Who's Minding The Yard?

Warehouse yards can be messy at best and chaotic at worst. Technology can help companies better take control over their yards.


"The truck arrives; the guard checks it in and out, checking driver information and seals, assuring security," explains Nix. "Then YMS checks the dock schedule and this is where it touches the warehouse. The WMS dock schedule determines the optimal put-away distances. YMS locates a zone so it can assign the trailer or container to the right spot until it needs to be moved to the dock."

Yard optimization is like slotting optimization in the yard, Nix explains. "As a truck arrives at the guard shack, the system knows what's on the truck and which dock door the truck needs to go to. The system directs the trailer to the proper parking zone and spot so the trailer doesn't have to travel far to the dock."

Managing reefers-product holds:One of the major considerations for the food and grocery industry is managing refrigerated trailers so there is no spoilage, says Kozenski at Red Prairie. "Another thing we do is track inventory expiration dates in trailers. We bring in trailers when inventory rotation rules require it's time and we use that inventory so it doesn't expire."

Product holds are another critical consideration, continues Kozenski. "If corporate gets a call from a supplier warning of a problem with a meat delivery, we can put that inventory on hold if it's in the warehouse or in a trailer." He adds one recall could mean $5 million of brand value to a company.

Although other products on the market address temperature sensors and fuel monitors, Gollu notes PINC's Reefer Monitor offers that same information less expensively by communicating via the main servers. "Our refrigerated trailer temperature monitoring product is a tag you plug into a Thermo King or Carrier unit."

In the zone:Yard optimization is critical, says Oglesby at Kraft Foods. "Everything in our yard is organized by zones, so it cuts down travel time by a good 30 percent." Zones include dry empty trailers, dry protected, reefer unloaded and reefer loaded.

Gollu notes PINC helps companies design well-planned yards and zones by rendering the trajectory a yard truck drives at any given period. "Yard managers have a visual representation of where most of the driving occurs."

Expedited, critical, perishable loads:These loads are assigned immediately to the dock for quick turnarounds to reduce spoilage and out-of-stocks. "A YMS program sends a signal to the guard, the yard jockey, or directly to the driver to take the load immediately to a specific dock door," Nix says. The system triggers an alert so products are not ruined due to fuel and refrigeration system outages, should a trailer with perishable items go unnoticed.

Trailer location:"We give a visual overview of where trailers are so managers know about every trailer movement and every arrival and departure," says Gollu. They also know where their yard trucks are, how fast they are driving and how many moves they make in a given day.

"We also track idle time to see if it's compact or spread throughout the day and whether they are idling too much of the time," notes Gollu.

Detention, demurrage charges:YMS can also help companies can avoid costly demurrage charges. "The system monitors how long a trailer's been in the yard and alerts the carrier or the warehouse manager when a trailer on the yard needs to leave," Kozenski says. "For CPG food and beverage manufacturers with 20 or 30 sites across the globe, this could mean millions of dollars."

Other benefits include electronic documentation of all arrivals, departures, moves, and alerts. "Third-party carriers deliver and pick up trailers by appointment," notes Gollu. "If they are unable to pick up their trailer by the appointed time, they charge the DC demurrage and detention charges that can add up to tens of thousands of dollars a year."

On the other hand, a warehouse can defend itself against faultless detention and demurrage charges. "This is why documented history is such an important issue," says Harris at Cypress.

Security maintenance:YMS tracks and verifies incoming and outgoing trailers and checks seal integrity. It also tracks driver and yard jockey information for security and theft purposes.

Yard checks:Order in the yard can disintegrate just by one truck parking incorrectly, which then starts a snowball effect, explains Gollu. Yards doing manual yard checks have to do checks multiple times a day.

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