Improving Yard Efficiency

When was the last time you gave the warehouse yard a second thought? If your company is like most, yard management is not high on the list of priorities. In fact, the typical firm is managing its yard with little more than a clip board and a spreadsheet.

But, soaring transportation costs and the revised Hours of Service regulations are making some companies take a closer look at what's going on right in their own back yards. In this issue's cover story, "Who's Minding The Yard?", we report on the benefits of yard management systems (YMS), both standalone solutions as well as those that are integrated into a warehouse management system.

The benefits go way beyond basic trailer location-especially for food and beverage companies dealing with thorny issues such as spoilage and expiration dates, sometimes across multiple sites. Today's solutions arm warehouse managers with crucial information, including temperature and fuel monitoring, security and seal monitoring, detention and demurrage alerts, yard personnel metrics, yard checks and yard accident histories, in order to operate their yards more efficiently.

Take Kraft Foods, for example. The company is using a YMS that enabled it to eliminate all but one manual yard check, shaving off several hours of searching each day. "It used to take up to 20 minutes to find a trailer. Now, we get a systematic history of equipment movement. It also benefits our carriers by optimizing their trailer pools and lets them know when they have too many or too few trailers," says Kraft's Tim Oglesby, noting that the system paid for itself within 18 months.

Think you're too small for a YMS? While the size of the yard matters to an extent, experts point out that as few as 30 to 40 trailers can warrant a system-especially if the turnover rate for those trailers is between 25 percent to 50 percent a day.

With more companies focusing on flowing product through the supply chain-as opposed to storing it in a warehouse-the yard plays an important role in the process. The yard needs to become an extension of the warehouse, with real-time visibility to the locations and contents of all inbound and outbound trailers.

If your company is moving in that direction, perhaps it's time to see what is happening in your yard.

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