March 2008 | How-To | Ten Tips

Easy Come, Easy Go: Keeping the Yard Running Smoothly

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Some companies consider yard management a low priority, but an inefficient strategy can bleed dollars from the bottom line. Wilson Rothschild, industry and product marketing supply chain manager for Infor, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based warehouse management software company, offers these tips for making yard management a strategic imperative.

1. Lead an initiative to review yard management practices. Identify a project lead or team and empower employees to find ways to improve yard functionality. Achieving this goal is a priority.

2. Look beyond the yard. Your yard is part of a larger operation. A slow yard impacts receiving, putaway, and selection and shipping processes throughout the warehouse. On the other hand, returns management and distributed order management systems could be slowing the yard down. Examine the entire process and improve those systems that affect yard management.

3. Use automated task management. Many distribution centers and warehouses still rely on paper tickets and two-way radios to manage the yard. Automated task management systems that notify workers which trailers to move to what position and at what time may be one way to improve trailer visibility and efficiently orchestrate yard processes.

4. Be business-specific. Adapt yard management processes to the characteristics of your business, whether you ship bulk, dry goods, or food. You can avoid spoilage, for example, by setting deadlines for processing perishable goods.

5. Track inventory. Keep track of the flow of goods to ensure inventory doesn't sit in the yard or on the dock when it should be with your customers. Make sure you have a system in place to do this effectively.

6. Understand labor. Do you have the right skill set and labor availability to meet demand as it rises and falls from shift to shift? Don't pay for overtime if it isn't necessary. Make sure your yard personnel are productive and that you pay for only what you need.

7. Make the yard an extension of your warehouse. Like you do in the warehouse, limit the moves and distances in the yard to gain efficiencies. This is a basic concept, but developing and implementing a successful plan is difficult. Moves and distance calculations should include both the yard and warehouse.

8. Move goods quickly. Leave inventory in the yard too long and it can spoil, take up valuable real estate, or incur unnecessary detention charges. Move goods efficiently to keep your inventory at optimal levels and reduce costs.

9. Know your yard personnel. Find out what your workers are up to. Understand when they have downtime and when they are stretched. Empower yard workers to be a part of the overall warehouse team and provide them with the tools they need to make a difference in the operation.

10. Integrate your WMS.Extend the value of your warehouse management system or warehouse management module through a yard management system that connects with your ERP. Making the most of technological resources allows you to optimize the flow of goods in and out of your location.

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