Yard Management – How to Turn a Blind Spot into a Valuable Asset
Published by : Industrial Automation
How much time and money is your organisation spending on hidden inefficiencies, asks Colin Mansfield.
Earlier this year when the impact of Covid-19 began changing the world around us, thousands of supply chain and logistics operations faced a problem: how do you manage your distribution and shipping operations at a distance? It turns out, this question is a symptom of a larger blind spot that has existed for years: inefficient shipping yard management. Until recently, the technological focus in the supply chain, logistics, and material handling industries has been around warehouse management, freight transport, over the road drivers, and production efficiency. This has led to some truly amazing tools like advanced robotics, picking automation, intuitive scanning hardware, and incredibly accurate sensors. Not to mention the enterprise software that assists employees with end-to-end tracking each step of the way.
However, one of the largest sources of inefficiency in the supply chain has been the shipping yard. While the rest of the industry flourished with capable and cost-effective tools, yard managers were left with clipboards, sticky notes, radios, and spreadsheets to manage multi-million dollar operations. The result? It’s not uncommon for companies of all sizes to experience slow turn times, long dwell times, lost trailers, and in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in detention and demurrage fees.
What if there was a way to close this technological gap in shipping yards with software that is easy to use, cost effective, and works on every device from your smartphone to your office computer? It turns out, this costly blind spot paved the way for exactly such a solution.
Early this year (before Covid mass-shutdowns began) over 900 of the leading supply chain organisations gathered for the MODEX 2020 trade show, hosted by MHI. Each year companies compete at MHI trade shows for industry awards in various categories. This year 155 organisations were vetted by a panel of independent judges from the material handling and supply chain industries. Four winners were selected, representing the best the industry has to offer in solving relevant problems and providing value. One of these winners was a yard management solutions provider. In fact, for the last three years in a row yard management software (YMS) companies have been recognised at MHI trade shows for innovation awards. What makes yard management software so appealing for logistics organisations? For starters, consider the tools a YMS company provides.
Robust yard management systems provide functionality to overcome challenges in all areas of the shipping yard while ensuring every aspect is customised to meet an operation’s specific needs. Yard management software tools include yard visualisation through a live graphical depiction of a facility or enterprise. They also include appointment and dock scheduling tools, in many cases providing carriers the ability to manage their own appointments if desired. Gate management ties into dock scheduling through automation, directing trailers to specific dock doors based on load types, trailer contents, or carrier information. Yard management systems also provide the ability to monitor, track, and manage yard shunters and shuttle drivers, including the capability to remotely conduct a yard check through the software.
Data analytics in yard management systems take the form of automatically generated reports and visual dashboards, providing enterprise-level awareness of KPIs, performance thresholds, and other valuable decision making data. This includes the ability to integrate with other logistics software like Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), Transportation Management Systems (TMS), and physical sensors/hardware. Because many yard management systems use cloud technology, all facility information is instantly accessible on any device, anywhere in the world. Not only does this provide convenience, but it also removes the need to maintain local servers and reduces IT support requirements. Robust security and role-based user access ensure all data and employee information is secure and constantly backed up.
YMS accomplishes several key purposes in the shipping yard that help drive operational costs down. Chief among these is increased visibility, which can take a number of shapes: visibility over the physical contents of the yard, visibility on employee activity, visibility on data (for example, average dwell times or yard driver moves), or even visibility on costs associated with detention and demurrage. Every operation faces unique challenges – the problem is that many don’t have the hard data and raw information needed to chart a solution. In reality, they’re lacking visibility. Yard management software provides that visibility in digestible and simple ways.
Detention is a great example of hard costs associated with a lack of visibility. If a trailer sits in a yard or at a dock for too long, the facility has to begin paying detention fees. These times vary according to carrier and customer requirements, which makes it incredibly difficult and time consuming to accurately track using manual methods like whiteboards and spreadsheets. Using a YMS tool, however, detention becomes a simple problem to solve. Many options include alerts that trigger and notify appropriate employees with enough time to process a trailer before detention fees take effect. It is not uncommon for organisations to see a 95% reduction in fees like detention and demurrage after implementing yard management software.
A lack of visibility can also manifest challenges in the yard associated with time. The reality is that thousands of operations spend an enormous amount of time managing the yard and recording what’s happening out of necessity. Case studies show that many operations spend up to 3.5 hours per shift creating administrative reports and performing the data analysis to ensure those reports are accurate. With yard management software, every action is recorded and made available for instant export which completely eliminates the need for manual data tracking. These incredible time savings directly translate into monetary value: 3.5 hours per shift means an operation could save as much as US$28,000 per year.
Yard management software provides additional value by revealing hidden costs and fees that might otherwise go unnoticed. For example, companies that lease trailers may discover they are renting more than they need to accomplish operational goals. In one case study this resulted in nearly $200,000 in savings by eliminating unused leased trailers. Another example of hidden costs is with jockey/shunter drivers. It is not uncommon for organisations to over-hire in these positions resulting in fewer moves per driver. Data gained from a yard management system may reveal that fewer shunter drivers could accomplish the same number of moves in a given time period.
Over the last several years yard management software has moved from a fringe tool to an industry requirement. Still, many organisations see the yard as a financial black hole and are hesitant to put more money towards something that is already perceived as being costly. The above examples show that nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, powerful and intuitive yard management software is the key to unlocking visibility, efficiency, and value for both large and small shipping operations alike. Turning the yard into an asset is the easiest way to increase organisation while decreasing unnecessary costs. It also means that when unforeseen circumstances like Covid-19 strike, employees and management maintain complete awareness and communication.
To get more information about yard management software including case studies, RoI, screenshots, and use case scenarios visit YardManagementSolutions.com
Colin Mansfield is Director of Sales and Marketing, Yard Management Solutions, providing customers with cutting edge tools to overcome challenges in the shipping yard while increasing efficiencies. Colin’s work has been featured in logistics and supply chain industry media including The New Warehouse Podcast, 2020 yard management market guide, and MHI trade show news. Colin is a US Army veteran and West Point graduate and regularly publishes articles and videos related to supply chain, logistics, and material handling industry news. You can connect with Colin and Yard Management Solutions online via LinkedIn or YardManagementSolutions.com.