Improving Operations With a Yard Management System

Q: What is the role of a yard management system?

A: Two main roles come to mind—visibility and communication. Today’s best systems offer visibility into basic information including the location, status, and contents of assets on the yard. They are also able to offer more detailed information including historical data, load detail down to the SKU, and accountability of who is performing tasks and when. Communication plays a huge role in providing updates and access to key information for all necessary parties. These include the gate staff, yard drivers, dock personnel, warehouse managers, carriers, and customers. A yard management tool may be the first time all of the groups are able to access the same up-to-date information in one place. Operations teams, customers, and carriers may choose to receive e-mail or text communications for key yard events either passing or approaching. Old communication techniques like phone calls and faxes are replaced by real-time information that is correct and always up to date.

Q: What metrics and reporting can be expected from a YMS?

A: Today’s YMS systems provide information at a glance, like how many total units are on the yard, how many are empty or loaded, or how many of a specific load type are on the yard. Further information like number of inbounds, outbounds, moves completed by driver, and dock performance metrics, like how long it takes to unload or load a trailer, are available. All of these metrics can be run by time period like day, week, month, quarter, and year. The reporting available in YMS systems today helps identify opportunities to improve the operation and save money.

Q: How do I justify the cost of a YMS?

A: There are both quantitative and qualitative ways to justify the cost of any system. Quantifying the value can be easy. You can calculate the savings if trailers are spotted 25 percent faster, the monthly saving if trailer utilization is improved and rental units are no longer needed, or how long it takes to do a yard check that may be incorrect when finished. Qualitative savings may not as easily be calculated into dollars, but savings certainly occur. How long it takes to find the oldest empty, or any empty, waiting for a trailer to get out of a door, phone calls with carriers, searching for a lost unit, paying a detention fee that you have no way to audit, double spotting of trailers, hours spent rolling up report data—all have a cost impact on the business and a process impact on the rest of the operation. A YMS is a drop in the bucket when all costs are considered.

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