarder C.H. Robinson said today it has rolled out a new technology offering focused on touchless appointments, which it said “creates a major efficiency in freight shipping.”

This efficiency, it explained, addresses removing the work for appointment scheduling at the location where a load needs to be picked up and scheduling another appointment to where the load needs to be delivered.

The touchless appointments’ process, said the company, is automated and can be done on a 24×7 basis, requiring no manual intervention. And it added that it leverages artificial intelligence (AI) in order to determine the optimal appointment, which is based on transit time data derived from millions of shipments across C.H. Robinson’s 300,000 shipping lanes, facility data (like peak dwell time), as well as the most convenient time windows for carriers.   

“Achieving touchless appointments is a big step forward for automating supply chains,” said Michael Castagnetto, C.H. Robinson’s President of North American Surface Transportation, in a statement. “It’s far more efficient for technology to find an appointment slot that’s open, that works for both the loading dock and the carrier, and gets the freight where it needs to be on time. Touchless appointments liberate shippers and their receivers from that work, and because we have the largest dataset in the industry, our system is choosing a smarter appointment than our competitors can.”

As for the biggest benefits this new touchless appointments’ technology provides for shippers, C.H.Robinson cited:

  • time savings, with touchless appointments done in less than two minutes;
  • getting shippers’ freight on the road faster and giving carriers better access to freight and also secure better rates for shippers, adding that for customers with comparable freight, the average gain in speed-to-market is 7.4 hours; and
  • saving shippers money, noting that the faster a load is offered and booked, the more likely a shipper can avoid paying for a premium for a carrier to drive out of its way, with data-informed appointments also help eliminate the chargebacks and fines shippers face from their customers because of freight arriving too early, freight arriving too late or appointments being rescheduled at the last minute

C.H. Robinson Vice President of Technology Madhu Dutta explained that there were various drivers for the company to introduce this new offering.  

“Our customers count on us to make their supply chains more efficient,” said Dutta. “And as supply chains become increasingly complex and more frequently disrupted, it’s critical to look at those everyday type of tasks to find the efficiencies. Appointment scheduling happens more than 1 billion times a year in just the U.S. trucking industry alone. We knew that if we cracked the code on touchless appointments, it would be a major benefit for shippers, receivers and carriers. So, we set out not just to automate the physical process of scheduling appointments, but the work of determining the optimal appointment time.” 

As for how long this technology had been planned, she explained that after some initial testing, C.H. Robinson started to see some real traction with it in September 2022.

And over the past year, she said the company has seen great growth every month, as it has integrated with more and more of its customers’ scheduling systems, C.H. Robinson now doing it at scale for the benefit of 2,545 customers across more than 25,000 facilities. The company added that retailers and food companies are seeing major benefits from touchless appointments.

“When we first tackled this challenge, our research was telling us that 74% of shippers wanted greater automation in their supply chains,” said Dutta. “We’d already automated things like quoting. With our Dynamic Pricing Engine, quotes can be requested, received, and accepted with no human intervention, which saves our customers hours of time and an average 10%-12% in cost. But appointment scheduling, because it’s so complex, is an area of automation that had largely gone untouched. Fast forward to the 2024 customer survey we did just a few weeks ago, and shippers said that more-efficient appointment scheduling is their second-biggest tech priority for their supply chains this year.”   

When asked what shippers’ pain points were prior to switching to touchless appointments, Dutta explained it can take a day or more to nail down an appointment time if you’re trying to catch a busy person on the phone or if the dock manager has emails stacking up in their inbox. She noted that automating that removes all the inefficiency and manual work.

“Shippers and receivers also need carriers to hit those appointments to keep their facilities running smoothly and to avoid the chargebacks that come with freight arriving too early or too late,” she said. “The dock manager may have a sense of the time it takes a truck to get from point A to point B. Our algorithm does a better job of knowing transit time in any given shipping lane because our huge dataset reflects historical patterns in the weather, traffic and road conditions, for example, as well as patterns in the wait time at point A and point B. Dock behaviors evolve with changes in seasonality, availability of labor, etc. and our algorithm takes that into account, too.”

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