February 2017 | How-To | Ten Tips

Choosing a Yard Management System

Tags: Logistics, Technology , Supply Chain

A yard management system (YMS) can provide significant benefits to your operation. Despite this, the yard is often the last area to automate and many operations still manage their yards with radios and clipboards. Greg Braun, senior vice president of sales and marketing with C3 Solutions, provides these pointers to help you select a YMS.

1. Define issues. Clearly explain the business problems that are related to yard management. Avoid identifying symptoms and focus on the core problem. For example, spending too much time locating trailers is the symptom while missing customer deliveries is the problem.

2. Match needs with requirements. After identifying your core business issues, align these needs to functional requirements. Ensure that the system you select is highly configurable and flexible enough to accommodate your business processes.

3. Outline a data integration strategy. Key business issues can drive this strategy. Look for a system that utilizes current integration technology—such as web services—and is able to accommodate your specific data feeds.

4. Determine if you need appointment scheduling instead. Vehicle congestion often causes yard problems. Planning the optimal arrival of vehicles to maximize yard throughput can reduce the requirements of a YMS—to the point of eliminating the need completely.

5. Build a strong Return on Investment (ROI) analysis. A solid ROI is key to getting your project approved. A YMS will increase yard driver productivity, improve trailer utilization, and generally augment your site's throughput. Start by defining your operational costs in these key areas to estimate the potential returns.

6. Decide between a cloud or on-premise system. This decision could limit your vendor choices because many vendors sell their solutions as cloud only. With your IT department's current work load, what is the most effective role for them to play to maximize benefit to your enterprise?

7. Verify the technology. When evaluating potential vendors, examine their product roadmap, such as their mobile strategy. Does the vendor leverage common operating systems such as Android or iOS? Is the application a true web application or does it use terminal server technology? These factors will affect not only the longevity of your solution but also its usability.

8. Establish if real-time locating systems are necessary. The key is to understand your operation and analyze where a locating solution might give you an efficiency boost that you can't achieve through more effective process management. Consider implementing process change in phase one, and, if necessary, implement a locating solution in phase two.

9. Identify resiliency. An important element of any information system is whether you can rely on it. Pinpoint the service levels that each vendor is willing to provide. Can your operation live with these service levels? What are the consequences if the vendor does not deliver?

10. Choose a reputable vendor. Research the vendor's reputation, speak with its customers, and ask about the future of the product. This can also be seen as a choice between best-of-breed or a monolithic system. For example, your systems might already have a yard module, which may appear to be a low-cost option, but might not be sufficient.