Even with leading edge supply chain management tools, the trailer yard can be a black hole when it comes to inventory or asset visibility. Transportation management and warehouse management have improved operations prior to shipment arrival and after the goods are unloaded, but there is an efficiency and visibility gap between those two activities.
That’s where the yard management system (YMS) comes into play. Using these solutions can help you prioritize shipment arrivals, manage yard activity, improve efficiency, reduce unnecessary labor, and help track and identify trailer contents. These solutions are critical for developing a more efficient yard management strategy.
Here are some key steps to take to improve yard operations:
Develop a plan for improving yard management. Identify chokepoints in the facility. Find out which loads have been the most problematic to process, and investigate the reasons for those delays. If there are specific types of goods that require special handling (i.e., produce), outline what those needs are and what resources are required to successfully process those trailers.
Also, evaluate other processes that could be bogging down the yard. Returns management or other warehouse processes could be causing delays in the yard. Make sure you evaluate the incoming and outgoing processes that impact operations.
The project team should also set realistic goals and parameters for yard improvements. Establish allowable timeframes for trailer movement, and create an escalation process so that trailers that exceed those limits can be given priority.
Implement a YMS: A yard management system can also provide the visibility and downstream reporting that shippers need to keep their customers updated on shipment arrival and departure times.
Using a YMS helps better manage yard jockey activities because the system knows where each trailer is and where it needs to go. By improving the flow of trailers through the yard, shipments are unloaded on time and drivers don’t waste valuable minutes or hours waiting for their turn at the dock. Driver time can cost upwards of $50 an hour or more; by reducing the time spent checking in and unloading, companies can drive significant cost out of the supply chain and improve productivity.
It’s also important to minimize “lost” trailers in the yard. In large, busy yards it’s easy to lose track of any single trailer. By properly prioritizing and tracking those trailers, you can improve customer service while reducing the type of chaos that can result from manual processes. For large yards with a lot of dropped loads, a YMS can ensure you are properly tracking inventory, avoiding demurrage fees, and giving each shipment the correct priority based on its contents and customer requirements.
Evaluate your trailer yard layout. The yard should be divided into clearly marked zones (arrival, pick-up, empties, priority loads, repairs, etc.) so that drivers and jockeys can easily identify where they need to go. Just like in the warehouse, you should design the yard to limit moves and distances to gain efficiency. A real-time intelligent YMS can direct the drivers to specific locations, and these locations can be validated via GPS to ensure trailer locations are accurate and up-to-date.
Improve dock scheduling processes. A dock scheduling system can help you better schedule labor capacity and develop a scheduling plan for the drivers that minimizes wait times, which will further improve yard management. Dock scheduling solutions can also help you measure loading/unloading times (for improvement purposes), record late arrivals, and devise scorecards to identify reliable suppliers and carriers.
Consider real-time location technology. Yard visibility can be greatly enhanced through the use of GPS and RFID technology. For example, the TrackX Yard solution combines RFID and GPS to automate yard operations, providing an ROI in 12 months or less. These solutions create a real-time location system in the yard that provides complete trailer visibility, which eliminates manual searches, reduces human error, and automates yard inventories. In addition, RFID can provide real-time information on the location of other yard assets, which helps optimize operations.
A more efficient yard management strategy can help eliminate expensive bottlenecks at the dock, and help you gain even more benefits from your existing supply chain and warehouse management solutions.
Contact Quest Solution for further information regarding optimizing your operations and trailer status visibility through a real-time Yard Management System.