Managing The Yard With Technology

A smart yard is the first step to a well-run and efficient distribution center.


Process integration: A YMS solution can help enforce your yard management business processes, says Collins. "The system knows where trailers and containers are located in the yard, optimizing jockeys' activities and resulting in a higher level of yard management efficiency, allowing companies to manage their yards with less labor."

Yard activities can help or hinder warehouse operation. For example, a DC might expect a hot product that absolutely needs to get to the outbound as quickly as possible, says Collins.

"From the yard perspective, as soon as that truck arrives, it is immediately sent to a specified dock door for unloading and appropriate trailers are put to the proper outbound dock door locations. This synchronization between warehouse activities and what needs to happen in the yard is supporting the warehouse."

Dock scheduling: Online dock scheduling tightens planning in the yard and DC before trailers arrive, notes Bealke. This keeps trailers flowing in and out of the yard as quickly as possible, eliminating bottlenecks in the yard.

"We find that many of our customers need a component such as our's that allows carriers and vendors to log onto the Web to schedule their deliveries. Then the system determines how long it should take them to unload; it does this through optimization calculations that considers past history in unloading specific products from a specific shipper. This helps with asset management in that you are using your dock doors and labor to unload trailers more effectively," Bealke adds.

Collins agrees scheduling is key to eliminating congestion areas and capacity issues at the dock and maximizing dock-door utilization. It also is becoming increasingly important because of HOS regulations. In the past, there was no penalty for a driver who had to sit and wait. But today, hours spent waiting are being charged against a driver's hours of service. "So this is an incentive for DCs to optimize getting their drivers in and unloading them as quickly as possible using a scheduling system."

Scheduling also reduces instances of trucks dropping trailers. They unload live, minimizing bottlenecks in the yard. "Dropped trailers complicate the situation from a transportation management standpoint," explains Collins. "Those dropped trailers need to be matched on the inbound side with loads that will be going out on the outbound side. A YMS can help manage all of that, enabling you to initiate decisions and executions."

Kiang at PINC adds that YMS solutions can even help companies eliminate drop zones and the space they occupy. "This visibility also allows companies to eliminate an additional movement when trucks first enter the yard. The trailer can go to the right location immediately. These efficient flows can help companies design future yard layouts that eliminate a drop zone, equating to savings."

Bird's Eye Yard View

A good first start in thinking about YMS implementation is looking at your gate activities, suggests Kiang. "People need to know where the trailers are, whether they are loaded and how long they've been in the yard. They also need to know if there are any exceptions to deal with."

By tracking yard activities, you can determine the productivity of yard trucks and yard jockeys. Bealke at Retalix notes that the yard layout, integrated into the YMS, can help maximize jockey efficiency and reduce overall costs. "When the system knows where they are positioned in the yard, this helps minimize their travel as they work. So you can optimize which moves are directed to a particular jockey because the system knows what and where the last move was."

Efficient jockey utilization leads to better throughput, adds ARC Advisory's Bragg. "Directing them more efficiently doesn't mean they have to work harder-it means you are giving them more sensible instructions, especially when you can find a move for a jockey close to where he just shunted a trailer into position."

HighJump's Collins notes a graphical user interface offers additional benefits to optimization. A drawing of the yard is imported into the YMS so users see an actual physical layout of the yard. "Users can click on trailers and containers and examine things like inventory contents. Then if you want to initiate a yard move from one location to another, you do so by dragging the trailer from one point to another. This information is automatically dispatched to the right jockey in the yard. Once he has made the move, that will show up on your graphical user interface."

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