C.H. Robinson said it has automated a task the freight industry does a billion times a year. - HDT graphic/C.H. Robinson

C.H. Robinson said it has automated a task the freight industry does a billion times a year.

HDT graphic/C.H. Robinson

Global logistics company C.H. Robinson has developed new appointment scheduling technology that it called a breakthrough for supply chain efficiency.

With touchless appointments, C.H. Robinson’s new tech removes the work of scheduling an appointment at the place a load needs to be picked up and scheduling another appointment where the load needs to be delivered.

Across the U.S. trucking industry, more than 1 billion of these appointments are made each year, commonly through phone calls and emails. With touchless appointments, the entire process is automated and can be done 24/7 with no manual intervention.

The technology also uses artificial intelligence to determine the optimal appointment – based on transit-time data from C.H. Robinson’s millions of shipments across 300,000 shipping lanes, facility data such as peak dwell time, and the most convenient time windows for carriers. 

C.H. Robinson, which moves more truckload freight than anyone in North America, is doing touchless appointments for 2,545 customers so far at more than 25,000 facilities. Retailers and food companies are among the biggest beneficiaries.

Automation in Supply Chains

C.H. Robinson’s research showed that 74% of shippers wanted greater automation in their supply chains. In a 2024 C.H. Robinson customer survey, shippers indicate that more-efficient appointment scheduling is their second-biggest tech priority for supply chains this year.   

“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. “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.”

According to C.H. Robinson, the new technology:

  • Saves time: Instead of spending all day juggling incoming appointment requests, shippers enjoy touchless appointments completed in less than 2 minutes with zero time spent.   
  • Gets freight on the road faster: Touchless appointments allow C.H. Robinson to offer a customer’s load to its carrier network faster, giving carriers better access to freight while securing better rates for the shipper. For customers with comparable freight, the average gain in speed-to-market is 7.4 hours.  
  • Saves shippers money: The faster a load is offered and booked, the more likely the shipper can avoid paying a premium for a carrier to drive out of their way. 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 – which can add up to more than the cost of the transportation itself.

“The trucking industry has been hungry to digitize everything from load-matching to booking to real-time visibility while freight is in transit,” said Arun Rajan, chief operating officer. “Giving people better digital tools to use is great progress; actually automating the complex processes of logistics is another frontier. That’s why automation has largely not yet reached appointment scheduling. It’s a big focus for us – in terms of driving efficiencies in our customers’ operations and our own.”

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